After many disappointing but not disheartening years of small crowds, financial loses, blood, sweat and tears Monterey Bay Reggaefest (MBR) came of age in 2001.
Produced by A&P Productions of Seaside, California, under the auspices of Andre & Pam Smith, supported by a dedicated staff of friends and family, the eight-year old event has brought some of reggae’s best to the Monterey Fairgrounds, and is showing no apparent signs of easing up.
A Winning Formula
With no major sponsors, paying everything with gate receipts, the festival showcased the best lineup in 2001 in the festival’s irie history.
The festival featured three stages: the Robert Brown Stage (operating from 11am to 4pm), the One World Stage (4pm to closing), and the 3 Americas Stage, along with numerous arts & crafts vendors, food booths and a bar/dancehall, dubbed The Reggae Lounge.
Add a hardworking group of volunteers, an average of 8,000 attendees over two days, incredibly good weather, some of the best local and regional bands, and some of reggae’s most internationally acclaimed artists and you begin to see the ingredients for this years winning formula.
Saturday, September 1, the Robert Brown stage kicked off the festivities with Jonah & The Whale Watchers, Vince Black, and Leroy Mabrak.
Hawaiian native singer/songwriter Doug “Humble Soul” Baptista continues to impress and win over fans with sweet roots music and moving lyrics. Prezident Brown has been taking Northern Cali by surprise as he lashes out at the sins of modern man. Mikey Dread’s powerful performance was only upstaged by his intense press conference during which he condemned the behavior of some reggae artists, vividly pointing out how this behavior will ultimately hurt the music, and the artists’ ability to make a living. He was quite animated, and needed no prompting from the assembled press as he articulated passionately on a range of topics related to the modern state of reggae.
From there the people migrated over to the One World Stage for what promised to be a night to remember.
After unveiling a new backdrop by Lawrence “Mystic Lion” Hansen, and an invocation by Allen Rocky Bailey, the One World stage was up and running.
First up was one of Jamaica’s legendary Rasta trios, Star David, Donald & Carlton Manning, better known as The Abyssinians. Clad in their familiar robes of red, gold and green, these musical warriors unleashed their “carefully voiced songs of worship and suffering with pained intensity.”
The Mighty Diamonds continue to solidify their hold on the past and present, as they are one of Jamaica’s most revered trios. The Diamonds have over 120 seven-inch singles and over 30 albums, and everyone has their own favorite tune. Formed in 1969 in Kingston Jamaica’s notorious Trenchtown ghetto, lead singer Donald “Tabby” Shaw (nicknamed “Diamonds” by his mother), Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson and Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson have been together longer than most other trios, and have too many hits to perform at one show. In Monterey they did their best to get in as many as they could, and the crowd reacted favorably to their effort.
There was real excitement leading up to Reggaefest after the announcement that Alpha Blondy would perform. The well documented psychiatric problems of the troubled South African reggae phenom, once referred to as the next Bob Marley, is a topic of conversation second only to praise for his rare stage appearances. Blondy was reclusive before taking the stage in Monterey. He took the stage running, didn’t slow down once, put on a spectacular show, with incredible music, then jumped in a van and sped away.
Sunday found Ras Kiddus opening on the Robert Brown stage, with 12-year-old Prince Rastan, Barbadian David Kirton, and a rousing performance by LA based Boom Shaka who always seems to save their best for Reggaefest.
Sunday night’s climax on the One World stage began with Puerto Rico’s 10-piece band Bayanga. With music that was a high-energy blend of Africa, Brazilian and Puerto Rican rhythms, they got the crowd on its feet, dancing wildly, while no one seemed to notice it wasn’t reggae.
Earlier this year during the Long Beach Bob Marley Day celebrations, Ras Michael was presented a commendation for his incredible contributions to roots reggae music. Joined on stage by his brother MC Allen “Rocky” Bailey, Ras Michael appeared at home as he and his band gave us a history lesson in Jamaican music.
Israel Vibration should be the official ambassador’s for the physically challenged. Born with debilitating polio, the members of Israel Vibration were kicked out of school when they converted to the Rastafarian faith. They persevered with hard work, dedication, and unwavering faith as they climbed the ladder of success with talented songwriting, impressive vocal harmonies and a stage presence that soon makes their obvious physical handicaps secondary to their incredible talent.
Steel Pulse is by far the most recognized reggae band from England. Frontman David Hinds has songwriting and production skills that have led the band and its “Liberation Posse” to a Grammy in 1986, and several nominations after. Having contributed to the soundtrack of Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing,” performing for Bill Clinton’s inauguration, and some of the biggest reggae festivals in the world, Steel Pulse came to Monterey and left an impression that won’t be soon forgotten.
After a stellar stage performance, David Hinds still found the time to meet with the press for an interview that lasted close to an hour.
Where to go from here?
This festival has improved each year, yet Promoter Andre Smith refuses to take any of the credit, “I don’t even claim the plan,” said Andre, “it’s Jah guiding me.”
Next year Jah apparently has guided A&P to commit itself to enticing Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide (RAW) into holding their convention in conjunction with next years MBR Festivities.
A RAW member for three years, Andre believes the large contingent of West Coast members are very much into supporting the networking ideas of RAW, central to promoting the One Love message of reggae music.
He envisions 5 days of reggae music–two days leading up to the Monterey ReggaeFest weekend, followed by a Monday showcase on Labor Day. On the forefront of this vision are RAW members Kim Hansen and Mary Kirk, the two responsible for helping bring the RAW Convention to San Jose, CA several years ago.
“This will be the first year we will be able to work year round,” said Andre, which is why he is confident their plans have a chance to come to fruition, “Usually we start in May, and are foot soldiers aggressively promoting the show. Next year we hope to have all advanced ticket sales.”
Respect to A&P Productions, and congratulations. Monterey Bay Reggefest has arrived, and the many avid reggae fans that attended the 2001 show were well impressed.