It's hard to believe that the Monterey Bay Reggaefest is now in its 16th year and still bringing the music that originated in Jamaica to an audience here on the Central Coast through the auspices of A&P Productions. While the dates have moved from the original Labor Day weekend slot at the Monterey Fairgrounds to the final days of July (this Friday through Sunday), the festival maintains its location and founding mission of providing common ground for all of the area's music lovers to come together with love. After all, that is the message of reggae and its true intent is to foster understanding and tolerance for all people to be one.
"I hope that everybody can get out to the Monterey Fairgrounds and come together," said Tanya Moore, media coordinator for MBRF. "Grab some foodies, art and wine people, and all the different subgroups of people you know that make Monterey such a beautiful place to live and bring them out to the reggae fest. The lineup is amazing."
You'll find a wide variety of music at this year's festival, with the big names like Maxi Priest, Inner Circle, Wailing Soul, Anthony B, and Mykal Rose appearing at the Monterey Bay Reggaefest Stage throughout the festival at the top of the bill in the evening. The Red Stripe Stage brings you the best of the up-and-coming bands from around the world, including The Green, Dub Tonic Kru, Ras Michael & The Sons of Negus, Mystic Roots and The Caribbean All Stars. The Turf Club will also have DJs and regional bands like Roots Natty, DJ Sugar Bear, Valley Roots, Michael Annotti, and Emmanuel Selassie. The festival's music performances run from 3-10p.m. Friday, and 11a.m. to 10p.m. Saturday and Sunday. After Hour Parties are offered at the Turf Club from 10p.m. to midnight, and then the party moves across the street to Planet Gemini from midnight to closing. Appearances by festival artists and DJs will bring the music another step closer to those in attendance.Tickets are available for all ages, and there are activities for children like bounce houses. Other adult distractions outside of the three music stages are also there, including arts and crafts vendors, international cuisine, adult beverages, a game of dominos, even horse track betting (at the fairground's satellite electronic horse track). Once you enter the fairgrounds there are no in-and-out privileges and there is security throughout the fairgrounds to guarantee a good time is had by all.
"My feeling with reggae music is there is a big misconception about it and the festival," Moore said. "My feeling is it's geared toward unity, and being able to have a common place to mix religions, cultures and ethnicity. The basic message of reggae really comes down to love and unity and inner peace. That's why I wanted to get involved with the reggae fest.
"I grew up going to Reggae on the River in Benbow, and I've been involved in marketing and PR for 25 years. When I moved here it was something that I felt passionate about. So I wanted to help make this work and to get the community involved. We live in a small community and people complain that there's not a lot to do. So when we do put on such a wonderful event such as the Reggaefest, we hope that the community will get out and support it. Let's break any misconceptions there are about reggae, and spread the message of reggae, unity and love, one love."
In the years since its early forms in the '50s and '60s, Jamaican reggae has evolved to become a worldwide phenomenon. At its inception it was a regional party music, and then it evolved to a more conscious spiritual focus and a song of protest. Branches of the art form splintered into hard partying rock forms, while other branches became intertwined with the cultural influences from a certain band's location and origin.
Its audience spans several generations now, and it continues to grow and evolve, sometimes moving back to a simpler pure form rather than taking on the many permutations through genre blending and different cultures' enhancements. Talks with several of the festival's artists confirmed that there is a deep respect for the spiritual aspect of the music and at the same time, a respect for its audience's interest to feel good and move to the music.
Grammy-winning headliners Inner Circle, a Jamaican group known for its two big hits "Bad Boys" and "Sweat," appear Saturday night at 8:30p.m. on the main stage. It is one of the groups that have gone through several shifts in style during its long life, only to return to a classic roots reggae focus that pays homage to its Jamaican roots.
Hawaii's young comers are The Green, appearing Friday on the Red Stripe Stage at 7:20p.m. It's blending of Hawaiian and Jamaican sounds make it unique, yet there is still an understanding of the music's roots that keep it tied to the tradition. Even though the experiences of the twentysomething band members will differ from those of the classic Jamaican artists, a heartfelt connection still exists with the tradition developed by another of the festival's major headliners, the Wailing Souls.
Wailing Souls appear Friday night at 8:30p.m. on the main stage, and are perhaps one of a very few remaining original Jamaican reggae bands still performing live. The band got its start in the late '60s, and learned much of its craft from the legendary Joe Higgs in the yards of Trench Town. They sang alongside Bob Marley and the Wailers and attracted the attention of preeminent reggae producer Coxson Dodd.
Four decades later, the group has garnered three Grammy nominations and found even more success when one of their songs was featured in the Disney film "Cool Runnings." Their 1992 album, "All Over The World," sold more than 800,000 copies. They've pushed the musical limits of the reggae genre with that release, blending sounds of funk, R&B, and country into their roots tradition, securing their reputations as pioneers in the genre.
As the music continues to find followers all over the world, its message of love and unity serves as a reminder that truly we are all one. If tolerance and love are the foundations of a peaceful society, then coming to the reggae festival can do nothing worse for anyone than to open their eyes, ears and hearts to the best things in life. The artists agreed on that principal and for all the young bands coming up, the roots of the music serves as a strong and stable place to jump off into ever more creative fusions and expressions. Come be a part of the scene and feel One Love. For more info log on to http://www.mbayreggaefest.net/
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