Reggae in the Valley
Reggae greats from around the world converge on Mohawk
BY STEVEN SAWADA
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the majesty of this last month of summer than with the Northwest World Reggae Music Festival. The festival, which has previously hosted some of the greatest reggae acts alive, returns with a stellar lineup of Jamaican natives, expats and various “students” of Jah from around the U.S. and beyond. With a plethora of talented reggae and dub musicians spread across the three-day festival, it would require too much space to showcase each artist. So here’s a brief rundown of a few of the event’s most notable performers.
The Abyssinians, maybe next to the Wailers and Toots and the Maytals, are among the oldest reggae groups still performing today. Elders in the reggae world, the group had their first hit in 1969 with the single “Satta Massagana,” a version of a Rastafarian hymn that was originally recorded for the Studio One label (a now oft-covered and sampled tune). The trio has cycled through various members throughout the ’80s and ’90s, with original member Linford Manning leaving for good in 1990, leaving the remaining founding members Donald Manning and Bernard Collins to join forces with singer David Morrison (the current incarnation of the trio).
The world will forever remember Pato Banton, another veteran reggae musician, for his brilliant aphorism “I do not sniff the coke I only smoke!” Banton, who released one of the most recognizable and notorious reggae music anthems of all time, 1987’s “Don’t Sniff Coke,” first got his start in reggae as a toaster (MC for a soundsystem) in his hometown of Birmingham, England. Banton gained major notoriety in the Birmingham scene after winning a local talent show that was judged by Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling of The English Beat. This culminated in the single “Pato & Roger A Go Talk,” which was included on The Beat’s final album, Special Beat Service.
Conscious, roots-reggae singer Luciano possesses one of the most notable voices in all of Jamaican music. For nearly the entirety of his career, Luciano has committed himself to channeling his Rastafarian spirituality through his music — which was a slight contrast from his breakout 1993 single, a cover version of Cheryl Lynn’s love song “Shake It Up Tonight.” Affectionately referred to as the “messenja,” Luciano has received numerous awards for his politically, spiritually and conscious lyrics, including the Mandela award for “Most Cultural Artist.”
Sadly, KRS-One, who was originally scheduled to appear on Saturday, has cancelled due to the death of his son.
Northwest World Reggae Festival Friday-Sunday, Aug. 10-12. Gates open at 10 am Friday. Mowhawk Valley, $110 three days plus camping, $85 Saturday and Sunday plus camping, $35 Sunday. Visit www.nwworldreggae.comfor full lineup and schedule.