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RESEÑA : REVIEW
Reggae On The River - Edición Nº 31
Julio 30 - Agosto 2, 2015 - French's Camp, Humboldt County, California, USA
Redacción:  Alexander Bonilla
Foto & Video:  Alexander Bonilla
Reggae Colombia – ReggaeColombia.com ™ ©
Agosto 15, 2015

Mateel Community Center presents Reggae On The River: 31 Years at service of the community.
Jul 30th - Ago 2nd, 2015 @ French's Camp, Humboldt County, CA, USA
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It has been a great privilege of mine to attend the 31st annual version of the prestigious Reggae On The River festival held in the Mateel Community Center between July 30th and August 2nd, 2015. We speak about the oldest and most important cultural and largest event devoted to Reggae music in the United States of America celebrated in full style during four memorable days in its traditional venue, the French's Camp at Mateel region, a stunning natural setting bordered by the Eel River located amidst the hilly landscape of Humboldt County in Garberville, a friendly and productive agricultural town located in northern California.

Reggae On The River is a long-lived event founded and organized by the admirable Mateel Community Center, a well-respected community non-profit organization that integrates various economic sectors in the region. Everything is all about an annual fundriser festival with higher level of production primarily designed to manage these funds which are covering multiple focused on social, educational and artistic service programs that benefit not only the regional community but other international institutions such as the Alpha Boys School & Lil Raggamuffin Summer Camp in Jamaica and in the rural community of Zao in Burkina Faso, West Africa.
 
Reggae On The River was born in July 1984 and its name honors the mythical landscape that make up the beautiful Eel River which flows between the bushy hills bordering the Humboldt County valley. For both natives and visitors this is a special place that have been converted over the years into a superb venue to host major events. Reggae On The River is more than a music festival, it is a powerful cultural idea with such great social impact in regard of the environment, tolerance, respect and awareness of the entire community.
 
As is well documented ROTR has been always identified with the global nature of Reggae music, therefore it offers a set of performers not only from Jamaica but also come from different countries. On this main stage came the best and most legendary artists of the genre such as Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear, Bunny Wailer, Inner Circle, Toots & The Maytals, Third World, Sly & Robbie, Ziggy Marley, Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Lee Perry, Israel Vibration, The Congos, The I Three, Alpha Blondy, Lucky Dube, Steel Pulse, UB40, The Wailing Souls, Culture, Maxi Priest, Sugar Minott, Don Carlos, Michael Rose, Big Youth, The Mighty Diamonds, Beres Hammond, The Abyssinians, among others.
 
Following that trend this year's edition brings again an exalted group of veteran and young jamaican acts joined by local bands and worldwide groups coming from Bermuda, Brazil, Hawaii, Sudan, Colombia, New Zealand, Mali, Israel and Italy. The ROTR 2015 poster includes: Stephen “Ragga” Marley, Cham, Alborosie, Pablo Moses & Revolutionary Dream Band, Tarrus Riley & Blak Soil, Don Carlos & Dub Vision Band, Ce’Cile, Katchafire, Collie Buddz, Nahko and Medicine For The People, Jo Mersa, Skip Marley, Black-Am-I, & Wayne Marshall; Emmanuel Jal, The Congos, Flavia Coelho, Stick Figure, Zvuloon Dub System, Alerta Kamarada, Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, Fortunate Youth,  Aaradhna, HIRIE, Empress Unification, and many more!

REACHING THE ROTR 'VENUE' - Leaving from Cartagena to Bogota to catch another night flight that would end the next day in California but with prior scale of immigration in New York took us nearly 24 hours of titanic travelling. However all tiredness disappears when the so-called tour finally landed at the international airport of San Francisco. We stayed that night at the historic Whitcomb hotel located on 1258 Market Street. The next day at noon we went out into a pleasant fiver-hours driving journey to Garberville on Highway 101N route.

On the way landscapes with lots of greenery and modern beautiful countryside farms equipped with plenty of harvests are observed. We stopped at a restaurant in Willits, then visited two historical sites in the region. One is the famous 'Confusion Hill' and the other is 'Legend of Big Foot'. From here you can already see the beautiful riverside area transformed into a giant camping which houses thousands of enthusiasts who sacredly keep coming here to converge as they do every year to this venerated hieratic ritual with Reggae and culture.

THURSDAY / JULY 30th, 2015 - Once in the hotel, we prepare all to attend the first night of the festival. Arriving at the 'venue' we checked in at the press & media office where we were greeted with great welcome warmth by our friends Kaati Gaffney and Anthony Postman, Reggae Festival Guide publishers. Along with them is renowned journalist and entrepreneur Justine Ketola. Shortly after in the production area we were greeted by the general manager of the festival, Mr Justin Crellin, who gives us an official welcome to the home of Reggae On The River. Many thanks to them and ROTR Crew for the incredible hospitality and for allowing us to be part of this wonderful family.

While listening to the music played by the intermediate DJ we took a walk around the place and at the right front of the main stage we found lot of shops offering all kinds of stuff, clothing and souvenirs. There is also an art pavilion and the tremendous food and beverage area. Already there are plenty of audience in the concert bowl and is expected to reach even more attendees for this prologue.
 
 
This is a very special day which is implemented to encourage early faithful supporters that acquire the kind of Early Bird 4 Day Pass Holders or Ambassador Pass tickets that cover the entire festival. And yes indeed, it was a tremendous musical preamble that included performances by local artists and bands like Iya Terra, Irie Fuse, Pyrx Band, HIRIE and Fortunate Youth. Closing the impeccable 'early' show was the legendary Pablo Moses & Revolutionary Dream Band with a superb spectacle that blew the place with his classics: Dubbing is a must, Proverbs Extraction, Pave The Way, Revolutionary Step, Revolutionary Dream, Ready, Aim , Fire and also with some of his recent hits like More than You Can Chew and Born to Be Bad.
 
FRIDAY - JULY 31st, 2015 - We reached the first big day of the festival that starts early as usual here. In the 'main stage' there are alternated guest selectors and always there is the traditional 'Opening Ceremony' for blessings each new day. The music sounds everywhere. At morning time, some people go to the river, others go back to the county using the yellow buses provided by the festival that come and go around every half hour. In the afternoon we had the first three bands, in the order they are: Juce, Inna Vision (Maui, Hawaii) and Stick Figure, these are the acts responsible for opening the Friday show.
 
Then appeared on the big scene a very interesting group, it is Katchafire, the tremendous 'roots rockers' band coming from Aotearoa, New Zealand and one of today's most popular. This group that was founded in 1997 in honor of Bob Marley, impressed the audience with an energizing set that includes among other songs: Irie, Down With Me, Get Away and Frisk Me Down. Vocalist Logan Bell celebrated with a giant spliff on stage when interpreting the himn Collie Herb Man.
 
The next artist announced is a heavyweight champion of Reggae music and also an old good friend of the family. We talk about the legendary Don Carlos & Dub Vision Band that came to replace Protoje & Indiggnation Band. The absence of the leader of the 'Revival' movement was not noticed after the recital done by this jamaican veteran coming from Waterhouse distrit, who was as always sensational. Don Carlos (born Euvin Spencer) gave the massive his classic tunes of yesteryear like Hog and Goat, Sattamasagana, Young Girl, Ababa John I and I Just Can’t Stop adding some Black Uhuru material and included some of his latest songs like Movin (To the Top) and Favorite Cup. At the end he thanked for the opportunity to be back in this festival reiterating their respects to the California people for the immense support received during his successful career. He cheered goodbye with his immortal song Just A Passing Glance

The night closed high with Dancehall provided by two powerful performers. First one is sinjay Collie Buddz who broke out with his vigorous band and made everybody dance and sing here. The artist coming from Bermuda is internationally known for his hit Come Around (2006) is a debutant at Reggae On The River. His set includes Light It Up, I Feel So Good, Ganja Pipe, Legalize It, Prescription, Pressure, Blue Dreamz, Yesterday and Go Hard.

 
The man in charge of closing the Friday's curtains of this colossal celebration was none other than Cham (formerly Baby Cham). Around midnight this riddim gladiator starts shooting hits after hits. The massive was shaked with full of lyrics and original and pure Dancehall stuff. Still echoes its great success in America with Ghetto Story in 2006. Cham performed tunes from his upcoming album Lawless. The Jamaican DJ was accompanied by an impressive set of four musicians called the Mad People Gang with sufficient authority to lecturing on how to play good Dancehall music.
 
SATURDAY / AUGUST 1st, 2015 - We arrived on the third day of the festival with one of the most anticipated date for everyone here. Today we gonna have pon di stage a real jamaican reggae master treatment with Stephen "Ragga" Marley & the Ghetto Youth Crew (Jo Mersa, Skip Marley, Black-Am-I & Wayne Marshall) along with them on the bill will be Tarrus Riley & Blak Soil Band, Ce'Cile and Nature. All this great musical feast come with an important added value. Today will be playing for the first time here Alerta Kamarada coming from Bogota, Colombia.
 
Lior Be-Hur is the first act of the day. They are originally from Jerusalem, Israel, this band spent several years established in San Francisco. They are followed by a good performance done by Army (Fritzmaurice Williams) a solo coming from St. Croix, Virgin Islands which also makes its debut in ROTR.
 
Around 3:00 PM, in good time, MC Madi Simmons was announcing that latin flavor were about to reach the main stage by cortesy of Alerta Kamarada, all the way coming from South America. This fact marks the first time for a Colombian reggae band to be showcased here at ROTR and it coexists in the environment certain kind of expectation that is well surpassed when they finally appear. Right after starting with a nice intro with Do your Thing; One to Nine/ Ragga Ragga; Heavy Ritmo Pesao from his upcoming album Love Is In Da House and immediately flows the kind of irie connection with the massive. Their music and messages are well received by a public that enjoyed strongly their 40 minutes spanish/english performance. Here it would end the California tour that took them earlier by Salinas, Santa Cruz, Mill Valley, Oakland and Humbolt booked by brethren Ras Marcus Benjamin from Colorado.
 
African continent is well represented by Emmanuel Jal, a great musician, actor and activist native from Sudan. Great performance by a colorful and very energetic master of ceremony that combines traditional African sounds with Reggae, Rock, Hip Hop, EDM accompanied by a powerful multiracial band. Lyrics concerning world peace and positive social messages captivated the whole audience.
 
They said that Humboldt County and Reggae On The River are in fact a full Marley territory. We even know that Bob Marley & The Wailers did memorable performances here in California. There have been many visits by his heirs to this land where it seems that definitely the Reggae music has a second home. It was time to watch the Ghetto Youth Crew consisting of Jo Mersa, Skip Marley, Black-Am-I & Wayne Marshall. They come with a super band that includes great musicians among them the teacher and producer Chris Meredith (bass) and Squidly Cole (drums) and choruses by Rica Newell and Rochelle Bradshaw.
 
The first roll call is for the young singer Skip Marley (son of Cedella Marley) upcoming artist of the third Marley generation that started strongly his musical career. He opens his set with the classic Roots Rock Reggae honoring his grandfather. Continued with their own songs Cry To Me and Life.
 
It is followed by the talented singer Black-Am-I who was born in St. Ann’s Bay. He is one of the most important and relevant artists produced by the Ghetto Youth International label. He was in good shape when interpreted his well know recordings Samson Strength, In The Ghetto and Modern Day Freedom, the hit singles that have provided him with global recognition.
 
Joseph Marley, better known as Jo Mersa, eldest son of Stephen Marley, is another young and brilliant talent in his own right to have its place in the main scene. Almost always accompanies his father on tour as a opening act. He was playing his best with hits like Bad So, Bogus, Sunshine, Rock and Swing and Comfortable, made with reggae classic sounds and elements of Rap, Hip Hop, Dancehall, R&B and EDM.
 
The man in charge for a good concluding of the effervescent Dancehall segment via Ghetto Youth Crew is the eldest artist of the group. This is the DJ Wayne Marshall, another favorite of the crew who quickly takes over the show and set the right irie mood after introduce his successful songs like Stupid Money, I Know and On The Corner.
 
Following the trending line inna Dancehall style we have the always sensual Bad Gyal Ce'Cile well known for her signatured songs: I Can Do The Work (ft Sean Paul), I'm Waiting, Changes, Hot Like We, Nah Stress Over Man, among other hits. The diva as usual puts her own spicy to a pleasant performance with seducive dances and interacting with everyone present. She delivered the highest rate of Dancehall with provocative and voluptuous movements. Ce'Cile performed alongside jamaican backing band iKronik. Downsound Recording artist Nature was invited by her to sing his song Love Is Everywhere.
 
Here comes one of the best recording artist up to this day. We speak about the singy singy a.k.a. Tarrus Riley & Blak Soil, Yes, this one is a deluxe band led by the sensational saxophonist and producer Dean Fraser and the foundation bass player Glen Browne that always accompanies to this premier reggae singer and composer. At this point it is estimed that the festival had the largest audience and the time is right for an endure artist like Tarrus Riley who never disappoint and instead is responsible to outshine with his powerful voice to attract and hold the interest and attention of everyone. Thousand of souls are singing and dancing hits after hits, time after time. We have seen tonight one of the greatest performance done by Tarrus Riley and he once again consolidates his work of art, not only for the excellent roots music he makes and conscious messages he deliveres but by his charisma and what it truly represents for the Reggae culture up to the present time.
 

At midnight and in order to concluded in highest note this great musical journey here comes Stephen "Ragga" Marley, one of the most important artists and producer of the genre, with the most Grammy award winning and the biggest superstar of the Marley family who arrives in solid mood ready fi conquer the entire massive. His set list was powerfully opened with the classic tune Punky Reggae Party in honor to his father, then he takes over the place on the spot. Excellent showcase that closed with the best and original of jamaican reggae. His set as usual includes a combination of own songs and those of his father. Among them are: Break Us Apart, Iron Lion Zion, Can't Keep I Down, Rock Stone, No Cigarrette Smoking In My Room, Made In Africa, Three Little Birds, Simmer Down, Buffalo Soldier, Iron Walls, Traffic Jam and The Mission.

SUNDAY / AUGUST 2nd, 2015 - We entered the fourth day of Festival and today is the final closure. Starting with the order of the day is the nice group Empress Unification & The Fyah Squad Band, they are a female collective of artists of different nationalities and a backing band respectively, all of them living in Bay Area. They work on World Music combined with conscious Reggae, Funk, & Soul in such spiritual state with messages of peace, love and unity. Next we have on stage the man called Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba another African act coming from Mali, great master of the Ngoni, an instrument of traditional West African folklore, an ancestor of the American banjo. Theirs is a proud modern show with roots in Mande Music combining many instrumentation with female vocals.
 

From Oakland, we had on stage the Reggae Angels, one of the oldest groups in North America. Its founder and leader is singer Fenton Wardle who is accompanied by the incredible Jamaican backing band iKronik. He promote his 13th album titled The Way, recorded with the collaboration of the legendary Sly & Robbie. The set includes among other songs: Servents Of Jah Love and Love Be True.

 
The next performer to come in is the jamaican sinjay Exco Levi a.k.a. Wayne Ford Levy, repeatedly Juno Award winning in Canada, country of his residence. He is supported by the same iKronik band. A big show a gwaan here where he plays among other successful tunes: Welcome To The King, Country Man, Blood Tears, No Sleep and Reggae Jah Calling.
 
Then, with the same good backing band iKronik, which is doing a great job rocking pon di stage, we reaches the most expected appointment of the day with the original Roots Reggae by courtesy of tremendous group The Congos, one of the best harmonic trios from the golden era of the 70's. There is much appreciation and respect for these veteran artists who are still alive in the current scene while retaining the essence of the Rastafarian music. The group founders are Ashanti Roy Johnson, Watty Burnett and Cedric Myton (who could not come here because of visa problems and was replaced by LaVenia ‘Bunny’ Brissett, a current choir member of Israel Vibration) The audience trembles of emotional feelings while listening them perform those classical anthems including: Congo Man, Congo Ashanti, Solid Fundation and especially Fisherman, a song that can not be missed in their repertoire with which they do a ROTR triumphant goodbye.
 

Before the big end of this last night we still here enjoying two more acts. One is The popular band Nahko and Medicine For The People and the other one is jamaican singer Bryan Art who makes a brief but notable appearance playing songs like Get It, Knowledge Is Power and Rock And Come In.

Permanent italian resident in Jamaica is Alborosie & Shengen Clan the man who has the big honor of closing the curtains of a successful Reggae On The River festival in its issue N° 31. Alborosie a.k.a. Puppa Albo, the 'Soul Pirate' was born in Sicily in 1977 is an accomplished singer, songwriter, multi-instrumental musician and producer. In 1993 he founded the popular Italian band Reggae National Tickets, then in 2000 he emigrated to Jamaica to concentrate on his solo career. After many years of hard work and dedication, recognition comes thanks to excellent albums made next to large and veteran producers and artists from the mother island. Alborosie is well known here in America, the audience cheers, sing and dance every songs including Kingston Town, Herbalist and Rock The Dancehall. What a epic final with a sensational array of concerts and a big massive asking for more.

At the end of the day we see the organizers and staff of the festival celebrating and enjoying in perfect high note for this successful year and platform of epilogue. The general manager Justin Crellin took the mic and thanked everyone for their valuable support during this new version that fulfilled their expectations and the very same of all the irie community.

On our way back home we are planning from now how to get back here by the next year, meanwhile we are passing by the majestic Golden Gate Bridge where we can contemplate at the center of the beautiful bay the legendary Alcatraz Island, the inspirational prision where were filmed the classic movie 'Escape from Alcatraz' starring by Clint Eastwood in 1979. The edition N° 32 of Reggae On The River will be returning to the French's Camp in Humboldt County, CA from August 4-7 2016. Total Thanks for the support go to Paola Moreno and Alejandro Casallas (Jamming Festival directors) also the producer and agent Octavio Blohm and Mr Bubba Cervantes (Quinto Sol management)
 
See you again at Reggae On The River 2016....

 

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