Looking back: Reggae Sumfest 1993 Image

by Biko Kennedy

A 'groomer of greats' since its inception, Reggae Sumfest have given Reggae lovers worldwide something other festivals haven't; breath-taking moments that seemingly leaves patrons mystified and yearning for more until the next staging. As the clock on the 21st showcasing ticks away, Jamaicansmusic.com looks back at the years that was and how it have evolved as time passes.

The year is 1993; Buju Banton is gearing up to release his third studio album Voice of Jamaica with his single Deportees creating havoc on varying charts both locally and internationally; Tiger had everyone rocking to Bam Bam while Shabba Ranks and Chevelle Franklin slowed the tempo down a bit with Mr. Loverman. With varying stage shows being held throughout Jamaica, locals still yearned for something to truly call their own. Then came the announcement…Reggae Sumfest was to be held August 11-14 and promised to be a spectacle like none other.

To be held in Montego Bay, the official word came out at a press conference on Friday, May 28, 1993 at the Wexford Court Hotel in Montego Bay. Montegonians welcomed the festival with open arms as it was to replace Reggae Sunsplash and all eyes were now on this new festival; will it hold up to expectations or will it crumble under pressure.

Sure enough the festival proved to be much more than expected and was unanimously dubbed: "Montego Bay's first home-bred Festival".

Held at the then Bob Marley Entertainment Centre in Catherine Hall, Montego Bay, the festivities began; 

August 11th's night-sky was painted with a flight of doves and multi-coloured helium balloons as the Master of Ceremonies, and veteran broadcaster, Don Topping took the mic at around 8:30 pm; the pulsating crowd was now ready to swallow the Oldies and Soca night as it was presented. But before it all went under way Bob Marley's widow, Rita, was presented with a commemorative plaque by Summerfest director, Mickey Morns with the Bob Marley Entertainment Centre was officially declared and dedicated to the memory of the Reggae Legend.

The Calypso Lords then held the audience in a continuous whining frenzy with Lord Laro's blend of humour and subliminal message songs doing everything while the Mighty Sparrow dropped hits after hits including Margarita and Jane among a slew of others as The United Sisters ensured the carnival vibes was kept on a constant high.

Ben E. King had lovers echoing his signature song Stand by Me, while Percy Sledge had the ladies agreeing with him as he belted When a Man Loves a Woman and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes choreographed moves and harmonies send a shockwave of excitement throughout the complex.

John Holt simply Want A Love I Can Feel and The Techniques knew way too well that Love Is (not) A Gamble; The Melodians chanted Psalm 137:1 on Rivers of Babylon, as StrangeJah Cole confessed to the audience about a Capture Land and Hortense Ellis pleaded on I'm Still In Love With You,

The Tamlins carried the audience to the 1970's, while The Mighty Diamonds just needed a roof over their head and of course the dean of Jamaican Dancehall/DJ music, U-Roy did what only he can to a stage show.

Thursday night, August 12, dubbed 'Roots and Culture' Night, came alive with the likes of Jimmy Riley, Edi Fitzroy, Andrew Tosh, Yasus Afari, Sugar Minott and Mykal Roze. But no one could outshine the legendary Bunny Wailer as he closed the night in superb notion. 

When the show ended around 10 a.m. Friday morning, chants of "Jah Rastafari!" resounded throughout the venue as cultural lyrics were pelted from every angle imaginable, with a heavy dose of marijuana smoke looming leaving a meditative state to sweep the rocking crowd.

With the crème de la crème of the Dancehall gracing the stage on Friday night, August 13, the much touted and eagerly anticipated night didn't disappoint.

Having a line-up that reads of the who's who - Jack Radics, Sanchez, Cocoa Tea, Josey Wales, Brigadier Jerry, Leroy Smart, Major Mackerel, Tiger, Gregory Isaacs, General Degree, Kulcha Knox and Garnet Silk, Jigsy King, Terry Ganzie, Spragga Benz, Bounty Killer, Nardo Ranks and Ninja Man – clearly no wrong could be done.

The closing night on Saturday lauded as 'Singers/International' Night boasted performances from Dennis Brown, Julian Marley, Donovan, Chaka Demus and Pliers, the captivating American rap group, Naughty by Nature, Bryan and Tony Gold, Super Cat, Junior Reid, Lieutenant Stitchie and Barrington Levy. 

The complex was once again packed with unparalleled performances and safely secured Reggae Sumfest as the must-be-at festival in the summer of 1994…


Sourced at the Gleaner Archives

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