Music festivals abound during the summer months. There are jazz festivals in New York and California, classical music festivals in Germany and Puerto Rico, rock festivals in England and France.
The worldwide popularity of reggae Music will bring people from all over the world to the island republic of Jamaica this year for Reggae/Sunsplash, the Third Annual Reggae Music Festival. It will all happen outdoors, from June 30 July 5 in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica and the birthplace of this pulsating, rhythmic music.
A host of internationally recognized reggae artists will quench the musical thirst, as music lovers from all over will rock and swing to the sounds of Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, Ras Michael and the Son of Negus, and Gregory Isaacs, to name a few.
African drummer Olatunji, will make a special guest appearance. The reggae artists will display the universality of their sound and message in musical exchanges with invited artists from the United States, Europe, and Africa.
Cynergy Productions, Ltd., has planned Sunsplash as an annual affair that they hope will eventually become a musical institution in Jamaica.
Manager/Director Tony Johnson says that reggae’s message of peace, love, and justice, combined with the warmth and relaxation of a lush tropical setting, will beguile and enrapture every visitor—just the way it has for the past two years.
The growing universal appeal of reggae music is indeed extraordinary. The slow, steady, forceful beat is popular in Asia, Africa, Europe, and, of course, America. In recent years, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, Ken Booth, and other reggae stars have hit the music charts all over the world and have been playing to ever-increasing audiences on tours of North America and Europe. Each year, new groups of singers are being established on the international market, carrying the unique Jamaican sound to more and more people. Even popular US music stars, like Stevie Wonder, Linda Ronstadt, and the former Beatles have been paying serious attention to reggae, and have included reggae tracks on their albums.
The history of the music is fascinating. During the early Sixties, a fusion of rhythm and blues and local Jamaican music produced a sound called ska. That sound swept the Caribbean and the large West Indian population in Great Britain. The bouncy sound of ska soon evolved into the slower, steadier, rock steady, which in turn, gradually changed to the slightly slower, but far more forceful reggae.
The Rastafarian cult has had, perhaps, the most significant influence on reggae. Many of the music’s foremost stars are members of the cult and wear their hair in the dreadlocks fashion. They see reggae as a vehicle for preaching the Rasta message of love, peace, brotherhood, and the struggle against oppression.
Thus Reggae/Sunsplash will also be a fusion of ideas, music, and people, as the message of peace will draw the crowds of all nationalities and political persuasions as much as the music, and Kingston, with its warm climate and friendly people, will be a wonderful host. Kingston is the cultural and entertainment center of Jamaica and offers the tourist first class hotels, art galleries, theaters, shops, crafts, fairs, botanical gardens, museums, and many other places of interest—all within easy reach. The average daytime temperature of 85 degrees will be ideal for sunning and swimming on nearby beaches. Transportation is available for day excursions to Negril, Port Antonio, and Montego Bay.
However, the many daytime activities are but a prelude to four nights of exciting concerts. More than 20,000 people will fill the outdoor arena, while exuberant crowds, (those who couldn’t get tickets among them), will be dancing and singing until the early morning hours, inviting their international guests to forget their worries—at least for a couple of days. The vibes are friendly and full of joy. You will often hear the phrase, “Hey brother, where are you from? Welcome and enjoy!”
The festival will be held at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Center, situated near the hotel area of New Kingston, roughly halfway between the city and the beach.
The Jamaicans are geared up to satisfy the needs of all kinds of visitors. You can go to Kingston first class, or you can rough it up, so to speak, and arrive college-style. For the discriminating, Kingston offers fashionable hotels, including the Intercontinental, the New Kingston and the Pegasus Hotels, while those on a limited budget, and perhaps with a knapsack labeled, Kingston or bust, there’s the dormitory at the University of the West Indies.
Complete travel packages include round trip air fare from New York, accommodations based on a European plan, transfers, and reserved seating. Admission to all Sunsplash events includes a welcome party, a special Sunsplash beach party as well as admission and free drinks at selected Kingston discotheques. Travel packages with hotel accommodations range from $543 (based on midweek departure and per-person double occupancy) to $749 (based on weekend departure and single occupancy).
There’s also a special student package and a charter package ($469). These include two meals per day in addition to all the other Sunsplash activities.
Further information on package tours and reservations may be obtained from the Talking Lady Travel Agency, 330 West 48th Street, New York, NY (212) 888-6217, or any travel agency.
So, leave your troubles at home, pack the spare guitar and head for Jamaica for five days of hypnotic, driving rhythm that will keep you riding high on a wave of uninterrupted musical excitement!