When Reggae Sunsplash folded in Montego Bay after its 1992 staging, Italian newspaper publisher Steve Giant, a loyal fan of that festival, was left a disappointed man, as making the annual trek to Jamaica had become an integral part of his life.
However, Giant’s disappointment was short-lived as in 1995, he learnt that Reggae Sumfest had replaced Reggae Sunsplash on the Montego Bay entertainment calendar and since then, he has been travelling to Jamaica for the past 23 years to satisfy his passion for reggae music and his growing love for Jamaica.
“My first Reggae Sumfest experience was in 1995. Basically, it’s been 23 years without interruption,” said Giant.
Over the years, it has not only been Reggae Sumfest that has been pulling the big Italian, who also manages a radio station, the Radio Base Popolare Network, which broadcasts reggae from morning to evening.
“I love the music, the parties, the beach… the Jamaican way of life style. That’s why I come back every year,” said Giant.
“Unfortunately, there’s no reggae festival like Reggae Sumfest in Italy … we had a big one, but they moved it to Spain.”
Despite not having a major reggae festival in Italy, Giant says reggae is nonetheless quite big in his homeland. He sees his popular magazine, RASTA SNOB, which he has been producing for more than 30 years, as one of the vehicles driving the growth of the music.
While each new year at Reggae Sumfest gives giant fresh “emotions, sensations, vibrations,” there are some special memories that have not dimmed over time.
“Definitely Shabba Ranks arriving by helicopter,” said Giant, in reflecting on Shabba’s spectacular arrival by helicopter at the venue back in the 1990s. “I also enjoy the clash in music between Beenie Man and Bounty Killer, and the many international artistes who have duet with the Jamaican top artistes.”
Like many fans of Reggae Sumfest, Giant is mightily impressive by this year’s star-studded line-up and has identified several acts he can’t wait to see.
“I am looking forward to seeing Damian Marley, Cham, Capleton, Sizzla, Assassin, Beres Hammond, Raging Fyah,” said Giant.
As Reggae Sumfest celebrates its 26th anniversary this year, the greatest and only reggae show in Jamaica has, again, opened its doors to Africa.
Reggae Sumfest’s CEO Joseph Bagdonovich, in his bid to unite through music, has extended an invitation to Ghana’s most popular dancehall artiste, Stonebwoy.
Bagdonovich has also made the streaming free for Africans to watch.
Stonebwoy, who is excited about his first-ever performance at Reggae Sumfest, posted a video of his rehearsal, saying, “It’s a dancehall night this Friday at Montego Bay. Come witness the fire.”
Ghanaians can join the global live stream of Reggae Sumfest on both Friday and Saturday via reggaesumfest.cleeng.com or www.ameyawdebrah.com.
Some patrons who attended the Sumfest “Colour-Fest” Beach Party at Tropical Bliss in Montego Bay, St James on Sunday, enjoyed the event from the vantage point of their cabanas.
The cabana concept, which was introduced to the 26-year-old Reggae Sumfest this year, allowed patrons to rent a cabana for the night. It not only offered a bird’s eye view of the activities, but also the added comfort of a beach bed.
Director of Reggae Sumfest, Robert Russell said the venue, Tropical Bliss, provided the perfect location for the introduction of the cabana concept.
He said patrons “warmed” to the idea which resulted in the cabanas being “sold out” in short order, once the gates to the venue were opened.
“We at Reggae Sumfest are always on a mission to improve the experience of our valued patrons and the Cabana concept presented us with an avenue to add luxury to the beach party. We obviously didn’t have enough Cabanas to rent, but the patrons who were lucky enough to secure one, were very happy,” Russell said.
“Looking ahead to next year and beyond, we will see how we can add more of these cabanas to the venue while taking into consideration that they will have to be tastefully designed and positioned.”
Meanwhile, patrons who had to be at the venue very early on Sunday in order to rent their cabana, were very pleased they did and commended the organizers of Sumfest for such a futuristic and patron-centred move.
“We are very pleased that we were able to get one of these wonderful cabanas to rent for this party. The world is moving in the direction of bringing luxury to parties and entertainment events and we are happy that Sumfest has joined the trend,” a patron, Michelle Jones said.
Sunday’s Sumfest “Colour-Fest” Beach party saw hundreds of fun-loving party-goers descending on the venue for the high-energy event which was hosted by the “Curvy Diva” Yanique Barrett and Noah Power and featured DJs Team Shella, Jigga and Crazy Neil.
Worrell King is generally upbeat about stage management, which he has been doing for four decades. This includes working with Reggae Sumfest since its inception, and he tells THE STAR that he is especially happy with the approach of the current organisers. The festival is now run by the Joe Bogdanovich-led Downsound Entertainment. King does stage management for the main concert nights at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre in Montego Bay.
“I particularly enjoy working on Sumfest since they have taken over. I think the present owners value my position more than the average promoter,” said King. “They presented me with an award last year.”
Noting that he is “particularly motivated” for Reggae Sumfest 2018, King said: “It is because the promoters are so enthused about making a professional presentation.”
King made it clear that he is not putting down the former lead Sumfest organisers, as “they, too, were, in their own way, professionals and pushed for a professional presentation.”
Another factor contributing to King’s anticipation is the line-up.
“I think the artistes chosen are motivated to work,” he said.
Next Friday’s Dancehall Night roster includes Spice, Popcaan, Aidonia, Bounty Killer, Masicka, Harry Toddler, Yanique Curvy Diva, I-Octane, Tommy Lee Sparta, Agent Sasco and Tosh Alexander. Saturday’s closing night features Beres Hammond, Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley and Maxi Priest.
Over the years, King said: “Dancehall Night has posed more challenges than the other nights. It makes me feel like I am working or have worked. It is not an easy thing, but I have been successful many, many years. Challenges go with work, so they have to be taken care of.”
Although King has been stage manager for numerous concerts outside of Sumfest, he has never occupied that role for his own productions, which have included Eastern Consciousness, Western Consciousness, Reggae Sanity and Tribute to Peter Tosh.
“It is the most intricate job. It needs your entire senses. It is not easy to be a promoter and stage manager,” King said. He sums up the stage manager’s role as being responsible for everything that happens on the concert stage, from ensuring that equipment is in place and working properly to quick band changes and maintaining a smooth, punctual flow throughout – from a punctual start to ending on schedule.
King said that many times artistes want to know not only their time slots, but also who is performing before and after them. Plus, on concert night, there can be those who try to adjust the schedule by getting to the venue later then the time they were slated to perform, if they believe they were placed too early.
The time management begins at rehearsals, which King attends, and it is there that an artiste’s ego often starts to show “and you have to deal with it.”
He is clear about what he wants from the performers on the main stage nights of Reggae Sumfest 2018, where punctuality is key.
“I am asking all the artistes to be professional. I am begging for that. Come to the people show on time. Come off the people stage on time. We have limited time, so when you get a time, please stick to that limitation and make a professional presentation,” King said.
Wed July 18, 2018
It was an explosion of entertainment and activity as the aesthetically pleasing coastal venue delivered on the second night of the festival, bringing together hundreds of local patrons and their international guests.
DJ Noah Powa got the crowd jumping in the early hours of the evening as party enthusiasts made their way into the free event and were greeted by good food and drink, prizes, surprises and tons of giveaways.
In addition, Jamaica’s rich heritage was front and centre showcasing the finest cultural cosmetics, clothing and treats to the delight of tourists.
Dancehall top selectors Ikel Marvlus and Flabba Dabba of Team Shella took to the set later on and had fans dancing up a storm with hits such as Elephant Man’s Signal the Plane, Vybz Kartel’s Life Is What You Make It and Tommy Lee’s Money Make Friend.
The event also rolled out the red carpet to local celebrities such as Orville Hall and his Dance Xpressionz team; Dancing Dynamite finalists, Anchovy High; and even Reggae Sumfest’s principal and CEO of DownSound Record, Joe Bogdanovich.
“Reggae Sumfest 2018 is bigger and better than ever and it is going to be a lot of joy and togetherness with great music and great art,” said Bogdanovich.
“We are bringing a whole new level of entertainment in Jamaica. There are hundreds of people here at the street dance party. The vibes is good and it is all about reggae and dancehall. I feel good about it,” he added.
One patron, Jevaughn Brown, described the event as an amazing night of good fun and entertainment.
“It was great to see so many people come out, including tourists, with their family and friends to enjoy this wonderful experience,” said Brown.
The 26th staging of the world-renowned music festival will be held at Catherine Hall entertainment complex on July 20 and 21.
According to the Sumfest website, “ticket holders may not bring in chairs to the festival, due to safety issues and regulations”.
However, in a telephone interview with THE STAR, Sumfest director and deputy chairman Robert Russell said that the restrictions will be for seats of a certain size.
“We going to allow people to use chairs, but what we won’t allow is the big, sprawling lounge chairs that take up two and three spaces,” Russell said. “(We will allow) chairs that patrons can sit on comfortably, (because) we can’t expect patrons to stand up all night. I would not be going if I had to stand up all night … but there has to be restrictions.”
The website said the new restrictions will affect the last two nights and is established to ensure the safety of patrons, and comes at a time when a record number of reggae music fans is projected to attend.
Sizzla, Popcaan, Aidonia, Bounty Killer, Harry Toddla, Agent Sasco, Shane O, Tosh Alexander, Tommy Lee, Dance Xpressionz, Rygin King, Govana and Stonebwoy (Ghana) are among the acts scheduled to perform on Friday’s dancehall night.
The legendary Beres Hammond, Damian Marley, Capleton, Cham, Fantan Mojah, J Boog, Jah Dore, Jesse Royal, Raging Fyah, Naomi Cowan and Empress Ayeola are among those billed for Saturday night.
– Albert Ferguson
Thursday, July 12, 2018
On Sunday, July 8, Grace Kitchens in conjunction with Downsound Entertainment previewed some of the items that the brand will serve in the food hall at Reggae Sumfest between July 15 and 22. Executed by Christian Sweeney, executive chef, Fuzion Food Services, the menu showcased some of Grace’s best items. The Red Stripe bar was stocked with sorrel, lemon paradise, light and original Red Stripe beers; Grace coconut water, Tropical Rhythms, D&G sodas and Catherine’s Peak water.
Guests mingled in the courtyard of Downsound HQ while noshing on an array of fare. On offer was a selection of pasta, meat, fish and side dishes. There were Grace tuna and sweetcorn pasta, Grace jerk chicken pasta and Grace jerk veggie pasta. Sweet and spicy buffalo wings, jerk pan hot dogs and jerk stuffed whole snapper. Rounding out the meal were butter almond festivals and Scotch bonnet buttered sweet corn.
The pasta had an expertly made béchamel — it was creamy, had a mild jerk flavour and the veggies and the chicken were fresh and well-cooked. The hot dogs (marinated in jerk seasoning) were very appetising but would have been a sure knockout were the buns toasted or steamed. The wings were very yummy and Thursday Food broke all the rules of etiquette by licking its fingers; they were that good. The stuffed snapper, roasted whole in aluminium foil, was filled with fresh herbs, earthy callaloo and al dente carrots. However, it would have benefited from being served fresh off the grill as the butter began to congeal in the foil wrapper.
The corn was flavourful and slick with butter. And, just when you thought you’ve had every variation of festival there is, Chef Sweeney turns up with a buttered almond version. Nuanced with nutty flavour and perfectly fried, you’ll want the recipe.
As a parting gift, guests were given an insulated cup and a VIP pass that entitles them to unlimited soup and one full meal from Grace on any Sumfest night of their choosing.
This sneak peek of Grace’s Sumfest food offerings along with ice-cold Red Stripe was a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.