Reggae Sumfest - Montego Bay, Jamaica

Reggae Sumfest Wrap Up – Is It Really ‘The Greatest Reggae Show on Earth’?

Reggae Sumfest dubs itself as ‘the greatest reggae show on earth’. That’s a big claim.

Reggae Sumfest 2013 Poster - Beaver on the Beats

They could be right.

Some Jamaicans, and even some foreigners with a love for Jamaican music, say they think there are better reggae festivals in Jamaica than Reggae Sumfest. Roots reggae festival Rebel Salute in St Ann every January is given as an example. Reggae Sumfest 2013 was my first and only Jamaican festival so far, so I can’t say.

There are also other reggae festivals in the world besides Jamaica. I’ve been to some, but not all of them. Until I’ve done so I can’t say whether or not Reggae Sumfest is the greatest on Earth.

What I can say without doubt is that Reggae Sumfest 2013 was the greatest reggae show I have been to on Earth, so far.

The Music

Most importantly…

The quality of music, of musicianship, of artistry and of dance by almost every performer at Reggae Sumfest, one after the other over 3 long concert nights, was absolutely phenomenal.

All 3 concert nights were an amazing taste, and showcase of Jamaican music and dance.  Any music by Jamaican artists that I wasn’t into so much, was performed in such a professional and entertaining way as to make me appreciate and love it anyway.

The only shows I was bored by were those of international artists Flo Rida and Miguel.

Festival Runnings

Other fundamental factors that help make a music festival a good experience were all there at Reggae Sumfest:

  • The Reggae Sumfest site (Catherine Hall) is an open field space with fresh air and a starry sky for listening and dancing to music under.  No tents to claw your way into and find a space to see, hear or move, feeling suffocated in the process. You can move around the site easily, find a spot and enjoy it comfortably. For me that open outdoor space with the natural elements around makes all the difference in creating a really pleasurable festival experience.
  • Main stage sound was very high quality.
  • Stage lighting and visuals were beautiful.
  • Main stage could easily be seen from everywhere on the festival site. Plus there were lots of screens to otherwise see.
  • Artist changeovers were fast and efficient.
  • Tickets were cheap for a festival of that quality and length ($135 for all 3 concert nights or-$210 for VIP).
  • Drinks at the bar were reasonably priced by Jamaican standards where tourists are involved – and really cheap compared to most other music festivals around the world.
Beres Hammond-International Night 1

Beres Hammond-International Night 1

I guess after the experiences of 21 annual Reggae Sumfests, organisers have the most important things figured out. What I assume to be a big festival budget from sponsorship support, is no doubt helpful to organisers in improving quality.

A Fun Festival Community

Something almost as important as the quality of music, but something for which Reggae Sumfest is not responsible, is the people that participate in the festival.

A community of people sharing a common experience is formed at every festival, for however long that festival runs.

The communities of people that were formed at Reggae Sumfest (tourists and Jamaicans), were soooooo much fun. The feeling at the festival was either friendly, earthy and fun (International Nights 1 and 2) – or slightly more intense but hot, sexy and fun (Dancehall Night).

I have to say it again – Jamaicans know how to have a really fun, awesome party.  No matter what else you can say about the party music or people or venue, every party I’ve been to in Jamaica these past weeks except for one, has been a fun one. People having a good time with music and dance at the core.

Reggae Sumfest was a very fun Jamaican party over 3 nights (+ the Beach Party & a White Party earlier in the week).  It was the most fun music festival environment of any type of music festival I’ve experienced before.

Reggae Sumfest - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

The Greatest Reggae Show On Earth

I loved every hour of the festival marathon that Reggae Sumfest 2013 was.

For quality of music and dance, and the fun factor, Reggae Sumfest 2013 is definitely the greatest reggae show that I have experienced on Earth, so far anyway. 

I will keep checking other festivals out, but I will also be back again to Montego Bay for more Reggae Sumfests.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve experienced or heard about any other reggae festivals in the world that might have a good claim to being ‘the greatest’ on Earth.

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International Night 2 Closes The Reggae Sumfest 2013 Marathon in Style

Saturday was the last leg of the Reggae Sumfest 2013 music and dance marathon in Montego Bay, Jamaica…International Night 2.  Another sunrise finishing affair, and another awesome one.

I’ve said it before and I’ll just have to keep saying it…Jamaican parties are fun. The party at International Night 2 was no exception.

Same festival as on Dancehall Night and International Night 1 – but with different artists, drawing a different crowd and creating a different vibe (still friendly and chilled ones).

Chronixx

Chronixx

Like on Dancehall Night and International Night 1, every one of the musicians in the bands was absolutely top quality and super cool to watch and listen to.  Same for the back-up singers.

International Night 2 - Reggae Sumfest 2013 - Beaver on the Beats

Again on International Night 2 the main stage sound, lighting, visuals and band changeovers could not be faulted.

International Night 2 Music

I got to International Night 2 in time to catch Romain Virgo ChronixxMiguel Damian Marley and Chalice.

All music and all performances, mostly of the roots reggae kind like at International Night 1, were stellar.  All except one that is.

Miguel

Oh Miguel, I can happily (now) admit to never having heard any of your songs before Reggae Sumfest. I heard you were a bit famous, somewhere in the pop/r&b genre, and I was willing to give you a chance. But man you were disappointing – musically (the songs themselves – pop that sounded ever so boring to me) – and the performance (I had hoped for some mind blowing soulful voice, but I didn’t get it, at all).

Chronixx

Chronixx, a young and very popular artist in Jamaican reggae right now, was good. The music was sweet sounding, but most of it was too cheesy for my taste.

Chronixx

Chronixx

Chronixx @ Reggae Sumfest 2013 - International Night 2 - Beaver on the BeatsChronixx @ Reggae Sumfest 2013 - International Night 2 - Beaver on the Beats

Damian Marley

The highlight act – the phenomenal act of International Night 2 – was Damian Marley.

Damian Marley

Damian Marley

One Kingston taxi driver told me Jamaicans in Jamaica don’t listen much to Damian Marley’s music. I’m not sure I believe him – there was a big crowd for him at Reggae Sumfest.

Damian Marley’s albums are listened to a lot in my world. I love listening and dancing to his music – a high quality and unique sounding fusion of reggae, dancehall and hip hop.  To my ears, it sounds different to all other reggae music, past or present.  With conscious lyrics.

Reggae Sumfest was the 2nd time I’ve been blessed to catch Damian Marley  live.

The first time was in 2006 at the Byron Bay Blues Festival in Australia. That show is in my top 5 best live music experiences ever.  It was a spiritual experience – as live shows should be. I couldn’t now give you any details about that gig. All I remember, in my mind and in my body, is the blissful and uplifting feeling it gave me.

Damian Marley

The Reggae Sumfest set moved me a little less than the Australian show, but that wasn’t necessarily anything to do with Damian Marley or his band.   The show was amazing – and made me feel happy.

Damian Marley @ Reggae Sumfest - International Night 2 - Beaver on the Beats

Damian Marley’s band was awesome. All of them put on a stellar performance. I especially love the guy who runs around the stage the whole show with the Ethiopian flag – he makes me feel even happier.

Damian Marley @ Reggae Sumfest - International Night 2 - Beaver on the Beats

I feel blessed for another special live Damian Marley experience – and will take as many more of them as I can find in the future.

End of the Reggae Sumfest Marathon

Veteran roots reggae group Chalice closed International Night 2 at sunrise – and the Reggae Sumest 2013 music and dance marathon was finished.

The marathon was physically exhausting, but a culturally and spiritually reviving one.  It was also a super, super fun one.

I hated the feeling of the Reggae Sumfest finish – the same as I do at the end of every great festival I’ve been a part of.

Reggae Sumfest was an especially hard festival to leave behind because it was such an incredible week of quality music and dance. Also because Jamaica and Reggae Sumfest are a long way from Australia!

Romain Virgo

Romain Virgo

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International Night 1 of Reggae Sumfest 2013 – Awesome Music & Friendly Roots Vibes

International Night 1 of Reggae Sumfest 2013

Day 2 of the 3-day live reggae and dancehall music marathon in Montego Bay, Jamaica. My favourite of the 3 concert nights at Reggae Sumfest.

Beres Hammond @ International Night 1

Beres Hammond at International Night 1

International Night 1 Vibes

International Night 1 had a very different feel to the previous Dancehall NightThe vibes were friendlier, earthier and much more chilled.   There were also less people than on Dancehall Night (Jamaican Macky was right). That made it more comfortable and easier to find space and move around  the festival site.

Reggae Sumfest 2013 - International Night 1 - Beaver on the Beats

International Night 1 Music

The music on International Night 1 was mostly of the roots rock reggae kind – with conscious lyrics.

Almost every artist on the program gave an absolutely top quality performance…

Barrington Levy + Tarrus Riley Iba Mahr Beres Hammond Jah Cure Nature.

Beres Hammond and his lovers rock reggae music was smooth and simply lovely.

Beres Hammond-Reggae Sumfest-International Night1-2-www.beaveronthebeats.comBeres HammondBeres Hammond may just have the coolest, funkiest band on this earth.

Beres Hammond - Reggae Sumfest - www.beaveronthebeats.com

Flo Rida from the States was the only exception to the above. The music was tedious – and out of step with the flow of the rest on the program.

Every musician in the accompanying bands was incredible. The rhythm sections were some of the greatest players I’ve heard. I also loved hearing some horns in Jamaican music again after so much hornless dancehall.

The back-up singers were awesome to watch and hear – and sexy in a wholesome kind of way (compared to sexy in a raunchy dancehall way).

Beres Hammond

Beres Hammond

The absolute stand out acts of International Night 1 were Barrington Levy and Tarrus Riley.  Their concerts at Reggae Sumfest have gone into my lifetime stand-out-gig list.  

Barrington Levy

Barrington Levy is absolutely awesome. He was actually one of the earliest of the dancehall artists. A tasty, stylish form of dancehall. He had some amusing and interesting things to say and sing about contemporary dancehall music and culture at his Reggae Sumfest show:

“We don’t need no dancers or smoke up here on the stage. Just the music.”

I’d say Barrington Levy’s music is now a mix of reggae, dancehall, jazz, rock n roll (yes), r&b & funk.   He even has a song called ‘Dancehall Rock’.  It is grooving, funking dancehall fusion. Interestingly, Barrington Levy has spent a lot of time outside of Jamaica – even sings about it in the song videoed below.

Barrington Levy-International Night 1

Barrington Levy

I loved Barrington Levy’s music, and the amazing performance by he and his band.

Check out all of this video of Barrington Levy at Reggae Sumfest to hear the mix of musical flavours…

Tarrus Riley

Tarrus Riley is a kind of contemporary reggae I wanted to find in Jamaica.

The music sounded fresh, and unique. Tarrus Riley’s sweet voice did too.

That sound is influenced by his always musical life as the son of world travelling, veteran Jamaican roots singer Jimmy Riley. He was also exposed to more music from being raised outside of Jamaica and deejaying before turning to song writing.

Tarrus Riley might be my best new musical find in Jamaica so far.

Tarrus Riley

 2 short videos of Tarrus Riley live at Reggae Sumfest here…

On International Night 1, just like on Dancehall Night, Reggae Sumfest’s main stage was run professionally and efficiently – with flawless sound, lighting, visuals and band changeovers.

Jah Cure

Jah Cure was a cruisy reggae close to International Night 1 in the morning light.

Jah-Cure-Reggae-Sumfest-2013-2-www.beaveronthebeats.com

Jah Cure

It was the 2nd Reggae Sumfest morning in the open air, where daylight was suddenly there – without warning that a whole long festival night of quality live music was over, already. This time the sunrise music was of the roots reggae kind rather than the dancehall.

International Night 1 was my favourite of the three Reggae Sumfest concert nights – for its friendly vibes and its musical style.  I loved all of it and recommend it to all reggae music lovers.

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Dancehall Night @ Reggae Sumfest – A Hot, Fun Festival Party

Reggae Sumfest 2013 – a week long music/dance festival marathon in Montego Bay, Jamaica – done!

The 3 concert nights kicked off on Thursday with Dancehall Night – basically a really fun, happening and hot all night party on festival grounds.

“Just One Part of Our Culture “

Before Dancehall Night, a Jamaican named Macky (a roots reggae lover) told me this:

That dancehall music you heard last night is only one part of our music culture in Jamaica. Dancehall Night will get the biggest crowd at Reggae Sumfest, but it won’t be the nicer one. 

Was Macky right?

  • Dancehall Night drawing the biggest crowd of the 3 Reggae Sumfest concert nights? Definitely.
  • Dancehall music being only 1 part of Jamaican music culture?  Of course. But it was the biggest crowd because dancehall is a huge part of contemporary mainstream music and culture.
  • Dancehall Night crowd not being “the nicer one”?  Well, Dancehall Night definitely had a certain vibe– a bit more intense than the earthier, more chilled crowd at the 2 International Nights that followed with their roots reggae rock vibes.

The Dancehall Night crowd was fun. They knew how to have a really long, good, fun party –  more than any other festival crowd I’ve been in.

Reggae Sumfest Space

The festival space is a grass field near the centre of Montego Bay (Catherine Hall).

1 main stage at the front of the field.

A VIP area front and side of stage –  filled with tourists, and Jamaicans who can and do pay the extra $ for the VIP ticket. The rest of the field space – the livelier, grittier and generally more fun & happening area of the festival.

Reggae Sumfest 2013 - Dancehall Night - Beaver on the Beats

Around the outside of the field are food stalls, bars and toilets.

There are also lots of structures set up by sponsors. Lots of them have a members box on the top level.  One has dancers and DJs. Two are mini stages hosting short performances between main stage sets.

Reggae Sumfest 2013  - Beaver on the BeatsReggae Sumfest 2013 - Dancehall Night - Beaver on the Beats

Movement around the festival site is easy. Stage visibility is good from everywhere on site – with lots of screens. Quality of sound is good in most places. Stage lighting and visuals are beautiful. Band changeovers are quick and efficient.

Reggae Sumfest 2013 - Dancehall Night - www.beaveronthebeats.com

Dancehall Night Music

All Dancehall Night artists except I Octane were straight up dancehall.

I don’t love dancehall music. Reggaeton music came from dancehall.  I have a healthy loathing for reggaeton. To me most reggaeton music sounds the same – and most dancehall music sounds the same.

There’s also a whole conversation we could have about some dancehall lyrics.  It would kind of go the same as the one about reggaeton lyrics.

No matter what can be said about dancehall music, one thing is for sure: each and every live performance at Dancehall Night was incredibly entertaining and fun.

The performers sang and toasted brilliantly – each with a sexy and energetic stage presence.  Outrageously awesome outfits. Quality musicianship from the bands. Constant dance and movement by both the artist and dancers joining them on stage some times.

Dancehall Night Men

Male artists on the bill included Beenie Man, I Octane, I Wayne, Popcaan, Aidonia, Bounty Killer, Assassin, Kip Rich, Tommy Lee Sparta, RDX & Bugle.

x

Check out some videos of I Wayne’s Dancehall Night show…

King of Dancehall

Musically I Octane was my favourite male artist of the night.  I’ve crowned him my Dancehall King – even though his music has more reggae flavours than the other dancehall artists on the program.  Sorry Beenie Man.

IOctane

I Octane

Dancehall Night Women

The female artists at Dancehall Night kicked all the wannabe Dancehall Kings’ butts!

Lady Saw Macka Diamond – Spice – Baby Tash Danielle DI.

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Talented, feisty, hot women powering the stage.

Check out a video here of Spice performing on Dancehall Night…

THE Queen of Dancehall

One of those Dancehall Night ladies is the rightful title holder of Queen of Dancehall. She is Lady Saw.

Her feisty and powerful performance was the most incredible one of the night for me.  When Lady Saw was on stage it felt to me like she was the Queen of every single person and thing at the festival.

I’m told The Queen is switching from dancehall to gospel music. I think Lady Saw will sound divine singing gospel.

Lady Saw - Queen of Dancehall

Lady Saw – Queen of Dancehall

Lady Saw @ Reggae Sumfest 2013 - Dancehall Night - Beaver on the Beats

Must-see video of Lady Saw’s first song on Dancehall Night…

Where’s the Vinyl & CDs?

No music cds or vinyl for sale at Reggae Sumfest – what a shame for the artists with so many tourists at the festival with money in their pockets to spend on Jamaican music.

Dancehall Dance

Dance is an integral part of Dancehall culture – so Dancehall Night was as much a dance fest as a music fest.

Everywhere you looked you saw amazing dancers – on the stages, in cages and in the crowd.

Macka Diamond

Macka Diamond

Reggae Sumfest 2013-Dancehall Night - Beaver on the Beats

Spice

Spice

The amazing dancers were just another reason, maybe even more than the music, why I loved every single hour of Dancehall Night.

Sponsors Supporting Music?

Be prepared.  Being at Reggae Sumfest was like watching a very awesome music and dance show on a commercial tv channel. Between artist sets all those great viewing screens are filled with commercials – for insurance and phone companies, car parts, hair products, beer, energy drinks, and the morning after pill.  There are also those sponsor booths I told you about.  I’m told it’s the norm in Jamaica.

Every poster I see for parties in Jamaica seems to be sponsored by some (generally big) company.  I wonder if those corporate sponsors are a necessary part of keeping the Jamaican music and dance culture alive?

Dancehall Night Vibes

Dancehall Night at Reggae Sumfest = Fun vibes. Party vibes. Hot vibes.  Jamaicans know how to party real, real good.

I loved being part of it. I was entertained from start to finish.

Dancehall Night was just the start of the marathon that is Reggae Sumfest. It was the first of  3 mornings I watched the sun come up with the rest of the crowd  – so tired – but so happy for a night of great music and amazing dance.

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Reggae Sumfest Beach Party – Arrive Late

The Reggae Sumfest Beach Party kicked off the 2013 festival in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

The Beach Party started badly. It did get better and better though – ending with a smile.

Reggae Sumfest Beach Party 2013 - Montego Bay - Jamaica - Beaver on the Beats

Most of the things I could have done without came in the first half of the night:

*The first couple of DJ’s playing North American pop songs that I don’t really want to hear anywhere in the world I am, and especially not in Jamaica.  Celine Dion is popular in Jamaica I’m told.

DJ Shem

DJ Shem

*Some interesting singers in between DJ sets.

*Bikini clad dancing girls on show. Sexy sure, but believe me that the sexier ones were definitely in the crowd just naturally doin their thing).

Reggae Sumfest Beach Party 2013 - Montego Bay - Jamaica - Beaver on the Beats*The foam pit.

Reggae Sumfest Beach Party 2013 - Montego Bay - Jamaica - Beaver on the Beats

*The tourists bought on stage to generally put on an embarrassing show for everyone.

Reggae Sumfest Beach Party 2013 - Montego Bay - Jamaica - Beaver on the Beats

Those sorts of things I just wasn’t into, at all.  Maybe they think that’s what tourists want?  Not me.

I wanted great music in a more natural and tasteful environment.

A musical event in an outdoor setting can make up for so much though can’t it? It can make the whole experience so much more pleasurable- no matter what deficiencies an event might or might not have.

The Beach Party was on a patch of Caribbean sands and grass -with a cool night breeze blowing under a nearly full moon. Those things got me through the wait for the good stuff of the night.  They also made the whole night’s experience a much more delightful one overall.

Things did get better, and better. I eventually got most of what I wanted from the Reggae Sumfest Beach Party.

The mechanical bull and foaming pit came down, the tourist games stopped and the DJ’s changed.  Then came some music and dance delights in a more natural environment.

Reggae Sumfest Beach Party 2013 - Montego Bay - Jamaica - Beaver on the Beats

*Great music. Great DJ’s.  Tasty reggae and dancehall, with occasional touches of hip hop and soul, skillfully mixed up by DJ Baby Thug, DJ Smoke and DJ Crazy Neil.

*Awesome dancers – Jamaicans in the crowd just naturally doing the amazing and hot thing they do. I love watching people move their bodies however they move them, and I now love love love watching Jamaicans move the way they do.  Stylin. Hot. Stylin. Hot. Stylin. Hot. The Jamaican men, women and even the beautiful, smiling 10 year old girl with more moves now than I would ever have if I trained for the rest of my life.

In the end it was some tasty music and tasty dancing that made me stay at the Beach Party til the end…shaking my booty worse than every Jamaican in the crowd! 

If I get to the Reggae Sumfest Beach Party again, I will arrive later in the night – when the games are finished and the really good stuff has kicked in. “Jamaicans party late” I have now heard countless times from Jamaicans, and must remember.

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