Fans of Dexta Daps and Ikaya appeared to have a grand time on Sept. 26 and 27 at the reggae artists’ New York and New Jersey shows, dancing and singing along. But after videos of the seemingly crowded outdoor events surfaced on Instagram — while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing — the criticism started rolling in.
“The promoters, @dextadaps and all others directly responsible for the staging of this event during a deadly pandemic are a bunch of dummies,” an Instagram user commented on one of the videos from the Brooklyn performance. “Trust me, the city will hit you all with some hefty fines..not excluding possible jail time…”
Now, Ikaya — the Jamaican reggae, R&B and dancehall singer who is featured on Daps’ song “Nosey Neighbors” and made guest appearances at his two recent concerts — is speaking out. In a statement, she said that not identifying the venues before the shows did not make these “secret” concerts, and that the promoter and organizers adhered to safety regulations and protocols to keep the “hundreds of concertgoers” safe.
The Eventbrite ticket listings did note that there would be limited capacity for both the Brooklyn and Hillside, N.J., shows. In addition, attendees would be given temperature checks before entry, masks and social distancing required, and hand sanitizer available. Anyone showing symptoms was to be turned away. The listed restrictions do appear to adhere to the requirements New York and New Jersey have set in place, though the Garden State also caps outdoor gatherings at 500.
But despite these guidelines, videos on social media showed attendees apparently crowded in front of the stage, with some concertgoers appearing to not wear masks.
In an exclusive interview with Billboard, Ikaya insists that the team did what they could to keep their fans — as well as themselves — safe. She and her publicist, Shuzzr — who was at both concerts — also note that their team was aware of the health guidelines issued by New York and New Jersey, and that permits for the shows were approved.
Below, Ikaya opens up about playing the concerts in the midst of a global health crisis.
How did the shows come about?
Dexta Daps and I, we did a song called “Nosey Neighbours,” which is doing great right now. Apparently, they said they were going to do promotion in regards to the single and all of that. I’m a part of the team, so we decided that we’re gonna do some shows.
Did you have any hesitations about participating with the pandemic ongoing?
With the whole COVID thing that is going on right now, everybody’s going to be concerned about their health and all of that. But being that the event was being promoted as you have to wear masks and all the protocols were in place for the guidelines, I felt secure in regards to going on the road.
How much traveling did you have to do to get to the shows?
It wasn’t a lot of traveling because we traveled from Kingston [Jamaica] to New York. So we came in a little earlier before.
[Shuzzr notes that it was one flight to New York. And from there, “They were shuttled to their hotel, and they remained at the hotel until the event.”]
Did you and Dexta take COVID tests before traveling for the show?
It was almost two weeks, I think [that we isolated ourselves before the show]. From when the team landed here, we’ve been wearing our masks and we’ve been hand sanitizing right through! We’re trying to keep safe.
[Shuzzr: “There is no requirement for (a test). Prior to traveling, they were socially isolating themselves. And upon arrival, they decided to isolate themselves.”]
Everyone was supposed to wear a mask and use hand sanitizer. Did you see people using them?
Yes. As I said, the promoter, they put everything in place. I had to wear a mask upon entering the venue; we had to sanitize regularly. The promoter ensured that it was promoted over the mic to make sure you wear your mask and regularly sanitizing.
Were you worried that people were so crowded together and that some people were not wearing their masks?
The fans came out to see their artists; they haven’t seen their artists in a while. Everybody had on masks, everybody was hand sanitizing. But in the heat of the moment and everyone’s excited to see their artists, everyone just crammed up at the front. So I mean … I was concerned at that part.
The promoter has done a whole lot to ensure that people wear their masks. There’s not so much that we as the artist — and it’s unfair for us as the artist to be blamed, and for the promoter to be blamed — in regards to that because we can’t control that.
When you and Dexta Daps saw people crowding together and some not wearing masks, did you remind them to keep their distance and put their masks back up?
We enforced that. We said that all the time over the mics: “OK, you need to wear your masks, put on your masks, and regular hand sanitizing.” Throughout the show, that was promoted.
How many people would you estimate were at each of the concerts?
I mean, we followed the guidelines. I would say 500 or less, I think.
Was it 1,500 you said? I wouldn’t know that.
Would you be concerned if it were that many?
I went in just before I was supposed to perform, get on the stage.
[Shuzzr: “Even if the number he alluded to were correct, there was enough space in the venue for everybody to still have social distancing. When it was time to perform, the fans crammed to the front of the space.”]
Do you feel like you, the venues or promoter could’ve done anything else to make sure your fans stay healthy?
As I said in regards to the protocols that were put in place to meet the guidelines for the event — social distancing, to wear your masks through the event — we did the best that we could.
Are you concerned that someone might get sick from attending one of these shows?
[Laughs] If I’m concerned? It was a great show, the show went really well. The fans came out and they came to see their artists that they haven’t seen in a while. As it relates, I hope that everyone is safe and nothing comes from the show.
The reaction from the people was amazing … it’s been a while since we’ve been on a stage and being able to perform for our fans and getting to do that. It’s an amazing feeling because this is what we love. Being able to grace the stage with the Dexta Daps and promote our single “Nosey Neighbours,” which is doing good right now.
What have you learned after the criticism from these two shows that you plan to apply for future concerts? Is there anything you would do differently?
Just encourage the fans more to practice social distancing and wear their mask at all times.
Do you have any other shows planned?
Not for now. We don’t have any shows lined up.
Would you do large shows like these again before the pandemic is over?
As long as the health and safety guidelines are met and the necessary protocol are in place, I will always perform for my fans. The world is changing and the entertainment industry must adapt to meet the varying needs.
Billboard has reached out to Daps, promoter Steelie Bashment, as well as the offices of the states’ governors, New York City mayor, and Hillside, N.J., mayor.