Reggae on the River made a much anticipated and glorious return to the original stomping grounds of French's Camp at Piercy along the Eel River. People gathered from all over the world to celebrate the 29th annual ROTR, presented by the Mateel Community Center located in Redway.ROTR kicked things off with an early arrival event Aug. 1, featuring many artists from the Humboldt and Mendocino County area. The first day eased event volunteers and workers in with a gentle wave, but the tsunami of eager ticket-holders was just beginning as people arrived for Friday's noontime opening ceremony. By Saturday afternoon the event's nearly 6,000 tickets had sold-out, said Justin Crellin, general manager of the Mateel Community Center.
The early Friday morning air buzzed with excitement and, at times great moments of confusion, while dedicated volunteers attempted to deal with the waves of weekend patrons. Parking and camping were filled up at French's Camp before Friday noon, which left patrons scrambling to find refuge elsewhere. For many this meant parking across the highway at a private campground for $20 per day. This option entailed a shuttle ride to get to the actual concert with up to an hour and a half wait. Organizers hope to work with area officials to reinstate the crosswalk across Highway 101 for future concerts.
The local scenery was enough to take away the stress of the initial arrival brouhaha. The majestic redwoods, rolling green hills, and the winding river gave way to a cool breeze and a wonderfully laid back and relaxed setting, perfect for a weekend of reggae.
Well wishes from ROTR volunteers to "Have a happy Reggae" reverberated through the lines of people making their way along paths lined with campsites down into the valley towards the towering giant of a stage. The stage was backlit by sunshine, spotlighting the performing artists in nearly magical ways.
The weekend featured more than 20 performing artists representing reggae Blue King Brown took the stage with their high energy, riveting instrumental solos, and lyrical prowess that wowed the crowd.
from across the globe. These artists expressed the view in interviews with area media that reggae was more or less a universal language; that no particular country could claim it.
The Sierra Leone Refuge All-Stars concurred, considering no matter what language reggae is performed in it holds the same meaning. For the All-Stars the music is a momentary escape from a brutal life of war and injustice and expresses for most the ideals of hope, peace and love.
Reuben Koroma, of the All-Stars, remembered being in a refugee camp with nearly 7,000 people, torn from their families and everything or anything comfortable, let alone familiar, and being stuck in a place where horrible atrocities were committed daily. "The only way I knew to overcome
Reuben Koroma of the Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars.
this was to pick up my instrument and just play," Koroma said.
During interviews the artists expressed different perspectives on reggae as a whole, but each artist had similar heartfelt sentiments on the music they so clearly adored.
When questioned on the future of reggae it was the performing artist Army of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, who confidently stated with a slight smirk, "I would not tell reggae what to do; it plays its part."
Army had earlier wowed the early Friday crowd with his beautiful voice, confident stage presence, and artful use of lyrics and rhythm. He mentioned the importance of social commentary through reggae music; speaking of universal issues.
Toussaint the Liberator expressed the importance of the messages
Performing in French, the Les Nubians with their smooth and beautiful vocals found within reggae, "There's enough people talking about let's go party; let's have fun. I take time with my lyrics I write lyrics that actually free myself," Toussaint said.
The women performers were absolutely stunning in their confidence, taking over the stage and leaving the audiences pleading for more. Nkulee Dube, Les Nubians, and Blue King Brown showed the appreciative audience that women have officially taken their stand in reggae.
With a contagious smile and humble coyness, Dube discussed the importance of women accepting each other as reggae artists and performers. Dube commented women need to stop judging one another, but rather congratulate and push one another toward greatness. "Start with love and respect, then after
Gracing the stage for her second Reggae on the River, Nkulee Dube left the crowd pleading for more that we can all grow as women," said Dube.
The weekend was an overall huge success for The Mateel Community Center and for everyone involved, says Crellin. Except for one ATV accident that was still under investigation the event went off with little trouble, said Crellin. "It was a long road to get home to French's Camp and we are energized to celebrate 30 years of Reggae next year," he said.
It's Thursday night in downtown Johannesburg and some 500 people are packed into Bassline, a warehouse-like club in a hipster-friendly neighborhood. They're here for South Africa's longest-running sound system, or crew of reggae DJs. But tonight they get something extra: a young woman sporting dreadlocks and an army cap gets on the mic to freestyle.
Her name is Nkulee Dube, and she carries two storied legacies on her shoulders. She's now the country's biggest reggae star — and the daughter of the man sometimes dubbed "Africa's Peter Tosh."
"When I travel around the world, people are like, 'We are just happy there is someone taking over, putting on your dad's shoes,' " Dube says. "I'm like, 'What? I cannot put on those shoes. They're very heavy!' "
Reggae, after all, runs deep in South Africa. During the 1970s, songs by Peter Tosh and Burning Spear were gospel to the anti-apartheid movement. James Mange, a reggae artist and former resistance leader, was the first Rastafarian prisoner on Robben Island alongside such anti-apartheid activists as Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela. He says they were huge reggae fans.
"Walter Sisulu even asked for certain albums in particular: 'That one, that one, by that boy. What is his name?' We'd say, 'Bob Marley; he has about three,' " Mange recalls. "[Sisulu would say] 'Exodus—give me that one.' "
Mange became known as the Bob Marley of Robben Island, where reggae was a mainstay even when warders censored political songs.
"It was not anything for entertainment. It was almost like your prayer time, if you like," Mange says. "It was a time when we started remembering why we were where we were and what lay ahead. And it was the kind of food we needed to sustain us during the hard times."
During the '80s, South African acts like O'Yaba and Johnny Klegg recorded political reggae tunes and Lucky Dube would become the first African reggae artist to perform in Jamaica. Lucky Dube released 22 albums in three languages. Meanwhile, his daughter, Nkulee, has toured four continents and released her debut album, My Way, in 2011.
"When they heard that I was going to release an album, everyone was like, 'You're gonna do reggae like your dad,' " she says. "Obviously I am gonna keep my dad's roots and my dad's teachings. I am part of that reggae history. So that album is just saying, 'Yes, I am. But I am doing it my way and I can do whatever I want, so don't put me in the same box as my dad.'"
Nkulee Dube's career started at age 16 — in dance. She toured as a backup dancer with the risqué Afropop star Lebo Mathosa, a woman who made it in the male-dominated South African industry. Mathosa heard Dube singing and invited her onstage one night. Afterward, she took the teenager under her wing.
"She created who Nkulee Dube is onstage," Dube says. "Because I would look at her on stage and she would say, 'Do you see what I did there? I moved from that corner to that corner because there's people all around the stage, so you have to perform for each and every person.' "
That was more than Dube got from her father at first. She did not grow up with him, though her mother told her who he was. She waited until she was 18 years old to knock on his studio door.
"And he's like, 'Who are you?' I was like, 'Nkulee,' " she says. "He said, 'No, who are you?' I said, 'Nkulee, why?' And he said, 'What are you doing here? Sit down.' I was like, 'I'm your daughter.' And he said, 'I knew it!' "
Their relationship took off from there — in and out of the studio. They recorded still-unreleased duets, and Nkulee got schooled in writing music.
"He would say, 'Whenever you write, have depth,' " she says. " 'Let's say it's a love song. Don't just say hey, I love you. Go deeper than that.' "
And in that depth, a legacy lives on.
NKULEE Dube, daughter of the late South African reggae singer Lucky Dube, was recently honoured at the International Reggae and World Music Awards. The 27-year-old singer was honoured for being the first artiste to be nominated six times since the award show began 31 years ago. The event was held at the Washington Park in Chicago and the award list featured big international stars like Akon, Rihanna, Pitbull and Beenie Man. Apart from being honoured for being the first artist from a non-Carribean country to be nominated at the awards, she cropped the award for most Promising Entertainer and even got a chance to performed performed with her idol, female reggae singjay, Tanya Stephens.