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 There is real concern that the reggae acts have dwindled over the years at Reggae Sumfest, the festival dubbed the ‘Greatest Reggae Show on Earth’. Two international nights were featured at this year’s staging, along with a dancehall night which leaves the lingering questions regarding the relationship between reggae and Sumfest.

It is true that reggae will live on, owing to the iconic Bob Marley, but many might not be able to make a clear distinction between reggae and dancehall. Some people, though, know enough to not be fooled, and we should all be able to “feel it in the one drop”.

The history of reggae possibly coincides with the evolution of Jamaican society and the music has always proven to be a crowd puller, especially to foreigners. If one should look at Rebel Salute, a stage show/concert held every January in St Ann, all of the major reggae acts can be expected to turn out to standing ovations by their adoring audience on each of the three nights.

It is clear that there is no shortage of quality reggae performers in the country, neither is there a shortage of fans for the genre. With reggae acts on show, one would be pardoned for taking Rebel Salute more seriously than the proclaimed “greatest reggae show on earth”. With that said, why should it be accepted that reggae acts at Sumfest are so few in numbers with an even shorter stage time?

t is true the genre that is most popular among today’s youth is undoubtedly dancehall, which could be the reason there is a dancehall night to showcase the local heavyweights. However, with a new wave of impressive reggae performers coming through, young fans are slowly boarding the reggae wagon again. We are of the belief that the likes of Chronixx, Protoje, Kabaka Pyramid, Keznamdi and Jesse Royal could headline a ‘Reggae Night’ and easily bring in as many patrons as any one of the international nights.

The crux of the matter is: where is the reggae in Reggae Sumfest? Surely it is not simply a name. Sure, the name attracts international patrons — many of whom may refer to both roots reggae and dancehall as ‘reggae’. However, one would think that a show called Reggae Sumfest would have a reggae night, or at least a showcase of reggae acts offered by Jamaica.


One would think these acts would be prominent on a poster, in lieu of (no disrespect intended) international artistes, soome of whom are not exactly steeped in anything but mediocrity.

Jennifer Hudson aside, the international acts on show this year were not so mind-blowingly must-see to displace any reggae acts Jamaica has to offer. Even in the weeks leading up to Reggae Sumfest, the dancehall artistes are promoted more than reggae acts, and are given more airtime alongside the international performers.

Now, we know the show is a business for the promoters. Why change something that has been working? However, reggae also works. Ask the thousands of Jamaican fans overjoyed at the recent reggae renaissance. Ask people in Japan, Germany, Austria.

It does not take much of a marketing mind to coalesce Jamaica’s pull as a tourist destination, status as the home of reggae, and a summer festival showcasing authentic Jamaican reggae.

Calling it Reggae Sumfest year after year with a dwindling number of reggae performers on show distorts the image of what reggae truly is in Jamaica. It certainly is not dancehal acts and their frivolous onstage antics. A recommendation would be to rename the show “Sumfest” if no changes are made to the current format.

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