The Monterey Bay Reggaefest delivers a full spectrum of I-and-I music.
Thursday, August 30, 2001
In the reggae section of every record store in the United States, it is possible to find hypnotic spiritual anthems, aggressive political diatribes, hook-filled pop hits, silly love songs--a vast array of styles and lyrical subjects, all set to a syncopated, always danceable beat. The extensive lineup of the Monterey Bay Reggaefest covers a lot of this musical territory.
Two bands scheduled to play on Saturday--the Abyssinians and the Mighty Diamonds--represent two poles of the big reggae universe. The Abyssinians are deeply spiritual, political and rather heavy; since the 1969 release of "Satta Massagana (Power Over Evil)," the Abyssinians have crusaded for the triumph of the reggae triumvirate of Jah, democracy and dope. The Mighty Diamonds, meanwhile, have on occasion turned their three-part harmonies toward similar ends, but have been, for just as long, focused on more worldly themes (their love songs are gorgeous, if a little bit sappy).
Also playing on Saturday will be Mikey Dread, the original Jamaican reggae DJ, who reinvented that job description single-handedly before going on to lend his hand as a producer/collaborator to several British punk-rockers, notably The Clash (Dread''s fingerprints are all over the classic Clash album Sandinista).
Headlining Saturday is Alpha Blondy, from Ivory Coast, whose international stylings (he sings in four languages) launched the African reggae movement almost 20 years ago.
Sunday''s lineup is equally impressive, featuring Steel Pulse, who created a sensation when they opened for the Rolling Stones "Tattoo You" tour two decades ago. Also appearing Sunday is another sublime vocal trio, Israel Vibration, made up of three singers who helped invent the beautiful, spiritual aspect of the art form after they met in a polio hospital they had been committed to when they were kids.
Pam Smith, who is helping to promote the event, says the dominant presence of such heavyweights on the schedule is not an accident.
"We purposely seek out the more spiritual acts, more of the old-school performers," she says. "To me, the Reggaefest is almost like a gospel event. It''s for the heart."
The Monterey Bay Reggaefest takes place from 10am to 10pm on Saturday and Sunday at the Monterey Fairgrounds. Saturday''s lineup includes: Alpha Blondy, Don Carlos, Mighty Diamonds, Abyssinians, Mikey Dread, Prezident Brown, Humble Soul, Vince Black & Root Awakening and Jonah & The Whalewatchers. Sunday''s lineup: Steel Pulse, Israel Vibration, Ras Michael & Sons Of Negus, Bayanga, Boom Shaka, David Kirton, Ras Kidas, Prince Rastan. Tickets: $35/day; $55/both days. 394-6534, www.mbayreggaefest.com.