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.