In its fourth year of existence, the Monterey Bay Reggaefest taking place this weekend presents a solid lineup of artists led by headliner Eek-A-Mouse, whose music and performance are suited for youth, says festival promoter Andr Smith. His myriad vocal personalities, elaborate stage costumes and whimsical sense of humor have made the Jamaican an endearing and popular performer around the world.
Culture is selling out wherever they go, Smith says of the second group, whose history stretches back to the early ''70s when Joseph Hill, principal vocalist, first began singing with the Soul Defenders. "Yami Bolo is a younger Jamaican whose music is mesmerizing. When he played at Reggae on the River [in Humboldt County], he was one of the best acts. People are still talking about it. One of the reasons I brought him in is that people who have seen him are going to want to see him again."
With these three major artists on the bill supported by the popular Jamaican singer Sister Carol, South Bay Area bands Native Elements and Dub Nation, with DJ Sister Yasmin and MC Rocky Allen Bailey, the Garden Stage area of the Monterey Fairgrounds-renamed the Robert Brown Stage during the Reggaefest, in honor of the festival''s founder, who passed on after the first year-will rock steady between 10am and 10pm. For the first time this year, there will also be a Reggae Lounge where local favorites Jonah and the Whale Watchers will entertain those who would like to enjoy some alcohol during the afternoon''s festivities. There will also be a kid''s carnival area with an amazing castle maze, a balloon typhoon, a crazy ballgame and other fun things.
Each year the festival improves, says Smith, who is one-half of A&P Productions (the other half is his wife Pamela), which is the festival''s presenting organization. "We''re learning through experience how to better produce the festival. Burning Spear came on too late two years ago," he says, "and The Wailers last year could have played longer."
With the festival''s scheduling on Saturday instead of Sunday, acts set up to move more smoothly through the changes, and the headliner scheduled to come on at 8pm, (a far cry from the 11pm start for Burning Spear), the festival should prove to be the best yet and well-suited for families looking for a fun day out to kick off the Labor Day weekend.
"The show is at a break-even point now," says Smith, admitting they have a small amount of debt carried over from last year. With just a slight boost in attendance, says Smith, most of the problem will be solved. "If we can get the numbers over 3,000, we''ll be happy. We need 2,000 to break-even."
Smith and his "family" of volunteers have spread out over the state in a grassroots effort to promote the festival by passing out flyers at other reggae festivals, community events and just plain old one-on-one contact with whomever they meet from here to as far away as Barstow and Bakersfield. Although this year they have no sponsors, they hope to start early for next year''s event and bring in businesses supporting cultural activities in this area. A&P Productions also hopes to present shows, not only reggae, but jazz and blues, throughout the year at the fairgrounds in smaller indoor settings, for all ages, something that Smith hopes will bring inspiration to young people, not only in the musical aspect, but by observing the principals of entertainment production and staging.
The thing about reggae music is that it''s not just for entertainment value. There is a sense of spirituality connected to it and a philosophy for living.
"It''s probably a little different with each person," says Smith. "With me, it becomes a lifestyle. Not so much the reggae lifestyle, but wholesome; there''s a holiness, a way of treating all people, a perspective of life. Most of the work coming out of Jamaica has roots in Ethiopia. Their musical roots include drums, wind instruments, and the drumming has crossed all cultures. It has been a form of communicating throughout the years. That''s why most of reggae''s lyrics are about conscience, to make people think about doing what''s right."
In the spirit of those ideals and the music which grabs the soul and shakes the body, Smith wanted to thank the workers on his team for their part in keeping the festival afloat over the last few years. Hats off to his wife Pam, who is the event coordinator, and two other husband-and-wife teams who are involved: Dennis Jarivs, head of security, and Christi Miller, volunteer coordinator; and Kim and Lawrence Hansen, artistic presentation. Also Di Whiteside, hospitality and side stage duties; Al Stevens, first assistant to Smith; Kenny King Smith, director of promotion and advertising; Gwendylen Grace, vendor coordinator; and Robert Smith, who will work on sponsorship and promotional packages for next year.
Monterey Bay Reggaefest ''98, Saturday, 10am-10pm, Monterey County Fairgrounds, $29, 10 & under free with paid adult, advance tickets available at BASS outlets or the Monterey Fairgrounds box office, 372-5863. cw