Monday, August 16, 2010

Behind the Scenes at the Monterey Bay Reggaefest

Behind the Scenes at  the Monterey Bay Reggaefest
By Shelah Moody
For more than a decade, promoters Andre and Pam Smith and family have strived to produce the best quality, family oriented reggae festival. What made this year’s Monterey Bay Reggaefest so special is that for the first time, it was held in at the Monterey County Fairgrounds during the first week of August (July 30-Aug 1) instead of its regular Labor Day Weekend slot.
The 15th Annual Monterey Bay Reggaefest did not disappoint; it brought together talent from all over the world. Sharing the bill with Jamaican greats Sly an Robbie, Marcia Griffiths, Barrington Levy and Third World were of diverse backgrounds and cultures such as Katchafire (New Zealand), 

Samoan American reggae sensation J Boog (ComptonCA), Mystic Man (Haiti),

Queen Makedah (Israel),

Dubwize (Salinas

and  Lloyd Brown (UK).
                        As coordinator of the Monterey Bay Reggaefest Press Tent, I had the opportunity to observe some intimate moments. The MBRF Press Tent was dedicated to two influential reggae artists who recently passed away, Lincoln “Sugar” Minott (May 25, 1956 – July 10, 2010) and David Isaacs of the Itals ( June 9, 1946 –  December 21, 2009).
            Artists shared their fond memories of Minott and Isaacs and also revealed poignant information about themselves.
            On Saturday, July 31, after his headlining performance, Barrington Levy, known for his hip hop/dancehall sensibilities and expansive vocal range came, into the MBRF Press tent and revealed that his beloved father had passed away in Jamaica six days before.

 Earlier in the MBRF Press Tent, Marcia Griffiths, reflected on her life as one of Bob Marley’s famed background trio, the I-Threes and her longevity in the music business. When asked about her personal life, Griffiths revealed that the father of her two sons, the love of her life, died when her children were just babies. Griffiths, who has been referred to as Jamaica’s Aretha Franklin, is responsible for introducing African Americans to the Electric Slide dance craze through her hit “Electric Boogie.”

The original dance hall queen, Sister Carol, (aka Mother Culture and Empress High Grade) a last minute replacement for another member of the I-Threes, Judy Mowatt, introduced a new dance on stage called the “Ganja Seed. This dance is performed by bending your back and moving your feet in a syncopated motion so that your hips will follow. Sister Carol also unveiled her Black Cinderella clothing line and paid tribute to her designer,  Brother Jimmy, who recently passed away.  
Lloyd Brown sang a cappella tributes to one of his main inspirations, Michael Jackson “Good Thing Going” (introduced by a low flying plane that roared over the fairgrounds) and “Man in the Mirror” complete with Jackson’s trademark hiccups.
            There were some happy and downright funny moments, too. Up and coming Jamaican dance hall singer Gyptian, who was dubbed as the “Sexy Rasta” by his label, VP Records, was mobbed by young fans as he was escorted from the festival’s Red Stripe stage to the Press Tent. (Gyptian is known for his trademark lion purr, something he does when he holds the mic real close). When you listen to Gyptian sing his breakthrough hit, “Beautiful Lady” and watch the video, elegantly  directed by Ras Kassa, you understand what all the fuss is about. The song makes you feel like you are being rocked in a hammock while watching an island sunset. One young woman ripped off her hoodie and posed with Gyptian in her bikini top.  There were reports that a young female admirer actually licked Gyptian’s face after the press conference, but that’s a different dish! Gyptian’s new album “Hold You” was released this summer. Gyptian has just been added to the Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and Nas “Distant Relatives” 2010 Tour beginning August 24 in CharlotteNC.
            Renown drum and bass duo Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, aka The Riddim Twins, last played in the city of Monterey with the late Peter Tosh. Sly and Robbie performed with a stellar Jamaican ensemble of artists and producers known as  the Taxi Gang, featuring Nambo Robinson (trombone, vocals), Bubbler Waul (keyboards), Steven “Lenky” Marsden, who created the “Diwali” riddim behind Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” and Wayne Wonders “No Letting Go” (keyboards), Daryl Adonis Thompson (guitar) Everett Gayle (sax), and guest vocalist Peter Gayle. A few days after their debut at Yoshi’s jazz club in San Francisco, Sly and Robbie and the Taxi Gang performed a set of hypnotic dub and reggae classics such as “Mambo Taxi” “Shame and Pride” by the Mighty Diamonds and “Night Nurse” by Gregory Isaacs. Incidentally, Sly and Robbie have worked with practically every reggae artist in Jamaica, including Sugar Minott,  as well as pop stars such as Bob Dylan, Grace Jones, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt and the rolling sounds. When asked if they’d ever worked with Michael Jackson, Sly stated “It’s not too late,” possibly alluding to some remixes of the King of Pop’s material.

            It was hard to be still when reggae ambassadors Third World, (celebrating their 37th anniversary) featuring the founding members Cat Coore (cello, guitar), Richard Daley (bass) and the velvet vocals of lead singer Bunny Rugs, closed the show on Sunday night. Third World (the first reggae act to appear on “Soul Train”) had the campgrounds rocking to soulful hits such as “Now That We Found Love,” Try Jah Love,” and covers of the Eagles’ “Hotel California” and the Ojay’s “Love Train.”
            Third World’s latest album “Patriots” is currently available for download at
For information on next year’s Monterey Bay Reggaefest, visit

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