From April 20 – 22, hundreds of Austin locals experienced the 25th Anniversary of the Reggae Music Festival held in Austin, TX at Auditorium Shores. A portion of the festival’s funds was donated to the Central Texas Food Bank to provide meals to families in need. The festival was filled with classic reggae music, based on ska, which is a smooth four beat rhythm that implements the use of drums, bass guitars, electric guitar and the “scraper”, a percussion instrument with a rigid stick that is rubbed by a plain, regular stick. The crowd was blown away by the spectacular performances of Sister Nancy, The Wailers, Collie Buddz, Black Uhuru, Mau Mau Chaplains, New Kingston, and much more! In addition to eclectic music, the crowd enjoyed the delicious food, dope Jamaican style clothing from vendors, and simply experiencing the positive fun vibes that music, especially reggae grants to its listeners.
Reggae music is the heart of Jamaican culture. Reggae music has played a major role in how Jamaicans define themselves. It has created a way for the Jamaican culture to be heard and understood and has been a vital way for them to celebrate and express their sense of nationalism and life. More importantly, reggae speaks to political, social, and spiritual aspects within the Jamaican culture. Reggae’s roots derive from the historical context of slavery and colonialism in the 1800s since many Jamaicans are ancestors of Africans who were transported from Africa and brought by the British to Jamaica to work as slaves. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until August 6, 1962, that Jamaica actually gained its independence from the United Kingdom. Reggae music has not only heavily impacted Jamaican culture but has transcended into the hearts and souls of Americans and others from around the world.
I had the pleasure of interviewing some performers during the Reggae fest such as Ophlin Russell, otherwise known as Sister Nancy, a Jamaican singer-songwriter and DJ. She graced the crowd with her energetic and soulful presence, performing hit singles from her 1982 debuted album, “One, Two”.
With a look of conviction, Sister Nancy states to me, “Music is life. You cannot live without it. Or else you would not be here and I would not be here either.”
One of her singles, “Bam Bam” is my absolute favorite; as she performed it the crowd erupted in song and even more dancing. Interestingly enough, Bam Bam was featured in the visual art of Jay-Z’s music video from his most recent album, 4:44. Jay Z titles the song, “Bam”, while also featuring Damien Marley, son of renowned Bob Marley. In the video, Nancy states that her song “Bam Bam” was a complete freestyle. Nancy appreciates how a song, recorded over two decades ago was so effortlessly created, but yet continues to still be recognized today. She ultimately believes in the true quality of music and how it has the power to influence people and become timeless. She states to Jay-Z,”Good music, it will last. It won’t go nowhere”.
Many described this year’s Reggae Music Festival as one of the best. Some thoughts on the 25th anniversary of the music festival were:
“This festival was filled with such positive vibrations,” says Donovan Cunningham, better known for his stage name, I-Taweh and one of the musical acts for the 2018 Reggae Music Fest.
“Intense, it’s been fun,” stated Patrick, a hobbyist photographer and festival attendee.
“I think it’s absolutely great. I’m actually heartbroken. My girlfriend cheated on me. So I came here today to try to uplift my spirits. I’m feeling the pain, the residual pain inside, but I think the music and atmosphere here is medicating for me,” stated Daniel, a festival attendee.
Before the Reggae festival came to an end, The Wailers band rocked the stage with their legendary and popular jams from the 1970s and 80s. Many others, including myself, thought the entire band, minus Bob Marley, of course, were the original members performing onstage. But then I stopped and realized that some of the members looked way too young. Interestingly enough, there was only one original band member from the Bob Marley and The Wailers music group that performed onstage. His name is Junior Marvin, a Jamaican born guitarist. He was pleased to have so many people in the audience singing along with the band and enjoying their music.
“To be a part of the Wailers was an honor, it still is. We try to keep the standard of the music as high as possible. We are getting a response from four different decades and generations of music lovers and people who are positive and have spiritual vibes. It’s really a joy to see them respond to the message and to the music,” stated Junior Marvin.
To conclude, the 25th anniversary of the Reggae Festival was one to remember. It was a refreshing celebration of culture, music, and positive vibes. Enjoy the photos!