Reggae Sumfest Set for July 12 – 18, 2015

Call it by either of its branded names “The Greatest Reggae Show on Earth” or the “World’s best Promotion of Music as a Universal Force”, it comes down to one thing – the best experience you will have at a music festival (including the latest trends of festivals on the high seas) anywhere in the world this year. This festival which many skeptics predicted that in a few years would have gone the way of most over hyped music festivals – out of business, will celebrate a quarter century in 2018.
Reggae Sumfest (formerly Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest – named for its former headline sponsor) was first staged in 1993 when faced with the loss of Reggae Sunsplash – at that time the world’s largest reggae festival, a group of Montego Bay based business men and women came together to form Summer-fest Productions Limited. That year the first festival was staged in Montego Bay, August 11th -14th.. That same year Reggae Sunsplash moved to Jam World in St. Catherine, Jamaica  (on the outskirts of the city Kingston) and pulled in 60 thousand attendees. Many predicted that because most the attendees of Sunsplash in Montego Bay drove in from Kingston, this new location near that city, coupled with the huge first year attendance at Jam World marked the “death nail” for any competition in Montego Bay.
What those “predictors of the doom for Reggae Sumfest” did not quite understand was the fact that the majority of attendees of Sunsplash and even those from Kingston did not simply attend because of the opportunity to listen to reggae music. The music festival location – Montego Bay, provided an occasion to get away (for a few days) from the hustle of Kingston or to plan a vacation that include sun, fun, beach, great food, hanging out with the most friendly strangers and the opportunity to replace stress with best reggae music on earth.
Personally, even as one who consider myself a Kingstonian, my Jam World experience in 1993 lasted only one night – although I spent the entire five days of the festival in the city. After attending the first night at Jam World, I completely lost my desire to attend a music festival in a location where as a child we referred to as the “other side of back-a-wall”.
The nomadic experience of Reggae Sunsplash in the years that followed – Jam World to St. Ann (near Bob Marley’s place of birth) and later Ocho Rios and now “out of business” is testament to the fact that leaving Montego Bay represented a huge lost of perspective on the part of the organizers. Festival attendees are mostly middle class working young people with limited time and resources. The  music festival provide a single opportunity for vacation and great music.
Since 1993, Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay has provided the opportunity for foreigners, expatriate Jamaicans and Jamaicans at home to plan a vacation that includes beaches, sun, fun, great people and good music. One has to simple look at the over-head shots of an Isle of Man festival – off the cost of Great Britain, or the music festivals on the Gulf Shores of Mississippi and Alabama to understand the impact of a reggae music festival by the sea. The ambiance of Montego Bay provides that kind of a back-drop for Reggae Sumfest.
Add a highly committed and well organized team of promoters who have struggled through the years of “back-breaking” financial losses to a point of profitability over the last ten years. The growth and success of the festival over the years can mostly be attributed to this team of promoters who are highly motivated to expose attendees to the “best of “rising stars from all music genres throughout the world; to remind us of the great international stars who continues to create our music and culture – from Lionel Richie, Usher, Mary J. Blige to the Temptations, while showcasing the very best that reggae music has to offer. In its twenty plus years, Reggae Sumfest has showcased almost every artist that has been of any significance to our creative music culture.
The list is long and include many modern acts like Shaggy, Chronixx, the second generation of Marleys, Beres Hammond, Tessane Chin and many from the dancehall genre such as Bounty Killer, Beenie Man and Lady Saw; in addition to several who are no longer with us, such as Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and John Holt. Unfortunately the late legend Desmond Dekker never got to perform at Sumfest and we are still waiting for the living legend – Jimmy Cliff.
The festival has now cemented its place as one of the world’s great “music festivals by the sea”. Each year international press coverage continues to grow with entertainment journalist coming from major television, analog radio, digital audio and print outfits – including E-television, BET-TV, Access Hollywood, Vibe Magazine and Billboard in the United States; BBC in England, Channel O, South Africa and media form Brazil and several Central and South American countries.
Reggae Sumfest has been successful in part because the promoters have received strong support from the Montego Bay business community. In addition to Red Stripe beer that initially partnered with the production as a headline sponsors, others such as Appleton Rum, VP Records , Ocean Spray, Pepsi and local hotels such as Iberostar Resorts, Secrets, Holiday Inn Sunspree and Sunset Beach Resort continue to provide strong support.
This has been a brutal winter for those of us who reside in the North East and East Central areas of the United States. Even my friends in Florida inform me that they too have had several 30 degrees days. I am told by relatives in Great Britain that Europe have not fared much better. This has moved the thinking about, and planning for summer vacation higher up on our list of priority for 2015. Thus the producers of the festival might well take note of this and begin to announce the line-up for this year’s concerts a bit earlier than is normal. That will provide many of us who like to plan in advance the encouragement to write on our calendar in large print – Reggae Sumfest vacation, July 12th thru 18th, 2015, Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Look for updated information on the Sumfest Facebook page

Artists on the Radar

In 2014 reggae artists Tessane Chin and Sister Nancy (Ophlin Russell-Myers) came out of the shadows to emerge as reggae music’s top female artists. Tessane, because she put her talents to the test on the US television program – the Voice and beat all the competition, and Sister Nancy, as a result of Bam Bam – the song she recorded more than twenty years ago being selected among the theme songs for the controversial movie – The Interview.  Conversations with either of these two artists will quickly reveal that what happened in 2014 was not really about the destination, it was about the journey – the long road, the many rejections and the feelings of insecurity, when producers tell them that their hard work and talent were not good enough.
This year K-12 is picking two more artists to emerge out of the shadows on to the big stage.
The first is Adele Harley (Often referred to in England as the other Adele). This British born singer/songwriter have studied music from a very early age and plays several instruments including guitar, violin and flute.  Over the years, she has developed her own fresh sound of Reggae /Lovers Rock. Her debut album, “COME INTO MY LIFE` in 2010 was produced by the UK’s highly acclaimed MAFIA & FLUXY. The 17 track album (including 14 original songs written by Adele) features collaborations with LEROY MAFIA and GLAMMA KID, and also included musicians such as the legendary DEAN FRASER on sax.
Between 2010 and 2014 she released several singles produced by MAFIA & FLUXY and an EP titled “Love for Life” with production by KEMAR “Flava” McGREGOR. She has also worked with producers COMPUTER PAUL, LLOYD CAMPBELL, LEE FRANCIS and BARRY O` HARE
Her long awaited sophomore album, again produced by the dynamic duo MAFIA & FLUXY (the British version of Sly & Robbie) was released in October of 2014. The album titled “TIMELESS” entered at number 11 on the ITUNES reggae chart for the United Kingdom. The 15 tracks included six written by Adele and a duet with the late John Holt.
In 2014 Adele was the opening act for several reggae artists including, stars Morgan Heritage, Tarrus Riley, Romain Virgo, and Frankie Paul and Sanchez; and legends Marcia Griffiths, Beres Hammond and Freddie McGregor
The second artist on the K-12 radar for 2015 is the Nigerian singer/band leader Victor Essiet Already an established star in his African homeland, with an award-winning platinum album and stadium size sell-out concerts, Essiet sought asylum from the dire political turmoil in his home country, and established an impressive presence in America in the late ‘ 90s. His discovery in America was assisted by reggae historian and Beat Magazine co-founder Roger Steffens, who had actually compiled a tape of Victor’s music even though the two had never had met. Steffens forwarded the tape to Heartbeat Records. Describing what happened, Essiet noted “Faith brought me to America, and destiny united me with Roger,” Victor says. “That is how I got my deal with Heartbeat, which finally introduced my work to the North American market.
Although Essiet has been signed to Heartbeat for several years, he remains an artists and DJ favorite. His debut album was released by Polygram/Europe. Fittingly entitled “CRISIS”, it became an instant hit in Nigeria and heralded the beginnings of Victor’s success. This first US album was released in 1998. The second album titled “CRUCIAL” was released on the Los Angeles based Mystic Records label.
Victor has toured USA, Europe, Africa and Canada with his band the Mandators – creating a loyal following of world beat music lovers. His charismatic presence and impressive and dynamic performances earned him the Best New Entertainer Award from the International Reggae and World Music Awards in Atlanta.
Essiet has worked with producers Sly & Robbie on his CD One Love, One World, which included covers of two Marley classics, Them Belly Full and  Yes Mi Friends (Duppy Conqueror). Other Jamaican classics on the album include Johnny Osborne’s “Come Back Darling”. His latest EP, titled Conscious Mix released in 2014 includes the potential hit “Freedom Train”.
K-12 is predicting that both Victor Essiet and Adele Harley will emerge from the shadows in 2015.