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“How Reggae Sumfest Owner Josef Bogdanovich Became One of Jamaican Music’s Biggest Advocates” – Billboard

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How Tuna Fish Heir & Reggae Sumfest Owner Josef Bogdanovich Became One of Jamaican Music’s Biggest Advocates

Josef Bogdanovich and Robert Russell

“How can a country with just 3 million people receive so much recognition from people of so many different nationalities? Has anyone figured that out?” Bogdanovich asked. Struggling to be heard above the conversations fueled by the complimentary Red Stripe beer (Sumfest’s title sponsor) served at the bar of Lower East Side venue The DL, Bogdanovich, an American businessman whose experience in the entertainment industry dates back to the 1970s, raised his voice to a thunderous pitch.

“Yo! Have you figured it out yet? We must understand the power of this music and this festival. We must understand the economics of survival and acknowledge that unity is one of the keys to survival. Get educated! Stop the violence! Let’s celebrate unity and togetherness and show just how serious we are about our music, our festival, Reggae Sumfest.”

Montego Bay, Jamaica. 
Montego Bay, Jamaica’s Rising Violence Mirrors Past Troubles — With Music as a Balm

Bogdanovich’s plea to stop the violence refers to the spiraling gang-related murders/reprisal killings in and around Montego Bay stemming from notorious lottery scamming operations. In January 2018, the Jamaican government declared a state of emergency in St. James Parish, where Montego Bay is located, which remains in effect five months later.

Inaugurated in August 1993 at Montego Bay’s Catherine Hall as a vehicle to boost tourism during the summer’s low visitor arrivals season — and as a replacement for its predecessor Reggae Sunsplash, which had relocated to the outskirts of Kingston the same year — Reggae Sumfest has attracted thousands of visitors to Jamaica and generated millions for the island’s economy.

Artists like 50 CentCommonDestiny’s ChildNe-YoNicki MinajLionel RichieRihanna and Kanye West and other American superstars have headlined Sumfest over the years, but it’s reggae that dominates. Many Jamaican artists’ careers have been launched, ascended to the next level or generated interest far beyond the island’s shores directly from the festival’s stage. The legendary Toots and The Maytals, veteran Rastafarian roots singer Burning Spear, dancehall superstars Shaggy and Sean Paul and millennial reggae acts Chronixx and Raging Fyah are among the diverse Jamaican talent that have appeared on the Sumfest stage.

Artists’ escalating costs, juxtaposed with the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar, as well as competition with European summer reggae festivals looking to secure the most popular Jamaican acts, yielded an uncertain future for Reggae Sumfest 2016, which prompted one of the Sumfest founders, Robert Russell, to recommended Bogdanovich as an investor.

“We knew we would have had to scale back Sumfest quite a bit because we reached a point where we couldn’t afford the foreign [American] acts’ prices anymore as the festival’s sponsorship diminished,” Russell told Billboard while in Manhattan for the Sumfest launch. “I initially suggested that Joe get involved as an investor, but then I suggested he buy the festival so he didn’t have to contend with those shareholders who weren’t prepared to move forward and put more money into it, even though they have been reaping the benefits for many years. Joe agreed to buy it [for an undisclosed sum] with the condition that I remain involved, because he needed someone who knew the ropes.”

Los Angeles born and raised Bogdanovich — just “Joe” to his friends and colleagues — began visiting Jamaica in the early 1990s before settling in the island’s capital, Kingston, in 1999. He’s the grandson of the late Martin J. Bogdanovich, the founder of StarKist foods; as an heir to that affluence, Bogdanovich could have invested his resources in any number of entertainment endeavors, anywhere in the world. Yet he chose Jamaica and its reggae and dancehall music, which haven’t yielded financial returns for the island and its artists commensurate with their pervasive influence on popular culture.

“No one gets into this for the money, we do it out of passion, for the love of the music,” Bogdanovich told Billboard in New York, on the evening prior to Sumfest’s April 17th launch.

Bogdanovich, who worked as a film screenwriter, producer and director before turning to music, learned the rigors of the entertainment business from his older brother, Robert, a co-founder of Los Angeles-based Pacific Presentations, one of the largest concert promotion companies of the 1970s. He started the Acid Jazz record label in Los Angeles in 1992, focusing on dance music; a year later he founded Downsound Records. By 1995, Bogdanovich had established a Downsound office in Kingston and ever since, the label has signed and/or released music from an eclectic array of reggae and dancehall artists, charting a musical identity that is as flamboyant, unpredictable and occasionally controversial as Bogdanovich and his wider business moves.

Amidst the resurgence in roots reggae in Jamaica in the mid 2000s, Downsound Records found success with Rastafarian reggae artist Fantan Mojah, especially his meditative chant “Hail The King,” featuring veteran master drummer Bongo Herman, its video directed by Bogdanovich.

Bogdanovich/Downsound were involved in the career of singer Jah Cure, who rose to stardom while serving a 12-year sentence following a rape conviction, the result of what many argue was a biased trial. In 2006, Bogdanovich produced the song and directed the video for what best summarizes Jah Cure’s saga, one of the biggest reggae stories of the 2000s, “True Reflections (Behind These Prison Walls),” which Cure recorded behind bars.

In 2013, Bogdanovich signed and brought resurgent interest to the iconic but troubled deejay Ninja Man, considered the king of clashing (a prototype of hip-hop’s MC battles) since the 1980s. Ninja Man, an admitted crack cocaine user, teamed up with Downsound’s younger signee Specialist as they sparred for generational supremacy on the popular dancehall single “Dweet“; Bogdanovich directed the song’s video and has a speaking role in its opening scenes.

Ninja Man parted ways with Downsound in 2015, was found guilty of a 2009 murder in 2017, and is now serving a life sentence.

Some Downsound artists’ well-publicized, occasionally-acrimonious departures from the label — including Fantan Mojah, deejay Foota Hype, sing-jay Nature and especially female dancehall artist Ishawna — have provided plenty of fodder for Jamaican tabloids and reggae gossip sites. Unsurprisingly, Bogdanovich now prioritizes other entertainment activities over his label pursuits. “We are not really interested in artists now because they sell us out; we’ve been shortchanged so many times that it’s irresponsible for me to spend my time and resources on them,” Bogdanovich said. “We lost a lot of years where my time could have been better spent for the industry, and that is in concert promotion and production.”

Over the past four years, Bogdanovich has elevated his corporate profile with several multimillion-dollar investments in Jamaica. He is a major shareholder in the KLE Group, which operates Usain Bolt‘s Tracks & Records, the popular sports bar/restaurant co-owned by the celebrated Olympian. Bogdanovich also acquired Hardware & Lumber, the island’s largest retail hardware chain, in 2016.

In 2017, Bogdanovich established “Caribbean Love Now” to aid Caribbean islands ravaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Caribbean Love Now held its inaugural fundraising concert, Jamathon, in November, featuring 30 primarily Jamaican acts, all of whom donated their time for the event. Bogdanovich wouldn’t disclose how much was raised from Jamathon, which is slated to be an annual event, but the organization has already sent containers of relief supplies to the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica; Bogdanovich and a Jamaican team are scheduled to visit Dominica later in the year to oversee the rebuilding of a school and hospital there. The official song for the Caribbean Love Now campaign, “Carry On,” features an all-star Jamaican cast including Tessanne Chin (season 5 winner of NBC’s The Voice), Tarrus Riley and Chronixx, produced by Sean DiedrickDean Fraser and Sherieta Lewis, for Downsound Records.

But the brightest jewel in Bogdanovich’s glittering collection of acquisitions — and potentially its most valuable — is Reggae Sumfest. Since taking the reins in 2016, he’s introduced HD live streaming and a 360 virtual reality access app, which he says generated 60 million digital impressions in 2017, three times more than 2016. Bogdanovich has expanded the now 26-year-old festival to eight days this year (July 15-22), which will include the inaugural Sumfest Inspire Awards, given to industry practitioners; a reggae business symposium; and an international sound system clash, World Clash, organized by preeminent sound system promoters Irish and Chin.

Downsound Entertainment has pioneered a reciprocal promotion strategy between Sumfest and Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year (Dec. 1-5). Most significant of all, Bogdanovich has jettisoned American headliners from Sumfest’s concerts, Festival Nights 1 and 2.

“We use the slogan ‘our music, our festival’ because we’ve reinstated Jamaicans as Sumfest’s international stars,” says Bogdanovich of the lineup, which includes legendary vocalist Beres Hammond; English-Jamaican singer Maxi Priest; dancehall stars Popcaan and Aidonia; Fantan Mojah; Rastafarian chanter Sizzla; longtime Downsound artist Harry Toddler; and Marley. “I want to highlight reggae and dancehall, to bring more business to Jamaica because it’s a great, blessed island,” Bogdanovich says. “And I am doing everything I can to support it.”

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“Reggae Sumfest Goes Larger – Three More Launches Before Weeklong Staging Begins” -Jamaica Gleaner

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Reggae Sumfest Goes Larger – Three More Launches Before Weeklong Staging Begin

With the goal being to develop Reggae Sumfest to rival mega-fests like Coachella (California, USA), AfroPunk (started in Brooklyn, New York, USA) or Glastonbury (England), by inviting a pilgrimage of reggae and dancehall music lovers to Montego Bay annually, principal Joe Bogdanovich reiterated his determination to continuously develop the show’s offerings by spreading the festivities across an entire week.

While the main events will be Dancehall Night (scheduled for Friday, July 20, this year) and Reggae Night (Saturday, July 21), Bogdanovich revealed at a rap session on Wednesday in Kingston that patrons are welcome to enjoy additional features like beach parties, a festival ‘mall’ and an educational symposium.

The 2018 festival had its first launch event in New York in April and, before the opening bell, there will be three more. On May 16, the festival will launch in Montego Bay, before traversing to Kingston on May 30. Finally, Reggae Sumfest will make its way to Wynwood Art Walk for the fourth launch in Miami, Florida, on June 9.

To kick off the weeklong activities is the Sumfest Colorfest Beach Party on Sunday July 15, hosted by Yanique ‘Curvy Diva’ Barrett. The next day will be the Sumfest Street Jam: I Love MoBay, at the Old Hospital Park.

Maintaining the elimination of International Night, Reggae Sumfest has still created a space for an international showcase, so on Tuesday, July 17, the Sumfest All-White Party will return to Pier 1, followed by Sumfest Blitz on Wednesday, July 18, at the Hard Rock CafÈ. It will be hosted by Love and Hip-Hop star Safaree, with a performance by Britain’s Steff London.

Fresh in the line-up is the Reggae Industry Symposium, where the Dance Xpressionz crew will host a ‘learn-to-dance’ workshop. Also proposed for that event is a workshop on how to juggle reggae and dancehall music, as well as a panel discussion focused on women in dancehall. The symposium is scheduled to take on the morning of Friday, July 20, before Dancehall Night.

Improving upon the food court introduced last year, the brand is prepared to take the event to the next level with the introduction of the Sumfest Mall. It is expected that there will be 16 shops in operation, selling wares from Jamaica artisans such as painters, sculptors and jewellers.

During the media rap session, senior producer of DownSound Entertainment, Cordell ‘Skatta’ Burrell, spoke on the power of the brand’s social media marketing. Last year, there were a number of skits produced for social media, encouraging patrons to attend the event. From all those efforts, the team reports that Reggae Sumfest made 65 million online impressions.

This year, the social media campaign began as early as January 1, with flyers of acts who were already confirmed for the show. Burrell reports that the effort has garnered positive results, with international patrons booking tickets – sans radio or television presence. The organisers have even wrapped ‘dollar’ vans in New York to pull more international eyes to the upcoming summer festival.

Slated to take the stage on Dancehall Night are Sizzla, Popcaan, Aidonia, Bounty Killer, Spice, Harry Toddler, Agent Sasco, Shane O, Tosh Alexander, Tommy Lee, Dance Xpressionz, Rygin King, Jah Fabio, D-Major and Kemar Hicon, Accid, Vanzo, Govana, Presskay and Stonebwoy (Ghana). Reggae Night will feature performances by Beres Hammond, Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley, Maxi Priest, Capleton, Cham, Fantan Mojah, J Boog; Keznamdi, Stushi, D’Yani, Jah Dore, Jesse Royal, Raging Fyah, Naomi Cowan and Empress Ayeola.

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Sumfest 2018 Gets Even Hotter with New Additions- Jamaica Gleaner

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May 03, 2018 4 Comments

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Marketing consultant Marcia McDonnough (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

A few changes are coming for this year’s staging of Reggae Sumfest.

Bogdanovich and his team announced that at least three new events have been added to the roster; the physical capacity of the venue is being increased; parking is being improved; and patrons are being offered more of an experience through an improved food court and the addition of the Sumfest Mall.

“We are looking to increase the capacity this year. Last year we were pretty full and so we want to stay according to the demands of the fire department for safety. So we have ways of increasing the capacity. So I think we are going to have a really big crowd this year. We will reconfigure the food court. There will be improvement in the parking arrangements. We definitely want a lot of cars across the street. The ultra VIP experience was a hit last year, something new a lot of people didn’t know about it and those two sections on stage right and stage left. It is being extended and more people will be able to buy chairs on those two platforms. About 400 people will be able to get chairs on a platform,” said Bogdanovich.

Reggae Sumfest’s week of activities commences on Sunday, July 15 with the traditional Beach Party at Tropical Bliss Beach. The following day will see The Sumfest Street Jam at the old Hospital Park followed by the All-White party at Pier 1 on July 17. The events move to the Hard Rock Café for Sumfest Blitz on July 18.

Th first of the new events — Sumfest Inspire Awards — is a by-invitation-only event and will be staged on July 19 at the Iberostar Resort.

Marketing consultant Marcia McDonnough explained that this event will replace the traditional Sumfest press conference.

“Over the years we have staged a press conference, but over the years it has lost its sparkle. So this year we are doing the Sumfest Inspire Awards, a red-carpet-style awards with all the trappings at Iberostar. We are looking to having all kinds of awards related to reggae and music. We will have some press awards like the Golden Pen and Photo Guru as well as persons who have contributed to Reggae Sumfest over the years.”

 In addition to the awards, there will also be the Sumfest World Clash at Pier 1 on that same evening. This event will feature Tony Matterhorn, Mighty Crown, Pink Panther and Ricky Trooper.

July 20 will see the other new event, the Reggae Industry Symposium, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. While the details are still being pulled together, McDonnough said it will be of interest to a wide cross section of persons.

“On Friday morning we are going to have another new event which is the Sumfest Symposium. We have a lot of persons who come here and are interested in our music and our dance. So we have partnered with Dance Xpressionz who have a very nice track through the whole reggae experience. Nothing is written in stone, but we will have things that are interesting not only to students but to the general public,” she announced.

Later that evening, the festival’s first night of performances takes to the stage at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre. Night one — dancehall night — will also feature Sizzla, Popcaan, Aidonia, Spice, Ding Dong, Harry Toddler, Agent Sasco, Tommy Lee, Shane O, Ghanian Afro pop, dancehall and reggae artiste Stonebwoy and other acts.

Night two of the performances is being headlined by Beres Hammond, Damian “Junior Gong” Marley and Maxi Priest. Other acts to take the stage include Capleton, Cham, Fantan Mojah, American reggae act J Boog, Jesse Royal, and Raging Fyah.

The week concludes with another new event — the Sumfest Morning Medz — a tailgate cooler fete immediately after the performances. This event will be held at Dump-up Beach in the heart of Montego Bay.

— Richard Johnson

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“Reggae Sumfest 2018: A Week-Long Reggae Party in Paradise” – Reggaefestivalguide.com

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Reggae Sumfest 2018: A Week-Long Reggae Party in Paradise


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Reggae Sumfest & Downsound Entertainment have set the bar for Reggae events sky-high with the Week-Long Sumfest Event Schedule for 2018! 

Reggae fans from around the world are already scooping up their tickets to the hottest week in Reggae & Dancehall and will arrive in Montego Bay by July 15th to experience the festival of a lifetime.

Pre-Events Include:

The Colorfest Beach Party on July 15 at Tropical Bliss Beach

The Free Street Dance and Party on July 16 on the Hip Strip

The All White Party at Pier One on July 17

The Blitz Party at The Hard Rock Cafe with inclusive food and drinks on July 18

The 20th Anniversary of Irish & Chin’s World Clash on July 19 at the Pier One Event Centre

Reggae Sumfest

The Main Festival Nights on July 20 & 21 at Catherine Hall Entertainment Center features the greatest stars of Reggae and Dancehall ~ all night long!

The Festival Week winds up with a 7am Tailgate Party at Dump Up Beach, called Morning Meds.

 Advance Tickets Now On Sale for All Reggae Sumfest Events…And don’t forget to print out your free tickets to the big Street Dance on the Hip Strip Monday July 16…. Don’t miss out….The Ultra VIP with Seat Tickets are going fast…As well as VIP Tickets…and GA….Reggae Sumfest 2018 looks like it is heading to a sellout. 

The festival will again be live-streamed in high-definition video.

Reggae Sumfest has become the most watched Reggae & Dancehall festival in the world….Don’t miss it!

 

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” A Safe Sumfest” – Jamaica Observer

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A safe Sumfest

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

May 03, 2018 5 Comments

A section of the crowd attendig a previous staging of Reggae Sumfest at Catherine Hall in Montego Bay, St James.

THE state of public emergency currently in place in St James will have no adverse effect on this year’s staging of the annual music festival Reggae Sumfest, according to organisers.

The event is slated for July 15 to 22.

Joe Bogdanovich, CEO of DownSound Entertainment and chairman of Summerfest Productions, promoters of the festival, said the operation, which is in place to reduce the rising levels of criminal activity in that western city, will result in tighter productions at all the events to meet the agreed timelines.

“We’re starting early this year. The show on Friday night begins at eight o’clock and ends at six. We have some restrictions this year in terms of how late we can be out and I think that all these restrictions are rather positive for us because not only are we more safe than ever before, but we will be able to get to bed before the rooster crows,” Bogdanovich told the media at a rap session held at his DownSound Entertainment corporate office in New Kingston yesterday.

“There’s no question that there is more safety in the country now and the fact the people who live there welcome this extension. Everybody is feeling a sense of normalcy in terms of being more comfortable and safe. The pre-events will end by 2 o’clock, all of them. We have very good safety there. We have never had a problem in the Sumfest area and that won’t change,” he continued.

The state of public emergency was implemented on January 18 of this year for 14 days. It was extended by Parliament as required by the constitution. A further extension to August 2 was approved by the Senate yesterday.

At the session, Bogdanovich skirted around announcing a definitive price tag to stage the event but noted that this year’s show should make money based on the level of sponsorship from local and international partners.

 “It’s a very expensive festival. We’ve expanded to eight days from seven; there are now 10 events. It costs money to project the image of what real reggae and dancehall music is all about and I think the production that we do compared to what you see in other countries is second to none. The box office certainly does not pay for the expenditure that we do. We are actually spending more money this year in terms of the production and the line-up than ever before. We have more meaningful sponsors than ever before. To do the kind of production that we do to make the world understand how dynamic reggae and dancehall music is, it takes a lot of production and we need international sponsors to support us and we’re on the road to doing this. I believe this year we’ll make money,” he said.

First held in 1993, Reggae Sumfest has featured dancehall’s elite such as Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Lady Saw and Capleton. International acts, including TI, Common, Usher, Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg, R Kelly, Ne-Yo, Mary J Blige, and Alicia Keys have also performed on it.

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