Jamaica’s beloved Reggae Sumfest music festival brought the best of reggae, and dancehall to Montego Bay in a celebration of creativity and talent.
The festival, which launched in 1993, has since hosted a variety of both international stars and iconic Jamaican artists including 50 Cent, Rihanna, Usher, Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Beres Hammond, and more.
“Since DownSound Entertainment took the reins of Reggae Sumfest in 2016, we’ve seen Jamaican artists highlighted the as headliners of the festival, as they should be, and that has contributed so much to the growth of the festival,” said Patricia Meschino, a Billboard contributor who has covered reggae for over 20 years.
Their 2018 edition is no different with an eclectic lineup spanning generations and genres, including Damian Marley, Beres Hammond, Maxi Priest, Popcaan, Bounty Killer, Sizzla, Tommy Lee Sparta, and more.
But beyond the star-studded lineup, the overall impact that Reggae Sumfest has had on not only the cultural fabric of Jamaica, but also on the international music scene is immeasurable.
“Jamaican music has just evolved, and evolved, and evolved, and created all kinds of other music,” said Chris Blackwell, co-founder of Island Records. “Basically, rap music in America was rooted very much in what started in Jamaica.”
Blackwell, who, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is the “single personal most responsible for turning the world on to reggae music”, saw the rise of the genres of reggae, rocksteady, and ska firsthand when he co-founded Island Records in 1959 and released records by artists like Laurel Aitken, Wilfred Edwards, and Owen Gray, which kick-started a creative flourish for Jamaican artists.
“It wasn’t because the records weren’t the greatest records,” Blackwell continued. “But, it was because Jamaicans could hear themselves singing. It was a time when there were more records released in Jamaica than any other country in the world… the United States, Canada, and England. It was an incredible explosion of creativity and talent.”
Reggae Sumfest is what every music festival should strive to be, a voice for its community, and every year it has succeeded by showcasing the very best of Jamaician culture to a worldwide audience.
“It’s my passion to be a part of something that I believe in,” said Winford Williams, owner and operator of Onstage TV. “We need to exhibit our art, our music, our dance. I wanted to bring the music. I was passionate about seeing that, and that’s what brought me to Sumfest after the demise of Reggae Sunsplash.”
While there’s always going to be a another Coachella, Lollapalooza, SXSW, or NXNE, there’s only one Reggae Sumfest, and you owe it to yourself to get down to the island and experience it for yourself as it’s the passionate crowds, ultra talented artists, and the general air of love and positivity that makes Reggae Sumfest a must-attend festival.