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Around the World: The Top 10 Caribbean Summer Festivals

Around the World: The Top 10 Caribbean Summer Festivals

Posted by Shanelle Weir on June 06, 2014

The start of the summer concert season is upon us. As usual, the next few months are packed with a whole heap of events bringing the top names in reggae, dancehall and soca together in some pretty cool settings. Here’s our annual look at some of the biggest and most notable Caribbean music festivals this summer, from the California Roots Music and Arts Festival and Best of the Best this weekend through Rototom Sunsplash and England’s One Love Fest in August

Get to know some of the best and make plans accordingly!

 California Roots Music and Arts Festival (Monterey, Calif; May 23-25)

True to its name, the California Roots Music and Art Festival held at northern Cali’s Monterey County Fairgrounds is heavy on U.S. reggae bands from its home state (Rebelution, Iration) and beyond (SOJA). This year, the three-day festival’s fifth edition, also includes a nice selection of Jamaican acts including Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Ziggy Marley and Steel Pulse, along. Los Rakas, Alborosie, J Boog and New Kingston also perform. This one kicks off the festival season this Memorial Day Weekend, so if you’re out in Cali.

Garance Reggae Festival (Bagnols-sur-Cèze, France, July 23-26)

The Garance Reggae Festival in Bagnols-sur-Cèze, France, near Marseiiles, has put together some impressive artist lineups in recent years. This year’s lineup looks to be still taking shape but already there’s some massive names that could help make it easier to justify a July escape to the South of France: Capleton, Beenie Man, Yellowman, Ras Michael, Ken Boothe, Errol Dunkley, Lutan Fyah and, most intriguingly, Mafia & Fluxy in Dub featuring Jah Shaka and Adrian Sherwood.

St. Kitts Music Festival (Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis, June 26-28)

The concert season in the Caribbean winds down after the winter and spring, but there’s a few big shows in the summer as well. As usual, one of the biggest and most diverse lineups can be found at the St. Kitts Music Festival. The first two days are all about soca and raw reggae with Machel Montano, Beenie Man, Destra, Explainer, Skinny Fabulous, Capleton, Tarrus Riley and the St. Kitts debut of Chronixx—plus the king of merengue fusion, Elvis Crespo—while the last day features Freddie McGregor and Tessanne Chin and jazz performances from Deniece Williams, Bobby Kimball and Bill Champlin. You can also get a taste for local St. Kitts sounds via local legends, Small Axe Band.

Reggae On The River (Humboldt County, Calif.; July 31-August 3)

This year is the 30th anniversary of Reggae on the River, held at French’s Camp in lovely Humboldt County, California, and organizers have assembled an appropriately large lineup to celebrate. The roster is heavy on classic legacy acts (Jimmy Cliff, Sly & Robbie and the Taxi Gang Alpha Blondy, Gyptian, Third World, Israel Vibration, Michael Rose, Mutabaruka), but there’s a few current (Gentleman, Etana, Gyptian) and rising (Jah 9, Iba Mahr) stars, as well as X-factors like Fishbone and Los Rakas. U.K soul reggae great Bitty McLean also makes a rare U.S. appearance, as do Mega Banton and Marlon Asher.

Reggae Summerjam (Cologne, Germany; July 4-6)

Coming off a big year last year, Reggae Summerjam in Cologne, Germany has once again put together a stellar lineup that speaks to all eras of reggae, as well as dancehall.  Jimmy Cliff, Konshens, Anthony B, Barrington Levy, Christopher Martin, Dub Inc, Gappy Ranks, Iba Mahr, Johnny Osbourne, Kabaka Pyramid, Konshens, Lutan Fyah, Perfect Giddimani, Raging Fyah, Stylo G and Tanya Stephens top the list of performers, which also includes a handful of acts from outside of reggae in Dilated Peoples and Nneka. Plus all of Germany’s top sounds (Pow Pow Movement, Supersonic Sound) will be present, so you know the vibes will be just right.

Rototom Sunsplash (Benicassim, Spain, August 16-23)

The family-oriented Rototom Sunplash turns 21 this year, its fifth since relocating from Italy to Benicassim, Spain. Performances are just one element of the multi-faceted cultural event, which hosts percussion classes, photo exhibitions, seminars, debates and film screenings, among other community-building events. Going off the roster of performances: Jimmy Cliff, Chronixx, Busy Signal, Romain Virgo, Kabaka Pyramid, Cornell Campbell, Beenie Man, Collie Buddz (with New Kingston), Sean Paul, Luciano, Easy Star All Stars, Wailing Souls, Jah 9, Midnite, the Gladiators (featuring Droop Lion) and Inner Circle and Lauryn Hill. On the sounds end of things there’s Bass Odyssey, Jah Youth, Blackboard Jungle, Gladdy Wax, King Addies Int’l, Earl Gateshead, David Rodigan and even our crew Safari Sound. Awoah. This one’s going to be huge.




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