The 22nd UCLA Jazz-Reggae Festival ‘08
A Weekend of Peace, Love, and Music
Review and Photos by Jan Salzman
Reggae Day – May 26
June 1, 2008 – Los Angeles, CA – It was a beautiful Southern California afternoon–the temperature in the 70s, the warm sun shining and cool Pacific Ocean breezes filled the air. The Intramural Field at UCLA was filling up with blankets, drawn by the inviting aroma from the great food booths that surrounded this diver – se collection of fans. One of the largest student-run events in the country, the annual JazzReggae fest regularly sees tens of thousands flock to its Memorial Day weekend celebration.
Monday was Reggae Day, and first up on the main stage was Rebelution, who kicked off the day to a rocking Reggae riddim. With the crowd warmed up, fans were ready for Pangea Collective, a band that features Baba Ken Okulolo, from King Sunny Ade’s band, on bass and vocals, and Soji Odukogbe, guitar and vocals, from Fela Kuti’s band. Pangea Collective is huge group, with lots of percussion and a full horn section. They offer a wonderful blend of African rhythms with a jazzy overtone. The band, themselves dressed colorfully, brought out three very African-decorated and beautiful women to shake it up – and had the crowd doing so, too!
Next up was Selena Serrano, a DJ based in Miami, who came out performing with a sound system. She is known mostly for her song “Sound Killa,” which is a dub plate-style remake of Rihanna’s hit song, “Umbrella.”
Alaine, an American-born Jamaica-raised singer/songwriter, followed. Performing songs from her new CD Sacrifice, she performed the title track, as well as “Dreaming of You” and “Rise in Love.” Her sweet, melodic R&B voice is balanced by a dynamic Dancehall influence. She is a well-known performer in Jamaica and is now beginning to make a splash in the USA.
Kingston’s own Mr. Vegas had everybody dancing with his legendary hit single, “Heads High.” The veteran Dancehall artist also performed “Hot Gal Today,” a single voted one of the all time best collaborations by Vibe magazine, and “Hot Wuk,” which made an entrance on Billboard’s Hot R&B/ Hip Hop Singles chart.
Then it was time for the headliner and highlight of the day, Stephen Marley. Clad in a western-style denim shirt, Stephen came bounding onstage to “Punky Reggae Party.” He followed up with “Chase Dem,” from his Grammy-winning CD Mind Control. Next up was his father’s “Duppy Conqueror.” Stephen’s raspy voice, sounding the most like his legendary father Bob Marley, gives me chills. Overall, he performed seven of his father’s songs and seven of his own. He had the 20,000 plus crowd singing along with every song! Now and then, he would skip a lyric and let the audiences sing it, pointing the microphone into the crowd. For the last song, “Could YouBe Loved,” he was joined onstage by big brother, Ziggy Marley. It was also great to see and hear his band members, as most of them — Chris, Squidly, Bowie, and Erica — are all from the former Melody Makers band. Big up to everyone! It was a fantastic show.
Following a brief band change, the closing artist, Capleton, was not to be out done. The dynamic Dancehall performer raced back and forth across the stage, delivering such hits as “That Day Will Come (Small World)” and “Cooyah, Cooyah.” I am astonished at the
amount of energy that Capleton puts out onstage. When his set was finished, he came straight over to the press area and graciously posed for photos and granted a few interviews. He is very magnanimous.
Exhausted from a fabulous day and a magnificent event put on by the UCLA students, I headed home, anxious to check out the photos! I look forward to this well-produced festival every year. Thanks to Jenny Ahn and the UCLA publicity crew for their assistance and support.