August 8-12, 1995 Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre Montego Bay, Jamaica
1995 was the third year of "the festival of choice", Reggae Sumfest. Summerfest Productions Limited's Godfrey Dyer and his talented and hard working team created a spectacular music festival that secured the support of a great group of sponsors, the MoBay business community and Reggae Music fans from around world. The previous year's festival was top notch in every way from performances and production values to ital nourishment's and clean restrooms. This year's festival was even better. Read on for highlights of each night.
After a very pleasant flight on Air Jamaica including an excellent breakfast of fish, rice and fruit, I walked off the plane into the bright Jamaican sun, filled with excitement. Arriving a little earlier than expected, I had to wait a bit while the Reggae Sumfest contact at that airport located Greg Bagarozy who was picking me up. With dozens of performers, tons of equipment, thousands of Reggae music fans from around the world, video & audio production recording and lighting crews all descending upon MoBay simultaneously, it was pretty intense. There was still a tremendous amount of equipment to set up, more people coming and not a single hotel room in Montego Bay available. But everyone was cool and determined.
Once Greg picked me up, we went to a beautiful villa in the mountains above MoBay that had been arranged for us by Robert Russell, one of Reggae Sumfest's Jamaican founders and managing partners. Very upset when Sunsplash, a music festival nearly 20 years old, moved to Kingston, Robert and his partners created REGGAE SUMFEST to make sure Montego Bay stayed the home of the world's greatest Reggae music festival. Now in its third year, it is already "clearly the festival of choice." After spending the day at the sight we went back to the villa for a swim and dinner. Louise, our housekeeper made us a spectacular meal of grilled fish and potatoes followed by fresh slices of mango, and some of the world's best coffee from Jamaica's Blue Mountains. We then drove downtown where the streets were filled with partying Jamaicans and international visitors all enjoying the cool night breezes off the ocean and anticipating the start of REGGAE SUMFEST '95.
I hung out at Walter's, a great bar in town on the coast road, and had a great time talking to Andrew. He worked during the week at Walter's Bar but for the next few days he would have his own food booth at the festival. He would get to hear and see the whole show and make more money then he would make in four or five weeks at Walter's. He felt like everybody else, REGGAE SUMFEST '95 was a wonderful event. Great music, a coming together of wonderful people from all over the world and an influx of prosperity that benefited everybody in the Montego Bay area. A few thousand people were rockin' to the soundclash just down the beach and everywhere else the party was beginning as well.
Tonight, Tuesday August 8th, was the "warm up": a soundclash at the Walter Fletcher Beach. As dozens of video equipment flight cases were being unloaded, the digital audio recording team from Disney/MGM was starting to get a little edgy. They had been down here for two days waiting to fire up their state of the art system and still had no power with the show less than 24 hours away from start time. They are here to capture what will probably amount to 50 hours or more of music over the next five days. It looked like they might be able to do an equipment check by midnight.
After calling it a day about 4AM, we told Louise at our villa we would be ready for breakfast about 10:30 am. Tim, Jose and Greg made it but the table was cleared before I got out there. Louise greeted me with fresh fruit and Blue Mountain coffee. After breakfast I took a chair by the pool to meditate and collect my thoughts a bit before heading off to Catherine Hall Entertainment Center.
The Disney/MGM audio crew, Ric Weatherbee, Tim Wilson and Don Worsham, had finally gotten their 32 track digital recording system set-up, wired in and tested about 2:30 am. Video gear would be going into place this afternoon. There was still a lot to do before show time at 8 PM.
At about 1:30 PM, as we headed over the site to get to work, very dark clouds were quickly filling the sky and occasional rumbles of thunder threatened a massive storm. I wondered a little about the miles of power and equipment wiring strung all over the site, hung from trees, on fences, in ditches, snakes of cable were everywhere. Two massive speaker towers each were filled with 40 speakers, half of which were Cerwin Vega bottom end units. Summerfest Productions was not doing anything halfway here. Each system being put in place for these shows must be set up, tested and working by somewhere close to the planned showtime. The camera crew was definitely getting nervous - it was 4 o'clock and all the camera cables and video tape were still held up in customs at the airport. Finally, after a call to Walter, one of the show's Producers, everything magically cleared customs and a police escort was assigned to get the truck to the site. So, with the exception of the boom camera which was coming in tomorrow, we had everything needed for the audio and video production.
I spent much of the rest of the afternoon with Ed Kritzler, writer, Reggae fan and now head of Jampro, and independent segment of (xxgarbledxxwordxx) industries. We soon discovered why we met and uncovered many interesting possibilities for the future. Ed is building a directory of motion picture and music industry contacts to be put up on the Internet. After a great conversation about Cyberspace future, we agreed that we would have to work together so. There will be more about this at our site in the coming weeks.
People started to line up at the gates between 6-7 PM and it was now almost 8 PM. It was actually looking like all would be ready for an 8:30 or 9 PM start. As the first people began coming in, the only difficulty was that none of the trenches holding all of the wiring in the crowd area were filled in yet. Four guys with shovels were looking at the probably 120 feet of two foot wide trench saying how are we supposed to do all this with the crowd already coming in!
While the trench guys were still long way from done, the Fab 5 began pumping out the show's opening set as thousands of balloons were released from behind the stage. Reggae Sumfest '95 had officially started its massive four day line up.
With the likes of Dobby Dobson, Hopeton Lewis, Scotty, Derrick Morgan and the Clarendonians on the bill, it is hard to pick a highlight. But my picks are Scotty in the first half of the show and then the killer trio of acts, Ken Boothe, Leroy Sibbles and the Heptones and John Holt, who closed the show. Very few of the 6 -7 thousand people had left and while some slept on blankets or beach chairs, most were on their feet skanking and clapping hands as the first rays of sun began to come up behind the stage. It was wonderful - a full moon just dropping below the horizon behind us, the starts bright above us and the sun coming up to the smooth harmonies and pulsating rhythms of the Heptones. The joy and unity of Reggae Sumfest permeated the air. All I could say was thank you Jah for putting this adventure on my path.
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: Vintage Night Part 1
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: Vintage Night Part 2
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: Vintage Night Part 3
Come back soon to Reggae for future updates and to log on to Cyberspace where we will give you a front row seat for the show. transmitted from the site 8/10/95 @ 19:17
Kingston, Jamaica's capital on the eastern end of the island, about 120 miles away, had been hit with four inches of rain as a tropical depression slid through the area but here in MoBay the sun was shining. For the last two days we had not even had the normal afternoon thunderstorms.
All the thunder has been reserved for the stage. Make a joyful noise unto Jah! With the festival moving into the big second half, the showâ€™s international audience is going strong. Chalice is the first band up tonight and as they begin to pump out a mesmerizing groove, Japanese, German, British and Canadian music fans mix with the huge American and Jamaican contingents to form a wonderfully diverse crowd that is sharing in the unity of the event. Beyond the number of nationalities and cultures, every economic level is represented in a crowd that has universally been brought together to share four days of love and respect. While technical and logistic challenges have needed constant behind the scenes attention, the audience has been a producerâ€™s dream come true. With Red Stripe Beer, Tings' (a delicious carbonated grapefruit drink) and the pungent aroma of Jah herb flowing through the crowd, a joyful 4-day musical community has come together for this event.
With the exception of a few short breaks of 10-15 minutes for band changes, the music has been non-stop with even the newer and unsigned early acts on each bill delivering dynamite sets. Early on in tonightâ€™s festivities, Carlene Davis brings the crowd together with one of the clear highlight performances of the night. It's so good the show's television producer/director, Neil Olshansky, corners her after the set to try and line her up for another project he is working on.
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: Dancehall Night Part 1
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: Dancehall Night Part 2
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: Dancehall Night Part 3
Through the night, Everton Blender, Freddie McGregor, Buju Banton, and Frankie Paul deliver equally hot sets helping to keep nearly all of the 25,000 - 30,000 fans on their feet skanking for the entire 12 hours of performances. With the warm sun already high in the sky, one of the all greats of Reggae music, Dennis Brown, brings the nightâ€™s festivities to a joyful close at 8 AM and our Reggae community disperses to hotels, beaches and many off to work hoping to get enough rest so that they will be fresh for the big finale tonight. Feet and bodies are weary but spirits are high with anticipation for the performances that will be starting in a few hours.
transmitted from the site 8/12/95 @ 22:27
It's about 5 PM when Leroy drops me off at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Center. With most everything in place after night one, all of the crews got to have later call time (and a few hours sleep) but most everyone had arrived already and were setting up for the night's tribute to U-Roy.
I met up with Ralph M. Neuman, Greg's partner in putting this technical extravaganza together. Ralph has been involved with the musiic industry and it's businessaspects since the days when he was hanging out with Berry Gordi when Motown Records was coming together. He is also a major Reggae fan. Neither of us being to anxious to leave a chair when we found one (standing and skanking for 14 hours can tire out your feet!), we sat in the backstage area and talked for an hour or so about concerts, radio, our mutual excitement about the Internet and how happy we both were to a part of this event. Taking the whole thing to the world with feeds of most of the 4 day show via the Internet really had everyone excited. A first for the net and a whole new way to bring Reggae music and this phenomenal group of performers to the world. We are going to be provided with a rough mix of the entire show and should start presenting portions within 2-3 weeks.
Reluctantly, I decided I had better take a walk around and see how all was going. The stage lighting system had been brought up to 100% earlier in the day which will make many more effects possible than were available last night. Our 28 foot boom camera had also arrived and was in place. Although a little tired everyone was feeling great today - all the equipment was working very well and the various technical and festival coordinators had fallen into synch. The slightly stressed environment of yesterday had been replaced by one of relaxed confidence.
Inside the hall (which is actually an enclosed area that looks like an oversized baseball field) the staff is raking and cleaning the field of debris for a clean start a couple of hours from now. Around the entire perimeter of the field, local vendors are setting up for the night ahead in 8 X 10 foot shops. A variety of local restaurants and companies are represented along with dozens of other local craftsmen and cooks. For many of them, like Andrew who I had gotten to know the other day, this was a big entrepreneurial opportunity. The smells of chicken, curry goat and fish being grilled over charcoal fires creates a delicious aroma in the air. Above the shops, Walter's' restaurant and Appleton Rum each have VIP areas that will soon fill up to capacity. Backstage, some the musicians were starting to arrive.
About 7:30 PM the gates opened and the audience began to trickle in. One family was setting up a tent and others were staking their claims using space blankets, air mattresses and lounge chairs. Some of the entrepreneurial spirited local people were selling "Reggae Beds" which are sheets of cardboard to provide a clean space to sit or sleep on later in the night. Space was going to be at a premium tonight with 25,000 people expected to stream through the gates by midnight.
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: International Night One - Part 1
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: International Night One - Part 2
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: International Night One - Part 3
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: International Night One - Part 4
A little lightning threatened on the horizon but a beautiful, cool night with a full moon and star filled sky lay ahead for Reggae Sumfest 95's joyous and high energy dance hall night. With an "on time" start of 8:30 PM, the Ninja Force Band got into a tight groove from the opening notes. With a non-stop stream of super talent each wanting to outdo their brethren. All the back-up bands tonight served up musical dynamite rolling with the flow as each DJ artist played to the charged energy the huge crowd focused on the stage.With all of their equipment finally in place, the lighting crew took their contribution to a new height with great timing and stunning effects. The boom camera soaring over the crowd and stage made it very clear to performers and audience alike how big the event is that they are all a part of.
With the final night of Reggae Sumfest 95 getting underway on stage, I am still back at our house on Peterson Street in the iron shores section of MoBay. Each day, everybody is sleeping a little later and it was nearly 6 PM when I rolled out of bed. As it turned out, there was no rush because the vans picking up our scattered crew (and baggage for those leaving right after the show,) were all running late. Three days into the marathon, the nerves of some of our team were a little shot and we needed to get them settled down first.
When I reached Catherine Hall, audio was rolling but video was still doing set-up. Sadly, the cameras missed Cidade Negra who brought their strong Reggae groove from Brazil to Jamaica. Don't worry though, we will be bringing the audio to you right here at Reggae.
About 90 minutes into the show, tape was rolling on video as one of the night's highlights took the stage. Julian Marley and Damion Junior Gongo Marley brought their Dad's presence to the festivities for International Night II in honor of the Marley legacy. The outstanding talent manifested in all of Bob's children as a thing of wonder. Original material and covers of several of their Dad's songs provided a powerful set for the crowd.
While other nights presented nearly all Jamaican talent, this final night had strong international flavor. Sakoya, from Japan, brought her great voice and high energy performance to the stage and easily won over the crowd. The same can easily be said from Brazil's representatives, Leejahn from Canada, Morgan Heritage from N.Y. and Steel Pulse from the U.K.. None of them outshined the locally based stars of our show including Ini Kamoze, Junior Tucker, Mykal Rose and a show stealing performance by Chaka Demus - Pliers.
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: International Night Two - Part 1
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: International Night Two - Part 2
AUDIO RECORDING FROM REGGAE SUMFEST 95: International Night Two - Part 3
The energy tonight was only challenged by dance hall night. The vibes pumped out from the stage kept most of the tired but happy crowd on their feet through most of the show but a lot more people were grabbing naps on the hard ground than any of the other nights. Fewer people made it to the final night and from a peak of about 20,000, the numbers had dwindled to a few hundred when Tootâ€™s and the Maytals closed this yearâ€™s festival at about 9 AM Sunday morning. It has been four days of spectacular music, audiences filled with love and positive energy and a festival run with a level of professionalism that would be respected anywhere in the world.
Reggae Sumfest 95 had clearly been a major success on all levels and thanks to our audio and video crews, a state-of-the-art record of the event would soon be available to the world.
A large Jamaican and U.S. crew came together, combining their skills and talent to make everything come together. While we are sure to miss some of the many indispensable people, hereâ€™s a partial credit list to thank the dozens of people who fought fatigue and all the normal technical challenges to get the job done.
The biggest thanks goes to the founders and Executive Producers of the show headed up by Godfrey Dyer, Robert Russell, Johnny Gourzong and Walter Elmore, supported by Winston Chen, Walt Crooks and Sydney Reid. Greg Bagarozy and Ralph Newman headed up the U.S. contingent with Neil Olshanksy as our Producer Director. Special thanks goes to Jose Barrios in the Associate Director post who guided the camera crew for much of the show. Tim Mack, Bob Hunter, Mark Sector and Fritz Lang were among the team members who made it happen. Chuck Goslin, on the 28â€™ boom camera deserves special thanks for his flawless of work. On the Jamaican side, Summerfest Productions Ltd. put together just as strong a team. Here is a list and thank you for the key members of the Jamaica team: