KINGSTON, Jamaica — Although the line-up for Reggae Sumfest 2019 is yet to be announced, worldwide interest in this year’s renewal is already being evaluated through early ticket sales.
According to the promoters the results showed that excitement is already high among patrons for 27th staging of the iconic event.
“Ticket sales have gotten off to a running start, following a early bird ticket flash sale inclusive of both general admission and VIP passes that sold out in less than the 48 hours allotted for the online sale,” their release said.
Commenting on the already high demand for tickets, Downsound Entertainment (DSE) boss, Joe Bogdanovich noted that, although it is still early in the year, there was such strong demand for tickets that they decided to do a short early bird sale, to offer discounted prices to our loyal patrons.
“Even we were a bit surprised at how quickly it sold out. This is a great sign, it shows just how strong the Sumfest brand is, and how much support there is for the event, both in and outside Jamaica. People love the event, the music and the overall experience of being in Jamaica surrounded by the amazing culture,” Bogdanovich said.
Sumfest 2019 promises to be one for the books, with an impressive schedule of events leading up to the greatly anticipated concert nights on July 19 and 20.
The week of events is expected to kick off on July 14 with the Sumfest Mawnin Medz beach party, followed by the Street Dance, All White Party, All Black Blitz Party, Global Sound Clash and the Reggae Sumfest Symposium.
Josef Bogdanovich, representing Reggae Sumfest 2018, the award recipient in the category of entertainment at the RJRGLEANER Honour Awards 2018, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston earlier this month.
The twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which has been selected as the first place to kick off the Reggae Sumfest launch parties for 2019, also enjoys another first. It’s the first time that the reggae festival will have a launch in that soca and dancehall-loving Caribbean island, and according to Downsound Entertainment boss Josef Bogdanovich, the expectations are high.
Bogdanovich told The Gleaner that the Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines has jumped on board as the presenting sponsor for the week-long festival, which gets underway on July 14 with the Sumfest Mawnin Medz beach party, followed by the Street Dance, All-White Party, All-Black Blitz Party, Global Sound Clash, and the Reggae Sumfest Symposium.
“We are happy to have Caribbean Airlines on board, and they have some great packages on offer. We’re also having an eye-catching promotional campaign in Trinidad to encourage support for Reggae Sumfest from the Caribbean,” Bogdanovich explained.
The Trinidad launch is a little over a month away. It takes place on March 29, after which there will be the launch in New York on April 17; Montego Bay on May 15, and Kingston on June 2.
The organisers are also looking at the possibility of doing one in London as well, even against the background of a festival that has attained global reach via live streaming. “We are looking to spread our reach internationally and, therefore, London is ideal,” Bogdanovich said, adding that the Jamaica Tourist Board is on board. “The aim of this strong marketing approach is to attract visitors to the island and fill hotel rooms.”
With preparations for the greatest reggae and dancehall festival in high gear, reports are that early-bird ticket sales are off to a good start, with online tickets selling out in less than two days.
A press release from the organisers stated: “Ticket sales have gotten off to a running start, following a early-bird ticket flash sale, inclusive of both general admission and VIP passes that sold out in less than the 48 hours allotted for the online sale.”
Bogdanovich also told The Gleaner that almost every act has been confirmed for this year’s line-up, but the only names released so far are Jah9, Tarrus Riley and Protoje. He promised, however, that he will have a big announcement soon.
“I do big things, and this one will be really big,” an excited Bogdanovich reiterated.
The 27th staging of Reggae Sumfest takes place July 14-20 in Montego Bay, St James.
He died nearly four decades ago, but Bob Marley still casts a long shadow across Jamaica. From 8ft murals of him smoking spliffs as big as traffic cones and the reggae beats vibrating from every speaker to his face gazing up from jars of shoe polish, he is everywhere: a cipher for the country’s music, politics, heat, chaos and beauty.
It is, of course, a cliché to go to Jamaica and wax lyrical about Marley, but until you visit, it is impossible to understand how integral he is to the island’s identity. Especially when you’re there, as I was, for Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica’s largest concert festival, with a sound system loud enough to make your chest vibrate. Damian Marley, the youngest of Bob’s 12 children, headlines on the final night, stamping across a stage blazing with lights, sampling his father’s “War” and “Exodus”.
My first stop, though, is quite different. From the hotel in Ocho Rios on the north coast, we drive to the capital Kingston on the south-east coast along a new motorway that cuts through the mountains, arriving after an hour-and-a-half at the Culture Yard. This is the government yard in Trench Town where a teenage Marley lived with his mother in the 60s. His battered VW van stands in a corner of the small, dusty estate, and his narrow, single bed is tucked inside one of the buildings.
There is always a tour guide on hand to show visitors around. Donnette “Sophia” Dowe, who is in charge of the yard, takes me through concrete rooms, sweltering under tin roofs, pointing to photographs of artists including Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. They all lived nearby throughout the 50s and 60s, spearheading a sound that would come to be known as reggae, after Toots and The Maytals’ 1968 “Do The Reggay”.
Outside the yard, in a weed-scented reverie, half a dozen men sit in the shade of a mango tree. One pulls an armful down, hands me one and tells me to eat the thing whole, biting straight into the green skin. This, they tell me, is the real Kingston – although, they press urgently, it is safe for tourists. Jamaica has had some bad press recently. During my visit, a state of emergency in Kingston has just come to an end, and there is one still ongoing in Montego Bay. Some care is taken over where I can go and what I can see, but I never feel unsafe.
From Trench Town, I head to the house on Hope Road that Marley bought when he found success. “I’ve brought the ghetto uptown,” he told a journalist in 1979, when she asked if he found it difficult to keep in touch with his roots. The road runs from the foothills of upper Kingston to the capital city’s palm-dotted waterfront.
Today the house is the Bob Marley Museum, processing more than 10,000 visitors every year. This tour is far more polished, capitalising upon the Marley legacy in a clearly lucrative venture, but it does give some interesting insights into his life as a star. Our group trundles around, peering into his recording studio, bedroom and kitchen. Photos of him cover every wall: on tour, playing football, frowning in front of a mixing desk, sitting on the house’s front steps.
Montego Bay is where a lot of tourists stay in Jamaica – and a 10-minute drive away is the Rastafari Indigenous Village in St James. To reach it, you must take off your shoes and wade through a river lined with sharp rocks. First Man – who meets my group – strides across. Along with two others, he founded the village a decade ago to show the cultural contribution of Rastafari to Jamaica.
They give us coconut water and fruit from the trees, in keeping with the Rastafari commitment to an “ital”, or natural diet, as First Man describes a philosophical worldview that prioritises debate.
Stir it up
Two dreadlocked men and a woman dressed in a long black dress play Nyabinghi music – a blend of 19th-century gospel music and African drumming which contains ideas of black redemption and repatriation, and is used to reach states of heightened spirituality.
Rastafari was founded in the 30s but spread globally thanks to Marley. He, and artists from Dennis Brown to Burning Spear used reggae as a medium for Rasta messages. “It means social consciousness, black empowerment and Marcus Garvey,” says First Man.
Over in Montego Bay, Reggae Sumfest starts at 9pm, gets going at midnight and runs until dawn. The sound clash on Thursday night – a reggae and dancehall battle between rival DJs – is the most frenetic, the air filled with klaxons and smoke. The festival itself, on the Friday and Saturday, is more relaxed. The audience is half tourists, half locals, many of whom set up deck chairs. We watch Ding Dong, Popcaan, Bounty Killer, Spice and Beres Hammond. But everyone stands up when Damian Marley arrives.
When to go
Jamaica has a tropical climate, and daytime temperatures are about 30°C all year round, with little difference between winter and summer.
During the rainy season, from late April to October, it is hot and muggy. Rainfall occurs mainly in the form of thunderstorms in the late afternoon. The most pleasant weather is in November and December.
British Airways flies from Gatwick to Kingston, while Virgin Atlantic and TUI fly from Gatwick to Montego Bay, from around £500.
Where to stay
TheJamaica Innis an upscale resort in Ocho Rios dating from the 50s, set on a white-sand beach overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Doubles from £335, room only.
TheJamaica Pegasus Hotelis in the financial and business district of Kingston. Doubles from £252, room only.
TheWestender Innis a family-owned hotel in Negril that blends island charm with laid-back luxury. Doubles from £75, room only.
Where to eat
Get a taste of real Jamaica atTracks & Records, the sports-music bar owned by the Olympic champion Usain Bolt. 67 Constant Spring Road, Kingston. (There are spin-offs on Main Street, Ocho Rios, and Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay, too). Try the curried mutton, jerk buffalo wings or coconut and cassava shrimp, or a traditional soup, such as country-style janga.
Pier Oneis an open-air restaurant and music venue on a dock in Montego Bay serving dishes such as grilled conch and jerk chicken. For dessert, try the hot skookie (skillet cookie).
The ‘dapper’ Reggae Sumfest Owner Josef Bogdanovich is honoured for his major contribution to Jamaica’s entertainment industry.
Illustrious guests gathered at The Gleaner’s North Street offices in Kingston yesterday for the first of three category luncheons to recognise this year’s recipients of the RJRGLEANER Honour Awards. Recipients, aglow with pride, exuded humility as they took the spotlight, reflecting on the year that was and offering a peak into the future.
Jamaican superstars Beres Hammond (left) and Beenie Man at Reggae Sumfest 2018.
It has been dubbed ‘The Greatest Reggae Show on Earth’ and for years, July has seen persons from home and abroad trek to Montego Bay, St James, for Reggae Sumfest, an experience like no other.
First held in 1993, Sumfest, over the years, presented patrons with three nights of live stage shows, namely, Dancehall Night and two international nights.
In 2016, Chairman of Downsound Entertainment Josef James Bogdanovich took over Reggae Sumfest and set out to revamp the show into what he called a music festival, featuring a week of parties and activities and a two-night show dubbed ‘Main Festival Nights One and Two’, with mainly dancehall and reggae artistes.
“We came up with the idea that we do have superstars here, we do have international stars here and that’s called reggae music and dancehall music. A lot of people at that time said, ‘That’s not going to work, you need international acts’. We did pretty good that year, 2016; the attendance was a lot higher than it was in the previous year and we got a lot of international fan base. It was a successful entry into the market,” Bogdanovich told The Gleaner.
He said that in 2017, the attendance in the venue doubled that of 2016, while the online viewers tripled. According to Bogdanovich, several million viewers looked at the Sumfest archives over the following weeks, and this was very encouraging for him.
“And then last year (2018), we kept raising the bar with production. A lot of people who came there last year said that they hadn’t been to Sumfest in, like, 10 years and coming back, they all enjoyed themselves.
“But we have always had international artistes there and we always have our eyes open for international acts, but we have got to make a business sense out of it and we certainly support our music, our festival and with promoting the youth.
“This year, we will be promoting a lot of the females and the younger artistes than ever before, and we have some good bookings right now,” said Bogdanovich.
Against that background, Reggae Sumfest 2018 is the recipient of this year’s RJRGLEANER Honour Awards in the entertainment category, for the success of its strategy to present an all-Jamaican line-up for the festival last year.
It is an award which Bogdanovich said was unexpected and one that he really appreciates.
“I was surprised to even hear about it. I have been pretty busy, and I think it’s great to be acknowledged. Acknowledgements don’t really come easy here in Jamaica and I think it’s just part of my journey here in Jamaica, and I think it’s wonderful. I am very thankful,” said Bogdanovich.
The Downsound boss said that while he is a big supporter of doing business in Jamaica, and has quite a few investments here, it’s not an easy place to do business, but his passion for the music and for Jamaica keeps him going.
“There’s opportunity here in Jamaica, (but) education has got to get better. The violence has to come down, (and) people have to understand that we have to get this place stable, and it’s getting better. I think things are a lot better; the economy is getting better and more people are working.
“There is always a challenge in the concert business here. There are very few concerts going on and I know that a lot of people are trying to get back into the concert business.
“It’s not an easy business, and people are fickle and they are not easy to please, but we really are champions and we love reggae music and we love the culture. Here at Downsound, we are very passionate about the music and what we represent, and it’s exciting,” said Bogdanovich.
He has a clear vision for the island that he now calls home.
According to Bogdanovich, he wants to see the continued growth of reggae and dancehall music, with young people contributing to the country instead of migrating.
“The way to get them to come back is to give them some real opportunity, and it’s hard because it’s a small country and the dollar is not worth as much as it used to be. It is just a hard struggle, so it’s the family structure that has to be strengthened.
“The reason why I think Jamaica can do so well in terms of the future is because Jamaicans are very competitive, and they are smart and they are overachievers, some of them,” declared Bogdanovich.
He added that he has a clear vision for the latest chapter in his life in Jamaica.
“I am trying to make a mark, trying to give opportunity to people, to give them some opportunity with good business practise, and do as much as I can for reggae music and for dancehall and for the artistes’ community. That’s what I’m interested in and that’s my vision for the future,” said Bogdanovich.
ON THE AWARD: “I think it’s great to be acknowledged. Acknowledgements don’t really come easy here in Jamaica and I think it’s just part of my journey here in Jamaica and I think it’s wonderful. I am very thankful.”
VISION FOR JAMAICA: “The reason why I think Jamaica can do so well in terms of the future is because Jamaicans are very competitive, and they are smart and they are overachievers, some of them.”
It has been less than two months since the staging of Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay, but promoter Joe Bogdanovich of Downsound Entertainment (DSE) is already busy shaping plans for an improved staging of the annual festival in 2019.