Saluting the Rebel
Rebel Salute 2014 review and photos by Sista Irie
radio producer/host, photojournalist, Austin, Texas
“The Preservation of Reggae Music,” the stated mission of this year’s Rebel Salute is no easy task. That said, Tony Rebel has literally ‘set the stage’ sending a clear message to national and international fans, historical and emerging artists and growing support of the Jamaican business community, that Rebel Salute, without doubt, provides a much needed positive impact on the economy, societal values and world wide recognition. It is no small feat for a reggae music promoter to achieve 21 years of continuous festival growth and community commitment. When asked to comment, Tony Rebel emphasizes the undeniable fact that “Rebel Salute is important to our music, our culture, our people and our country.”
The evolution of a nation’s music plays a critical role in the resulting value systems and culture of a country. From “The Role of Music in Human Culture” published in Thought Economics, music is defined as “one of the most primal and fundamental aspects of human culture and possibly pre-dates the emergence of language.” In essence, music is the universal language of mankind. The Preservation of a society’s musical heritage provides an intellectual foundation for understanding and analyzing the evolving outcomes resulting in historical blueprints to be replicated or refined. Either way, the study of human culture and art substantiates the fact that history is defined by more than language. The Andean textiles of ancient Peru, predating language, allowed historians to understand the societal evolution and traditional customs of the indigenous people. Music with and without words defines historical relevance as well as societal customs and mores. What a culture chooses to document, promote and pursue can influence the legitimization of a society’s contributions and imposes accountability and responsibility.
Rebel Salute continues to seek and recognize critical elements of Jamaican music. Contributions to a potent and vibrant musical heritage is evidenced by the festival’s performance of ancient African Nyahbinghi drumming and chanting, the presence of foundation artists expressing political and collective realities and the positive acknowledgement of emerging singers and players. Tony Rebel blends a rich combination of musical talent, diverse and balanced, exciting and inspirational, educational and entertaining. The expansion from a one night festival to two, full to the max by national and international fans and press, should send a strong message to the powers that be, that Rebel Salute is a positive influence not only for the people of the nation but as a statement to the international community. It’s a first class recipe and the resulting success should be revered and supported by business and government. To not ride the waves of international adoration of Jamaican music, especially when other countries and cultures revere the lyrically potent and creative embellishments of conscious reggae music can best be described as extreme ignorance and irresponsibility. The opportunity to showcase the best of Jamaican musical talent and growing a vibrant artistic economy is a no brainer.
This year’s Rebel Salute went beyond expectations. With the exception of a light rain both nights, the representation of talent and stage transitions appeared to be close to perfection. The only negative comments heard were related to the small and poorly designed press/media area extremely challenging for the many local and international photographers. Hopefully, this can be worked out next year as the press is the festival’s best marketing opportunity for lasting impressions.
Friday evening began with a moving and vibrant presentation by the Nyahbinghi group Rasta Village Live. Izinga, a regular participant at Rebel Salute contributes as songwriter and lead chanter for the Rasta Village Live Band. Rastafarian children join their parents onstage flag waving, drumming and chanting. More information about Rastafari culture and livity can be witnessed at the Rastafari Indigenous Village outside of Montego Bay where Nyahbinghi music, building of ancient African drums, cultivation of medicinal herbs and other Rasta Livity is demonstrated. RastaVillage.com
Foundation artists, The Tamlins, Johnny Osbourne, Fred Locks, John Holt and Max Romeo captured the evening with a sensuous sentimental journey delivering solidly sweet sounds and old time rhythms reminiscent of the infectious roots reggae that launched Jamaican music into international recognition.
A comprehensive representation of the Reggae Revivalists reduced concerns that reggae music is anything but fading into extinction. Performances by Hempress Sativa, Iba Mahr, Kabaka Pyramid, Jesse Royal, Damarah Danni,and Pentateuch Band exemplified crucial and prophetic lyrical warnings of a new world order. The Reggae Revivalists are best defined as an upcoming generation of talented youth addressing social activism with the power of the pen. These youth are rooted in Rastafari and Haile Selassie guidance and are supremely powerful role models for the youth of Jamaica that are currently lost in a sea of musical garbage. Several Revivalists referred to the sad state of Jamaican politics and the recent threat posed by the eviction of Rastafari from Pinnacle, the first Rastafarian Community, located in the hills outside of Kingston. Other talented artists such as Duane Stephenson, Bugle, Chuck Fender, Spanner Banner, Jah Cutta, Omari, Ikaya, and Belizian artist, Eljai, tantalized and energized a colorful and spirited shimmering sea of faces blending into the darkness of night. The night’s most beloved artists ignited a historical replay of reggae history via living components of Marley, Tosh and Wailer. Performances by Bunny Wailer, Andrew Tosh and Damian Marley strengthened the overstanding and urgent need for the Preservation of Reggae Music. Tony Rebel took the stage in celebration of his birthday while Luciano rounded out the night with a set of beatitudes raising the sun in an elegant show of thanks and praises.
Saturday night’s show began a little late due to early evening rain but quickly launched into a driving mix of legendary and crucial reggae performers. The crowd amassed quickly undaunted by earlier precipitation and staunchly stood through intermittent drizzle from dusk to dawn. Fans of all ages and nations were fully engrossed in the diverse mix of old-time and new era reggae. Several artists represented both the roots and dancehall aspect of reggae music and brought forth by distinguished performers such as Pinchers, Lt Stitchie, Admiral Tibet and Big Youth. Louie Culture, Little Hero, Ginjah, and I Wayne held down a newer era of reggae/dancehall. In addition, legendary artists, including the extremely talented Leroy Sibbles, Horace Andy and Bob Andy balanced the dancehall mix with a solid vault of early reggae classics. Socially conscious lyrics continued to flow and penetrated the night by singers such as the legendary Edi Fitzroy, Bushman, Jah Cure, Patrick Buddo, Terry Linen and the emerging and talented Jah Bouks who rammed the crowd with his hot single Angola. The most energizing and cathartic moments erupted when Queen Ifrica, Capelton and Rodney Price performed fiery sets bringing loud displays of praise and bullhorns from the crowd.
Rebel Salute is the ultimate embellishment of a pure hearted, strategic alignment of cultural, economic and societal principles that educates, entertains and preserves the musical heritage of Jamaica. This ingenious representation of reggae history, past and present within a two day festival is a major accomplishment and should be rewarded and recognized by all entities who support the cultural arts and heritage of their country.
“With the Preservation of Reggae Music, it is incumbent upon us, as selectors of the performers, to select artists who set the foundation and those who are carrying it through. The founding fathers created and secured a sacred legacy for our generation and for future generations.”-Tony Rebel
Enjoy the slideshow, courtesy Sista Irie Photography