4:11 pm, Mon March 18, 2019
For those who missed Buju Banton’s performance at the National Stadium last Saturday, the chance to see the Gargamel in his element will roll around again this summer at Reggae Sumfest 2019.
The Sumfest team made the revelation on Sunday morning after the Long Walk to Freedom concert wrapped up inside the National Stadium.
‘Sumfest to B.B.C.’ (referring to Buju, Beres Hammond and Chronixx), made the rounds on social media and in print, as the show’s organisers revealed the artistes set to headline the big nights of this year’s festival.
In an interview with THE STAR, CEO of Downsound Entertainment and chief organiser of Reggae Sumfest, Joe Bogdanovich, revealed that talks between Buju and his team began last December when he was released from prison.
“He respects the festival and the reach we have and he wanted to do the show. He just didn’t want us to advertise before his show and so we held off,” he said, stating that he expects Banton’s Sumfest appearance to be just as good as Saturday. “Buju is doing great things as he exhibited the other night, and I think he’s going to be amazing. He’s going to do four shows before us in July, and by then he will only get better. He’s going to get re-familiarised with everything and he’s going to be even more excited. I expect more energy, more interaction, just more of everything.”
Bogdanovich would not reveal how deep he had to dig in his pockets to ensure the Gargamel would grace the Sumfest stage, but says he is certain it will be money well spent.
“I can’t tell you that (the fee),” he said. “All I can say is that we listen to our patrons and we try our best to give them what they want and right now, they want Buju.”
He also spoke about Hammond and Chronixx, the other two headliners.
“The people love Beres, they love Buju and they love Chronixx, so we came up with the B.B.C. idea. This line-up and festival is very special, and I think it’s going to be very hard to beat,” he said. “There’s been a very strong response, the tickets are selling so fast already. I think the VIP and ultra-VIP are the ones that are really hot right now. People are understanding that it’s a seven-day festival, and so they’re also booking the pre-events as well. We’re feeling very positive about the show and we expect things will only get better as we get closer to summer.”
Bogdanovich added that although the headline acts announced are crowd pullers, the entire Sumfest line-up will be enticing.
He explained that as the show date draws closer, he will have several surprise announcements.
“Both Friday night and Saturday night will be filled with great music from some great artistes,” he said. ‘I can’t reveal all the things I have in store just yet but just know that we have some surprises to come. Sumfest is keen on supporting young females so expect more women on the line-up this year. We’re also very supportive of young artistes. The growth of the music is what we will be supporting this year. It’s important to support the future in the present and that’s what we will do.”
Jamaica holiday guide: for a true taste of Caribbean culture, get your musical fill at Reggae Sumfest
The spirit of Bob Marley still permeates the Caribbean island’s culture – a cipher for the country’s music, politics, heat, chaos and beauty
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.
Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest is the island’s premier reggae festival, held every year in late July. Tickets from £24.
How to get there
British Airways flies from Gatwick to Kingston, while Virgin Atlantic and TUI fly from Gatwick to Montego Bay, from around £500.
Where to stay
The Jamaica Inn is 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.
The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel is in the financial and business district of Kingston. Doubles from £252, room only.
The Westender Inn is 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 at Tracks & 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 One is 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).
Tours of Trench Town Culture Yard cost £1. Bob Marley Museum tickets cost £16.
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.
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.”
018’s Sumfest’s Reggae Night on Saturday, July 21, 2018 featured a stellar line up of artistes that did not disappoint the thousands of fans present at Catherine Hall, Montego Bay. Among those who graced the stage were Naomi Cowan, Keznamdi, Hawaiian reggae artiste J Boog, Fantan Mojah, Jesse Royal and Maxi Priest who graced the stage and brought the audience down memory lane, delivering a full set of his repertoire.
Fresh off his European tour and celebrating his earthstrong, Jr. Gong delivered a solid performance doing several songs of his Stony Hill album before closing with his anthem Welcome to Jamrock. To the delight of the audience, he was joined on stage by his son Elijah who dedicated his version of Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love you to his dad for his birthday. Beres Hammond, who received his Lifetime Award two nights prior was his usual exceptional self-delivering hit at after hit. During his set that lasted over an hour and a half, the crowd could be heard screaming and singing along to the ever popular songs including Full Attention, Double Trouble and Can You Play Some More. He invited Beenie Man to join him on stage for a cameo appearance during which he the Doctor made up some impromptu lyrics with his usual catchy phrases.
One of the best dancers in the industry; Cham with his all-female band and his lovely dancers gave the audience all the hits he is known for. The show which ended in the wee hours of the morning was closed by the fireman Capleton. Die-hard fans who remained to the end were treated to his lively and energetic performance.
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