TThe ohe three days of peace, love and music that happened at the Old Port were exactly what the world needs more of in these crazy times. It must have been the spirit of Bob Marley or something but you could not have had a more relaxed and joyful time than what happened during the Montreal Reggae Festival. 20,000 people (the estimated attendance over the 3 days) would have had to agree with me.
The organizers of the Reggae Festival added some new wrinkles to this their third festival and they were definitely for the better. First they added some free daytime shows each of the days, the organizers invited some Latino acts in to perform and then they chose the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Bob Marley's death as the theme for the festival. The free shows ran for roughly 6 hours each day and for a price that everyone could afford you could watch that many hours of quality reggae music. This making part of the festivities free really backed up reggae's claim for equality of the classes. The inviting of Latino acts attracted a whole different section of the population, which allows them to discover Reggae music. It also gives the performers a chance to show us what is going on in Latino music. What we learn is that music is the international language and that despite differences in culture or race music has the ability to unite us all. Bob Marley is the perfect person to celebrate in these times of social and political upheaval. We could all take a lesson from this ambassador of Reggae and practice "One Love".
The organizers were able to bring in several top notch international acts this year, like Shaggy, Maxi Priest and Barrington Levy. Again, these acts are able to attract people who are not necessarily hardcore Reggae fans and give them a taste of the varieties and flavours of Reggae. This festival demonstrated that it is also about introducing new, upcoming and local acts to the music listening public. Some of the best times were had at the sets by Tanya Stephens, spoken word performer Mutabaruka, Latino act Voltio, and Marlon Asher.
Unlike some music festivals who try to spread themselves too thin, the Reggae festival knows what their strenghts are and they stick to them. The only complaint I have about the festival is that they have to shut down by 11 p.m. each night. C'mon, this is Montreal not Toronto! Let's see if they can work on that with city officials by next year!