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Reggae Sumfest launches in T&T, soca to get main stage spot in 2020

Josef Bogdanovich, owner of Reggae SumfestJosef Bogdanovich, owner of Reggae Sumfest

Soca might be on the main stage of next year’s Reggae Sumfest.

Speaking to Loop on ahead of the Trinidad and Tobago launch of this year’s event which took place aboard the Ocean Pelican on Thursday night, Josef Bogdanovich, owner of the Reggae Sumfest and founder of DownSound Entertainment (DSE), said they have been talking about the inclusion of soca for many years.

“The time is coming and I won’t be surprised if next year we have a soca act. I think it fits because we try to keep everything fresh,” he said.

Though not on the main stage this year, Soca would be represented during the seven-day festival to be held in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with the inclusion of Skinny Fabulous, one-third of the winning Roach March team from Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival.

Soca’s inclusion into the 22-year-old event as well as the launch of the event in T&T is Bogdanovich’s strategy to use Caribbean culture to unify the region.  Unity, he said, is the key to economic prosperity.

“It’s important for the Caribbean to be an economic bloc. It’s a culture, it’s a Caribbean culture and there are different kinds of culture in all the countries but they all love reggae and soca is growing which is a great thing for the Caribbean and it’s authentic and it’s good music but yet there is this animosity between people and I see it in all the countries. We have to stop this, we need to work together, we can’t work alone to become more prosperous,” he said.

CAL CEO Garvin Medera and Reggae Sumfest owner Josef Bogdanovich pose in front of the festival’s logo which will be on CAL’s 737 planes.

T&T, he said, is also a gateway to South America which allows his DSE and Reggae Sumfest to attract that market.

“It provides additional opportunity for everyone – citizens, parish and country,” he said.

T&T is also the home of Caribbean Airlines (CAL), which has signed a multi-year agreement to be the presenting sponsor for Reggae Sumfest. As part of that partnership, Caribbean unveiled the festival’s logo on one of its 737 aircraft. The aircraft will fly across the airline’s network of 20 destinations.

“We are here because of Caribbean Airlines, out new presenting sponsor, it’s a special relationship we have with them. I feel we are really in this together,” he said.

Having big sponsors on board contributes to the sustainability of the event, something Bogdanovich is concerned about as he focuses on building an event that could stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of festivals such as Coachella.

“Our vision has not changed. Produce a cutting edge festival that is competitive with the best festivals worldwide delivering great performances, production, lifestyle, and service that is sustainable. To produce the kind of festival that I actively engage in, I have to appeal to not only local sponsorship but international ones as well. It costs a lot of money to do what we do at DSE,” he said.

Buju Banton will be one of the headliners at Reggae Sumfest

He revealed that Master Card has signed on as a sponsor for a second year.

“Our vision takes a creative spirit, know-how, discipline and financing that is required to sustain this vision.  It also takes the commitment of our company and citizens in general to support one another and to understand the importance of reggae music of Jamaica. Let’s keep reggae and dancehall music alive at home.”

Bogdanovich assumed control of Reggae Sumfest in 2016 after its founders, Summerfest Entertainment, sold the brand to him.

Asked what drew him to the brand, reggae music, and Jamaica, the Los Angeles native said he had a label called Acid Jazz which did black dance music with branches in London and Los Angeles. He said the first reggae track he produced was from a white kid called Dread Flimstone and it made it to the Billboard pop charts.

“So I started Down Sound Records out of LA and I came to Jamaica and I fell in love with the place. I set up an office there and I flew from LA to Kingston but eventually I moved there and I never came back,” he said.

Under Down Sound, Bogdanovich managed artists such as Ninjaman who is now serving a life sentence for murder, Ishawna and Jah Cure, among others. Today he only manages one artist, rising dancehall singer Shawna Chin who will be among the star-studded Reggae Sumfest cast.

Bogdanovich said this year there is an emphasis on newer, relatively unknown artists and women.

He has had to defend the choice of some of the cast in the Jamaican media such as X factor winner Dalton Harris who will be making his Sumfest debut.

The highlights of the weekend, of course, will be performances from what is being billed as BBC, Beres Hammond, Buju Banton, and Chronixx.

He said while the focus is on keeping the money in the diaspora and Jamaica by focusing on reggae and dancehall from the island, he is open to foreign acts. In the past, Sumfest has seen performances from Rihanna, 50 Cent, Nicki Minaj, Usher, and Kanye West among others.

“I am still open to foreign acts because music has no boundaries. If you want to play at Reggae Sumfest and you have the fan base, you have to want to come,” he said, revealing that Cardi B expressed an interest in performing but there was a conflict with her schedule.

Bogdanovich is also focused on developing the next generation of support for Reggae Sumfest by making the festival attractive to a younger demographic. This will be done this year through a symposium about the music industry for college students, fans who want to learn about reggae culture and those looking to break into the industry.  The event will take place in Kingston on July 6, expanding the Reggae Sumfest across Jamaica.

There will also be the Go Social awards for influencers and bloggers who produce content on food, restaurants, and bars and so on. The awards are open to anyone.

Bogdanovich said Reggae Sumfest is growing every year and about 20,000 people are expected to be in Montego Bay each night for what is considered the premier reggae event. But he is particularly proud of what he said is exponential growth in the viewing audience for the free live stream.

“We had over a million people looking at it over the weekend last year and the feed didn’t break down,” he said.

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