Reggae Sumfest Celebrates 25 Years – July 16-22, 2017
Last year there was a sudden cloud over Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica’s premiere annual music festival when it was announced that they were facing major financial challenges and as a result, the festival was being sold to California businessman (now making Jamaica his home) Joe Bagdanovich – the current president of Jamaica-based, Down Sound Records. Immediately, the new owner moved to reduce the three-day festival to two days and eliminated all international acts – which had been an integral part of the festival since its inception.
This year Sumfest is celebrating its 25th year and the new owner has gone all out to give attendees an entire week of celebration. The events begin on Sunday, July 16 with the usual opening Beach Party – followed by four nights of fun-fill events that include a Yacht party, an All White Affair, Retro Block Part, a Heavy Weight Sound System Clash and two nights of live Concerts. Most of Jamaica’s premiere Dancehall acts are schedule for Main Event Night 1, whereas several of the top reggae singers – including Tarrus Riley, Christopher Martin, Jah Cure and Queen Ifrica are scheduled for Main Event Night 2.
As I mention in a previous article, over the last few years there has been a noticeable difference in the composition of the audience at Reggae Sumfest – with attendees picking preference nights to attend. Local-based Jamaicans seem to most favor dancehall night, while both overseas-based Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans seem to prefer the international nights. The International Night option has been removed. Thus, I truly hope this later group find the current choices attractive enough to be worthy of their time and $dollars.
Let me re-emphasize what I stated last year. Reggae Sumfest will be challenged to attract oversea-based attendees and an international audience (via the Live Stream) with an all-local line-up. While I do agree that the festival could have surely done well without some of the internationals acts that Sumfest Productions overpaid to perform over the years, I do believe that cancelling the night is a case of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”. Instead, International Night could be restructured to include some the International reggae acts that are drawing huge audiences on the road while on tour, plus one or two Classic R & B acts like Lionel Richie who have always attracted huge audiences at Sumfest.
It is already too late for 2017. However I am strongly suggesting to the promoters that International Night be re-visited for 2018. This will provide the opportunity to add one or two classic R & B acts (at a fraction of the cost they were paying Hip Hop/Contemporary R & B acts) to a line-up of International reggae acts like Steel Pulse, Maxi Priest, Mikey Spice, Lloyd Brown, Inner Circle, House of Shem, Don Campbell, Beres Hammond, Sean Paul, Ziggy Marley, Fortunate Youth, Dub Tonic Crew, Rebel SoulJahz, J Boog, FiJi, Clay, Don Carlos, Winston Francis, Adel Harley, Randy Valentine, Anthony Que, Barrington Levy, Brinsley Ford, Bitty McLean – just to name a few.
Many of these international acts come with an international following – which is good for the local hotels and tourist industry in general. In addition, the on-stage package of many of these artists can provide local acts with the “on-stage performance template” many badly need.
This year’s festival will be streamed live via 360 VR & HD Livestreams. The Sumfest Live app (by YellowBird) is available (free) at the Apple ITunes store.