Photos & Feature by Empress K
On Saturday, 08/20/2011, The Montreal International Reggae Festival entered it's 8th year with a weekend filled with an outstanding line up of of top Reggae acts aimed to please the young crowd as well as the more mature reggae audience for a fun filled two days of musical enjoyment. For the Dancehall themed day, clear skies set sail for Montrealers and visitors alike to enjoy the day in this quaint section of the Quays of The Old Port of Montreal , which is located on the banks of the St Lawrence River. Taking advantage of the beautiful weather and cool scenery of the cobblestoned pathways, I took a stroll around the area to take photos and speak with some of the local business operators. They shared with me that they were excited to see so many local people out and about enjoying the day in addition to the typical tourists that one might encounter visiting the city. According to Wikipedia, this bustling area attracts over 7 millions visitors on an annual basis. Although the start time of the festival was advertised to be early in the afternoon on Saturday 8/20, it was obvious that the Reggae audience still favors coming out later than schedule states.
Enjoying The Quays of the Old Port of Montreal
Day One - 08/20/2011 I Love Dancehall
A steady stream of patrons flowed into the venue throughout the day. Since I arrived early, I proceeded to check out the the vending booths to see what local offerings were available. Numerous vendors lined the sides and back of the fenced in space to display their wares ranging from clothing and jewelry vendors to many food vendors offering tasty Carribbean fare. Jah One (www.jahone.com), a famous Canadian Based Rasta Clothing Line had their own booth complete with a showcase displaying pictures of many celebrities sporting their brand. Sea Heart (www.seaheart.com) another Canadian based company was also present. The owner spent some time describing the history of the Sea Heart and the polished pods in the shape of a heart that make beautiful jewelry pieces.
I encountered many fans traveling from Ottawa and Toronto as well as the majority of fans based in Montreal. While Toronto is just about as far as Boston and NY, I did not meet any US travelers, which surprised me. While two day passes were offered, a majority of fans I spoke to purchased only the day that suited their musical tastes rather than to purchase a weekend pass.
Vendors at the Montreal International Reggae Festival
Many people including myself had been speculating if Mavado would make his headlining appearance as planned given his latest issues. Speculation ended about 3:00pm when the DJs announced that Mavado would not perform as planned. About the same time, a press release was issued by the festival citing that Mavado would not be performing due to circumstances beyond their control. A long list of Canadian favorites took the stage throughout the late afternoon and early evening. The later evening set included the more internationally known artists Sustane, and Exco Levi followed by Don Skilachi joining Jahvinci as he performed for the first time in Canada since his departure from the Portmore Empire. Immediately after his set, Jahvinci made his way back stage as did most of the artists to be interviewed by the media. With Mavado not present, Gyptian closed out the first night of the festival with the only set backed by a live band and dancers. I looked forward to this since I have never had the opportunity to see Gyptian perform with a band and he did not disappoint. Gyptian was in high spirits as he took the stage with his signature growl. He captivated the audience with his most famous hits and brought out surprise guest Nitty Kutchie. Gyptian then continued to please the ladies in the audience with a number of favorites including 'Beautiful Lady' and the well known international hit, 'Hold You' as the final song of the evening.
Top Dancehall Artists take the stage by nightfall
Reggae Supporters from Near and Far
Day Two - 08/21/2011 Reggae Legends Rain or Shine
Day two of the festival was geared toward a slightly more mature crowd with headliners Third World, Wayne Wonder and Beres Hammond on deck and featured not as many artists as day one. Another noted difference is that most of the artists were backed by live bands. Weather of course is always going to be an unknown factor for outdoor festivals. While the first day had only a slight rain shower which passed quickly, it was a gentle reminder of the weather challenges facing day two. Early on it was clear that weather alone was not going to deter or delay the steady stream of loyal reggae fans from making their way into the venue well equipped with umbrellas & rain gear that reflected the international flavor of the event. Having just covered a festival the previous weekend where it also rained, I was prepared with enough rain gear to withstand at least most of the rain.
Iley Dread complete with his full band and background vocalists kicked off the afternoon's schedule. Next up in the early evening was the legendary band Third World coming on stage to play all their classic hits including, '96 Degrees in the Shade', 'Now that we've Found Love', and many more favorite songs from their extensive catalog of hits. Lead Singer Bunny Ruggs pulled out all the stops to engage the crowd throughout their lengthy set. Demonstrating the band's versatility, drummer Tony 'Ruption' Williams stepped away from his drum set to take center stage and thrill the audience with an energetic drum solo set to the beat of the pouring rain. And to the crowd's further delight, Stephen Cat Coore brought out his cello and performed his own solo with a wonderful rendition of Bob Marley's 'Redemption Song'. Long time Montreal favorites Mello G followed by Jah Cutta continued to ramp up the audience for the final set of the evening.
Worth the wait in the rain......
Fans eagerly awaited the introduction of the Harmony House Band backing Wayne Wonder and Beres Hammond who were wrapping up their own very successful "Love Within the Music Tour", which played to a sold out crowd in Toronto the night before. A sea of umbrellas bounced to the beat of all their classic songs. Despite the relentless rain especially during Beres Hammond's set, fans could not have been more pleased with the line up on Sunday and left fully satisfied with a magical evening of reggae music beneath the rain drops. While the majority of fans were able to hold up under the conditions, my camera would not cooperate and forced me to end my photography about 1/2 hour before the end of evening. I was happy to have been able to photograph Wayne Wonder and Beres Hammond the previous weekend under better conditions and instead just enjoyed the music for a change of pace. I am already looking forward to next year and I hope that the US fans take note and start planning their 2012 trip to Montreal to enjoy the Sights & Sounds of Reggae at the Quays of the Old Port of Montreal. An experience and location not to be missed.
Wayne Wonder & Beres Hammond close out the festival
The journey home - Thank you Montreal .
Report by Grace Vanriel, Reggae Reflection Correspondent
Photos by Empress K, Reggae Reflection Editor
Lakefest CT flyer
On Sunday, August 14, 2011, Hapilos Entertainment, an all inclusive entertainment company based in Jamaica West Indies with a focus on Reggae, Dancehall and Caribbean entertainment in partnership with DNZ Promotions head by one of the few undisputed first ladies of Reggae well known as a DJ, producer and radio personality on Hot 93.7 Radio, Diva Nikki Z produced a super-fantastic outdoor concert billed as the 1st Annual Lakefest in Colchester, CT. The big risk when producing outdoor concerts is always the possibility of inclement weather and it rained like there was no tomorrow. But when you produce and deliver a top quality Roots & Culture lineup with headliners to the likes of Beres Hammond, Etana, Wayne Wonder, Anthony B alongside other fantastic artists and bands such as Derrick Barnett & The Statement Band, Don Minott & The High Voltage Band, Blaq Capone this concert proved that you can count on fans coming.
In route to the concert with the Reggae Reflection crew it rained so hard that I was convinced that we’d arrive only to find that the concert had been postponed. Instead we encountered a small but steady flow of people as we passed through the security checkpoint. Once inside the main stage area I was pleasantly surprised to see a decent number of people in front of the stage armed with umbrellas, outfitted in raincoats, standing and seated in folding chairs and others not so prepared in every conceivable sheltered corner of the beautiful and spacious outdoor venue. You don’t usually see so many people out in the rain and that told me that fans had been looking forward to the Lakefest concert and they came prepared to stay…no matter what.
The crowd and production team all prepared to withstand the rain
The rain eventually stopped but well before it did the 1st Annual Lakefest was already a hit. Although not completely filled to capacity it was very well attended and a true family day generating lots of enthusiasm. A very friendly multicultural crowd of attendees enjoyed the opening acts and patronized the vendors; numerous adults mingled while teenagers enjoyed themselves dancing while young children romped in the rain and simply wore themselves out having fun. It just goes to show that when you put together a quality lineup and back it with a no holds barred promotional effort, nothing will stop fans from taking notice and supporting the effort. As a strong advocate for building the next generation of true Reggae lovers, it also goes to show that parents will indeed bring their children to concerts and shows if they trust the producers knowing they’ll provide a lineup and content appropriate for young audiences.
Fans enjoying their time at Lakefest
So what did I like best about Lakefest 2011? Just about everything! While I did not have a chance to fully explore the grounds, what I saw on the way inside the concert was a lovely location complete with a running stream and acre’s of space. Naturally, all of the performances were excellent and complemented each other well – no slackers took the stage. Anthony B was amazing not only because his music is hot but because he truly knows how to entertain an audience. The rich and melodic voice of Wayne Wonder also went over extremely well with the fans as he too gave his all. I had not attended a concert featuring Etana for a while now so I was anxious to see what if anything would be different. I was delighted to hear her once again belting out songs in her traditional strong and confident style. Derrick Barnett & The Statement Band gave an amazing high-energy performance putting down some moves that won’t soon be forgotten. Superstar Beres Hammond gave what can best be described as a fever pitched and moving performance singing almost every single hit tune he’s ever recorded; at several points during his energetic performance he danced and interacted with the audience reaching out and touching the eager hands of fans who were reaching for the stage in anxious delight for a chance to touch his hand. I must say that Beres Hammond always sings and performs with passion and although it’s hard to explain, this time was obviously different. Clearly fans picked up on that too as towards the very end of his performance, many in the area where I was standing were so moved they were brought to tears. Best of all, Nikki Z and her partners delivered every artist to the stage as advertised and the day was filled to the max with a feeling of pure love and good vibes. If they repeat what they accomplished this year and I am sure they will, Lakefest 2012 will be a guaranteed hit!
High - energy entertainment by Derrick Barnett, Etana, Anthony B, and Wayne Wonder prepare the crowd for Beres Hammond
Beres Hammond and the Harmony House Band close out the show with a heart-felt performance
Reggae Reflection Correspondent Grace Vanriel is a long-time Reggae music fan and the organizer for leading Reggae social networks in the NYC area on Meetup.com including: Live Reggae NYC, NYC Roots Reggae, Dancehall and Reggae Alliance and Reggae Rocks. She is also one of the Executive Producers of the successful Reggaeholics Movement themed concerts, shows and parties. Follow her on Live Reggae NYC on facebook at: www.facebook.com/livereggaenyc or on the Reggaeholics page at: www.facebook.com/reggaeholics
See Slide show of all photos below
Lakefest CT Photo Gallery
09/05/2011 J'Ouvert NYC Photos and Feature by Empress K
The Annual West Indian Labor Day Parade on the Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn is the finale of nearly a week long schedule of carnival events in the area. Since I was planning to be in NYC for the Reggae Rhythm and Blues Festival, I had made arrangements to participate in the West Indian Labor Day Parade. It pays to be flexible since plans changed at the last minute and instead of covering the daytime parade, I would be for the first time at the pre-dawn Steel Pan Parade known as J'Ouvert, which runs from about 4:00am to 10:00am.
By 3:30 am I was at the parade location and met up with costume designers from Something with a Difference & The San Juan East Side Symphony, one of approximately 25 Steel Pan Bands participating this year. J'Ouvert is a joyous celebration of life, culture and tradition, which one MUST experience to truly appreciate. As they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words". See the picures below that I hope best capture the genuine spirit and smiling faces at J'Ouvert. May the pictures entice you to participate next year. As schedules permit, I'll most definitely be celebrating Carnival weekend in NYC again next year. More photos of Labor Day events here: Reggae Rhythm & Blues Photos at Roy Wilkins Park
J'Ouvert - Let the festivities begin
As dawn approaches, the celebration continues
Daybreak and Eastern Parkway sets up for the West Indian Day Parade
See the slide show for the full photo gallery of J'Ouvert below
Photos & Feature by Empress K
Sunday, September 4th, 2011 - For many people, Labor Day Weekend in the US signifies the end of summer - a time to celebrate with family and friends at local gatherings. For me, it means time to take a trip to NYC to visit my adopted Reggae family and check out the melting pot of activity that attracts so many visitors to the city on Labor Day weekend. The annual Irie Jamboree festival usually held on Labor Day weekend did not take place in 2010, which definitely left a void in the city for a live outdoor festival. That void was filled this year with the inaugural launch of Reggae Rhythm & Blues touted to bring the best in Reggae, Dancehall and R&B together on the same stage. Mavado, one of the first artists advertised got his work permit back this year. Announcements soon followed for R&B headliners BabyFace & Monica, Reggae Singer Tarrus Riley, and Machel Montano to round it out with some soca vibes especially appropriate since it is was also Carnival time in NYC.
Many individuals and families came early to the spacious area of Roy Wilkins Park located in Queens, NYC well prepared for the day and evening ahead with chairs, blankets and even umbrellas which this time was for a completely different purpose - to protect from the sun rather than from the rain that I've recently encountered at other reggae festivals over the summer. The large vending area located at the back of the park grounds provided a wide array of caribbean art, merchandise and as expected numerous Caribbean food stands. Roast Corn, a major favorite at Caribbean festivals, seemed to be on everyone's plate. The Door, one of my favorite Jamaican restaurants in Queens was present with a steady stream of customers. For cool refreshments, Sky Juice SnowCone was a popular choice along with Baba Roots & Hi*T serving up beverages to quench the thirst. It was quite some distance to trek from the stage area to the vending booths, however a large display screen on the stage provided a good view for those in the back on the park grounds.
Machel Montano Pumps Up The Crowd
Machel Montano was one of the earlier headliners to hype up the crowd with his high energy soca set backed by his band and along with the HD dancers and special guest Patrice Roberts to wow the crowd. Monica, the only female headliner on the event kicked off the R&B segment of the program and entertained the audience prior to Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds taking the stage. By the reaction of the crowd, Babyface easily satisfied the R&B lovers performing a solid set of his well known hits.
Beenie Man Arrives in Style
Meanwhile Mose Davis more popularly known as Beenie Man arrived in high style complete with a Rolls Royce and was quickly surrounded by the media, paparazzi style as he was quickly whisked back stage. Beenie Man was in attendance to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. Prior to accepting his award, a video tribute honoring Beenie Man's achievements in Reggae Music was shown. Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke had the honor to present the award to a beaming Beenie Man. Since he had not yet received a work visa, he engaged the crowd dancing along to the music and brought out a surprise guest, Khago performing for the first time in the area. The late VP Executive Joel Chin was also honored at the event with a heart-felt video tribute to acknowledge his significant contributions to the Reggae Music Industry.
Beenie Man receives Lifetime achievement award
Tarrus Riley fresh from a successful European tour was up next with his only area appearance. Backed by Dean Fraser and the Black Soil band, he performed many of his well known hits although a few sound issues appeared to be present, delaying the start of his set. As the festival neared it's early evening ending time, it was time for the long-awaited return of Mavado to close out the Reggae Rhythm & Blues Festival. The festival was definitely a successful blend of Reggae, R&B, Soca, and Dancehall and will hopefully continue next year to keep the tradition of having a family friendly festival on Labor Day weekend in NYC for years to come. Labor Day weekend in NYC would not be complete without partaking in some of the numerous Carnival festivities. For me, it was time to experience my first and most definitely not last time celebrating Jouvert in NYC before heading back to Boston. Click here for photos & story => J'Ouvert 2011 NYC. See the Reggae Rhythm & Blues slide show below to see all the pics from the festival.
Final Acts of the evening: Tarrus Riley and Mavado
For more information on the event, check out the official website www.reggaerhythmandblues.com
A Reflection in Time
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