Roots Rock Ragga Muffins!
The 27th Long Beach Reggae Festival Review
Review & Photos by Jan Salzmman
Year 27 of the Ragga Muffins Festival began with a press conference on Sat., Feb. 16, 2008. Promoter Barbara Barabino announced that Alpha Blondy, headliner for the following day, was gravely ill with pneumonia and had to cancel his entire tour. We were also told that artists slated for Saturday’s line-up were delayed in their arrivals, but would be there for their scheduled performances. Following the press function, I made my way to the venue. Along the way to catch the opening acts, I visited the vendors’ wares and great food booths, acclaimed to be the best of any west coast festival.
A reunion of the LA-based Reggae band, Idren, opened the show with an exciting Roots performance. Next on stage was Belize-based New Dimensions, followed by the west coast’s Soul Majestic, and Puerto Rico’s Cultura Profetica. All performances were strong in their Reggae orientation and well received by the growing crowd. Hailing from Jamaica, the popular Rootz Underground performed with a fresh, enjoyable Reggae vibe. Look for this young band to make their mark on the music industry.
Collie Budz, winner of the Reggae Academy Award for Best International Artist, delivered a smashingly good set that included “Give Me Love” and a Marley tribute with the classic “No Woman, No Cry.”
Rastafari was well represented as the popular Anthony B and Capleton delivered spiritual messages within their energetic performances. Some of the songs that Anthony B received the greatest reception for were “Raid Di Barn” and “Ganja Farmer.” Capleton opened with “That Day Will Come (Small World)” and performed “Cooyah, Cooyah.” The sizable Rasta component in the large arena was chanting along with Capleton’s call to “fiyah burn!”
The world-famous and incomparable “Riddim Twins,” drummer Sly Dunbar and bassman Robbie Shakespeare opened with their mesmerizing “Taxi Gang” set. Soon the musically-charged band was joined by the fabulous actress/dancer and now, award-nominated singer Cherine Anderson. She performed her hit “Kingston State of Mind,” as well as such classics as “Redemption Song,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” and “No More Trouble.” She invited a very lucky young man from the crowd to dance with her onstage, showing him – and us – how to ‘wind up our waists inna Dancehall stylee.’
Beenie Man opened the final set with his renowned “Who Am I?” Dressed in a snappy three-piece red suit with white shoes, he performed an in-depth skit aimed at the men in the audience that included telling – and demonstrating — how to make love to a woman “real slow.” His almost hour-long set included all his hits in short form, including the recent “Dude Remix.” He delivered his version of “Redemption Song” in tribute to the great Bob Marley.
Sunday, February 17
The press conference started day two with guest appearances by Gentleman, Tarrus Riley, Dean Fraser, Queen Ifrica,Cherine Anderson, and Anthony B. It was a wonderful event with many of the artists posing for photographs and singing to entertain the press.
Midnite is an amazing Roots Reggae group featuring singer Vaughn Benjamin and his brother Ron on bass. They performed on Sunday late in the day to a packed crowd and really drove the one drop Reggae riddim throughout the arena. The brothers are originally from St. Croix and the group enjoys a large following of Southern California fans.
Gentleman gave a dynamic and uplifting performance with songs like, “Dem Gone,” “Superior,” and “Send A Prayer.” Hailing from Cologne, the German-speaking Gentleman delivered every song in perfect patios, much to the amazement of the crowd.
Sly & Robbie appeared on stage again, this time backing the conscious Dancehall activist, Queen Ifrica. Her set included her award-nominated “Below the Waist,” and controversial “Daddy,” as well as “Randy” and “Boxers and Stockings.” She filled the stage with beauty and the arena with positive vibes.
The ever-entertaining Anthony B returned for a second performance this day that equally thrilled the massive crowd. Tarrus Riley played to a maximum crowd on Sunday. The multi-Reggae Academy Award winner performed his hits, “Stay With You,” “She’s Royal,” and ”Lion Paw.” In tribute to Bob Marley, he performed “Waiting In Vain.” His band was led by veteran musical director, producer, and saxophonist Dean Fraser.
The crowd anxiously awaited the arrival of the “Cool Ruler,” Gregory Isaacs, the final performer on night two. The audience danced and sang along with this Reggae icon as he opened his set with “Number One.” A roar was heard throughout the arena when he launched into his trademark mega hit, the Reggae classic, “Night Nurse.” Gregory closed the show in a grand style and showed that he is still the master of cool.
Exhausted from taking photos and extensive dancing, I left the festival fulfilled with the great positive vibe that this event creates. One of the largest Reggae festivals on the west coast, the Ragga Muffins Fest has survived decades of presenting the best in new and established Reggae artists from around the world. Congratulations to Moss Jacobs and Moss Jacobs Presents, and Ragga Muffins Productions promoter Barbara Barabino for delivering an event that all of Southern California looks forward to year after year.