Music at its Best: A Festival worth the Hype

Held at UCLA’s Intramural Field over Memorial Day weekend, the JazzReggae Festival celebrates the musical genres of jazz and reggae.

At best, the JazzReggae Festival is an extraordinary thing. It’s a significant music festival which doesn’t just rely on names that would fill The Staple Center or the Walt Disney Concert Hall. There’s plenty of food and lots of fanfare.

Now in its 26th year, this event which draws over 20,000 festival goers from colleges and communities across Southern California, featured 13 acts which included Bajan beauty Alison Hinds, Kes the Band, Tarrus Riley, Cris Cab, Don Carlos, Collie Buddz, Shaggy and more.

Held at UCLA’s (University of California, Los Angeles) Intramural Field over Memorial Day weekend, this festival which celebrates the musical genres of jazz and reggae is split over a two day period – jazz themed acts on the first day and the reggae acts the next.

Hosted by Jason Bentley, Anthony Valadez and St. Lucian native Barrie Hype, who kept the crowd hyped between sets, the festival is a fitting wrap-up for a federal holiday weekend which remembers the men and women who died while serving in the US Armed Forces. Though musicians at the festival didn’t linger over grief, there was a moment’s silence observed for fallen heroes before the show kicked off with opener Cris Cab on reggae day. Kes the Band enthralled the crowd with their eclectic combination of soca laced with hints of Rock n’ Roll and modern-day pop sounds, while Alison Hinds, who was performing at the event for the first time proved she rightly deserved the moniker “Queen of Soca”.

Singer/songwriter Tarrus Riley with a quiet energy had the crowd swaying in unison to sentimental favorites from his album “Contagious,” but it was headliner Grammy-winner Shaggy who stole the show proving that he is still a driving force in reggae music as he gyrated on stage complete with comical expressions and exaggerated charm.

For some loyal patrons, this event can present something like a pioneer land-grab. They show up, the earlier the better, with blankets on the ground, straw hats and sunglasses to stake their claims. These are the festival goers who figure out their plan and stick to it, venturing out for supplies only as needed.

Another year, another JazzReggae Festival and another anniversary — the triumph of this year’s festival is that on the surface it is a normal JazzReggae Fest: crowded, sweaty, ebullient and full of fun.

Photos: (Top) Shaggy (bottom) Collie Buddz


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