Hampton Reggae Festival January 21, 2012 review

by Jeremy Sanchez

Hampton reggae festival

Hampton reggae festival

It was a frigid day for a reggae festival (the rain didn’t help), but January 21, 2012 lit a fire inside of the legendary Hampton Coliseum, its outside lights glowing in red, green, and gold. The first ever Hampton Reggae Festival pulled together local and international acts for a truly funky reggae party. Bands often unite to put on a show, but rarely does such a large musical family come together in a spirit of unity. As singer Ras Puma said to the audience during his time on stage, this festival had the feeling of a family reunion, and those who attended were bathed in vibrations of love.

The talent and entertainment choices were plentiful, featuring more than just the main-stage highlights. The first of the day’s mix of music came from the Hampton City Schools Steel Drum Ensemble. Their young hands skillfully drummed out a series of recognizable tunes, one of their most notable being Bob Marley’s “One Love” – a perfect selection to fit the event’s irie spirit.

A sample of the talent appearing on the multiple side stages included the World Drummers drum circle with Arthur Lopez, a “Tribute to Vinyl” DJ set with DJ Barry and the Conscious Brothers (other DJs woven between the bands included DJ Jerseygoodas and regional heavyweight DJ Badjoe), and an entertaining reggae karaoke session. There was no lack of things to do between the seeing the main-stage acts and sampling some delicious ital food; all one had to do was take a few steps and something was sure to keep them smiling. There was even an indoor skate park for the more daring in the crowd.

The main stage showcased the most well-known talent Virginia’s reggae scene has to offer. Performing under the name of Royal Nyabinghi Drummers, first up was a collective of some of the region’s senior musicians in an inspirational binghi session to get everyone’s blood pumping. Two of the group’s key performers, Young Lion and Gene Selah, hand make the drums sold by Royal Nyabinghi Drums.

The bands that landed on the main stage kept the crowd moving; Virginia’s best are some undeniably talented groups. Antero showed musical diversity in its arrangements, Crucial Elements proved that its vocal harmonies are growing ever stronger, the Session Rockers set was heavy with dubs, and United Souls proved that they can party. A medley of singers performing under the name of Three the Hard Way (Ever-G, Ton A Hope, Junior Blessings) was a diverse treat, and Nature’s Child’s concise talent ended in a crowd sing-a-long of Bob Marley’s “One Love.”

Once they stepped on stage, the band known as Stable Roots stayed, beginning with a talent showcase featuring four standout vocalists: Mighty Joshua (an obviously skilled vocalist), Ever-G (in his second appearance on stage), Ras Puma (always lyrically uplifting, he tours with musical giants, Thievery Corporation), and Corey Harris (internationally-known blues and reggae staple). In a show of endurance, the Stable Roots band never stumbled, and their sets were topped with reggae legends. The day’s three capstone sets included the world-renowned vocal talents of The Itals’ Keith Porter, the long-lived energy of The Meditations, and Culture’s immortal flame, as kept alive by Kenyatta Hill.

Made a reality by the collaborative minds of the Buckroe Beach Reggae Community, Virginia Reggae, Hampton Pipe and Tobacco, and the operators of the Hampton Coliseum, the first Hampton Reggae Festival went down without complications. The festival is sure to grow as word of mouth spreads, but no matter how large this spirited festival is destined to become, the first one only comes around once. Those who battled through freezing rain to be a part were a piece of something bigger than themselves. They were a part of a family united for a day, and it’s always worth a trek through malicious weather when something so rare is the outcome.


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