This year marks the 25th Annual Reggae Sumfest festival, a week-long celebration of Jamaican heritage and music which occurs during the third week of July. Sumfest is scheduled from July 16 to July 22 this year, with the climatic main musical events scheduled for July 21 and July 22. Daily parties with DJ’s and dancing lead up to the final events. Reggae Sumfest is held in Montego Bay, a short half hour drive from Anticipation Villa at the Tryall Club. Read more to find out about the history of reggae and Reggae Sumfest. Are you a reggae fan? Learn how you can live stream performances this year and join the party next year!
What is Reggae?
Reggae is a uniquely Jamaican genre of music derived from ska, an upbeat, rhythmic variation of New Orleans R&B. During a very hot summer in the early 1960’s, ska music became impractical to play due to it's energetic, fast beat. The tempo was slowed down and the resulting music became known as reggae. [i] Reggae is slower than ska but faster than rocksteady, two Jamaican music genres which preceded reggae. [ii]
The first truly distinguishable reggae records were released in 1968. “Nanny Goat” was released by Larry Marshall and “No More Heartaches” was released by The Beltones. [iii]
Bob Marley is the most internationally well-known Jamaican reggae musician. His band, Bob Marley and The Wailers, is representative of most the major Jamaican music genres from the 21st Century. They transitioned from ska, to rocksteady, and finally to reggae. [iv]
Most Reggae music makes use of the call and response musical technique, where two distinct phrases are played by two different musicians and the second phrase is a direct commentary on or response to the first phrase. Typically, reggae music makes use of the guitar, bass guitar, drum kit and other percussion instruments, piano, synthesizer, electronic organ, brass instruments, and the melodica or key harmonica. One of the most distinctive features of reggae music is the use of offbeat rhythms. Usually, reggae is sung in Jamaican Patois, Jamaican English or Iyaric (Rastafarian) dialects. [v]
The traditional topic of reggae music is social criticism or religion. Often subjects include black nationalism, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism, and criticism of many political systems. Rastafarian musicians often write pro-marijuana songs, which is a sacrament in the Rastafarian religion. Rastafarians may also write music about the concept of “Babylon,” which refers generally the rebellion against any system which oppresses or discriminates against all peoples. Many reggae songs also take inspiration from mento or Jamaican folk songs. [vi]
The History of Reggae Sumfest
Reggae Sumfest was established in 1993 to replace reggae Sunsplash after it left Montego Bay. Reggae Sumfest has proved adaptable over the past 25 years and has altered its image continuously to appeal to both its organizers and attendees allowing it to grow and thrive. In recent years. Reggae Sumfest has incorporated performances from massively popular international music artists, including Rihanna, Kanye West, Usher, Christopher Brown, Alicia Keys, Nicky Minaj, 50 Cent, Lionel Ritchie and others. [vii]
In 2016, Summerfest Productions sold Reggae Sumfest to DownSound Entertainment. This sale initiated a massive change for Reggae Sumfest. DownSound Entertainment wanted to celebrate Jamaica by bringing authentic Jamaican heritage to the world using Reggae Sumfest as a platform. Because of this new direction, Reggae Sumfest 2016 was a huge success and set records in both attendance and online streaming. [viii]
For Reggae Sumfest 2017, DownSound has partnered with many international brands and with the Jamaica Tourist Board to increase the festivals international impact. DownSound and its partners alike hope that attendance and steaming will continue to increase and that the festival will encourage international travel to Jamaica. [ix]
This Year’s Lineup and Schedule
Sumfest begins on Sunday, July 16 with a Beach Party at the famed Tropical Bliss Beach in Montego Bay. The cover fee is $16 USD ($2000 JMD) and party goers can purchase a beach table cabana for an additional cost. [x]
On Monday, July 17, Sumfest at Sunset will be held on a yacht which will depart from Pier 1 at 7:00 PM and return at 11:00 PM. There will be an after party on the pier. Tickets are pre sold for $43 USD ($5500 JMD). [xi]
The All White party will be held on Tuesday, July 18 at Pier 1. All White Parties, as indicated by the name, are parties where the attendees are asked to where all or mostly white. Pre sold tickets cost $20 USD ($2500 JMD). [xii]
The Blitz Retro Block Party will take place on Wednesday, July 19, at the Pier 1 Entertainment Center. This party features music from the 90’s to the 2000’s and attendees are asked to wear 90’s attire. A costume contest will be held and a prize will be awarded to the group with the best 90's outfits. Pre sold tickets cost $16 USD ($2000 JMD). [xiii]
The Heavyeight Sound Clash will take place on Thursday, July 20, at the Pier 1 Entertainment Center. Pre sold tickets cost $20 USD ($2500 JMD).[xiv] Soundclash is a type of completion where DJ’s compete for the crowd’s approval using technologically advanced sound equipment and their DJing skills. These competitions began on the streets of Kingston and have since become an international phenomenon with well established rules. Each DJ, referred to as a "system,” takes turns playing music. One system is eliminated each round based on the crowd’s show of approval. A referee is usually present to facilitate proceedings.[xv] This year’s contestants include Tony Matterhorn from Jamaica, No Limit Sound from Jamaica, Warrior Sound International from Germany, Yard Beat from Japan, and Soul Supreme from New York. [xvi]
Finally, the main event will take place on Friday, July 21 and Saturday, July 22 at the Catherine Hall Festival Grounds. On Friday evening, artists such as Alkaline, Mavado, Bounty Killer, Tory Lanez, Aidonia, Dexta Daps, Spice, Tommy Lee Sparta, Masicka, Patoranking, Devin Di Dakta, Tifa, Jahmiel, Ding Dong, Harry Toddler & Ikel Marvelous, Shenseea, TJ, Iyara, K Queens, Singer J and Sanjay & Spotlight will appear. Saturday evening will feature artists such as Sean Paul, Sizzla, Beenie Man, Jah Cure, Queen Ifrica, Christopher Martin, Richie Stephens & Ska Nation Band, Mad Cobra, Kabaska Pyramid, Sean Kingston, Ras-I, Deep Jahi, Meleku, Davianah, and other special guest stars. Both events run from 8:30 PM to 6:00 AM. General Admission tickets for Friday evening cost $38 USD and VIP tickets cost $58 USD. General Admission tickets for Saturday evening cost $42 USD and VIP tickets cost $63 USD. [xvii]
All attendees must be 18 years of age or older, the legal drinking age in Jamaica. Reggae Sumfest has launched a “iPledge to Drink Right” campaign to promote the safe consumption of alcohol at all the Reggae Sumfest parties and events. [xviii]
Want to get in on the party? Don't forget to check out the live streams and watch performances from home!
How to Attend Reggae Sumfest 2018
Although it is too late to attend Reggae Sumfest 2017, it is never too early to begin planning for Reggae Sumfest 2018. Tickets to Reggae Sumfest can be purchased online on the Reggae Sumfest website. Presold tickets are less expensive than tickets sold the day of the event. You can purchase tickets to single events or purchase a package which includes tickets to all events. Dates for Reggae Sumfest 2018 have not yet been confirmed. Keep an eye open for when tickets come on sale!
As for accommodations – look no further than Anticipation Villa! Located a short half hour drive from Montego Bay, Anticipation is a perfect place to stay while attending Reggae Sumfest. You can relax by our private pool, pampered by our professional staff of seven, after partying all night at Reggae Sumfest. Our staff will take care of everything from your dirty laundry to gourmet meal preparation. Don't forget to take advantage of the private beach, spa, golf course, and tennis courts located on the Tryall Estate. We would be happy to help you coordinate transportation to and from venues. Contact us today to begin planning your escape to Reggae Sumfest 2018!
[xv] “Sweet Reggae Music Pon di Attack: A History of Soundclash.” Redbullmusicacademy.com. http://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2016/10/a-history-of-soundclash
Bob Marley and the Wailers: https://s3.amazonaws.com/vf-images/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Bob-Marley-and-the-wailers.png
Rihanna Live at Reggae Sumfest 2006: http://pdpent.com/?portfolios=rihanna
Posters From Reggae Sumfest 2017: http://reggaesumfest.com/
Crowd at the Reggae Sumfest Main Event: http://www.visitjamaica.com/Media/Default/Gallery/Vendors/Reggae%20Sumfest/DSC_3267.jpg