Despite the fact that two out of the three days of the festival were not the best weather-wise, I would have to say that the Montreal International Reggae Festival accomplished what it set out to. The goal, as stated on the website homepage, was to "present an exciting lineup of international reggae stars" and did they ever. A second goal was also to showcase local acts which with the sheer numbers that performed was accomplished. Third, and finally, something new this year, a goal was to categorize the artists performing under the umbrella themes of the three days – Jamaican Sound System, Dancehall and New Roots and Rocksteady Rhythms.
An international flavour was the order of the three days. While Jamaican and local acts always make up the bulk of the acts, there was also representation from Toronto, Ottawa, Antigua, and as far away as Morocco, the Philippines and Ghana. It all went a long way towards showing that reggae is an international music. The beats and philosophy behind it have connected with people worldwide.
Montreal has been and always will be a music city. We love it and produce many high quality acts. The Montreal International Reggae Festival introduced us to many Montreal reggae acts that were begging to be discovered. Artists like Mad'moizelle Giraf, KGB, Auresia, and The Beatdown (amongst others) all performed sets that should make any Montrealers heart burst with pride. The love of reggae music is alive and well in our town!
Full blocks of Dancehall and New Roots or Rocksteady Rhythms makes good sense. Having themes does not mean that every band will sound the same. Quite the contrary! It gave the festivalgoer the opportunity to see the flexibility and nuances within each of the subgenres of reggae music. It also allows you to get legends like U-Roy, Charlie Chaplin, Brigadier Gerry, and Josey Wales on stage at the same time and watch/listen to the magic they weave. A win-win situation.
What is beautiful about reggae music is that it appeals to all ages and cultures. Young and old were under the stars dancing. There were afros, dreads and headscarves in the crowd. People of all different nationalities and backgrounds united under one sound. Enthusiastic dancing happened all through the day and night. You didn't know where to look first. It made for some fantastic people watching, I tell you. The fact that 10,000 people turn up every year to listen to reggae music proves that it is a vital and vibrant part of the music world and that it warrants its own festival. "One Love" is a motto we should all live under.
Photos by Maha Haddad