Barbados Reggae Festival’s booming

Twelve years ago the Jazz Festival and traditional Crop Over were the biggest events in Barbados. The last five years has seen the emergence of the Barbados Reggae Festival.

The 12th staging closed May 1 with Reggae On The Hill at scenic Farley Hill, a former great house just outside the capital, Bridgetown.

Roger ‘Freddy’ Hill, an organiser and co-founder of the week-long event, said over 15,000 fans streamed into the historic venue to see Natural Black, Alaine, Nesbeth, Richie Spice, Romain Virgo, Chronixx, and Freddie McGregor. It was the biggest draw of the week.

Hill has been a show promoter in Barbados for over 20 years. He said it was the Jazz Festival, which attracted major smooth jazz and pop acts, that influenced him and his partners to start an extended reggae event.

“As I remember it, there was a jazz festival in Barbados and my business partners and I were of the humble opinion that we needed something more Caribbean to enhance what Barbados offered as its tourism product. The festival is now a major tourist attraction and we have the support of the minister of tourism and his ministry, as well as the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc,” Hill said.

This year also saw strong turnouts for Reggae Beach Party and Vintage Reggae Show and Dance. Acts on those nights were Spice, Dexter Daps and Alkaline; Wayne Wonder, Half Pint, Carlene Davis, Ken Boothe, Ernie Smith, Courtney Melody and local stars John King and Supa Reuben.

Hill said the festival has grown considerably over the past five years, especially as more Barbadians tune into dancehall/reggae.

“Each year as the experience improves, so does our attendance. There is no one genre of reggae music that is most popular. We as Barbadians gravitate to good music and follow the general trends as it regards what is new on the music scene in reggae or dancehall,” he explained.

With the Barbados Jazz Festival not held since 2010, the Reggae Festival has filled a void. Crop Over, which is similar to carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, starts in June and ends in August.

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