Montreal International Reggae Festival sways to Caribbean rhythms

Written by Red Carpet Shelley. Posted in Caribbean Entertainment News, Events

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Published on August 15, 2014 with No Comments

Marcia Griffiths Performs during Groovin' in the Park 2014

Marcia Griffiths Performs during Groovin’ in the Park 2014

Marcia Griffiths is the undisputed “Queen of Reggae” and will celebrate 50 years in the music business when she co-headlines the Montreal International Reggae Festival this weekend.

“I actually began singing professionally when I was 11 years old,” Griffiths told The Gazette. “I walked onstage with Byron Lee and the Dragonaires and was signed to Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One, the Motown of Jamaica. I remember I wasn’t even nervous; I was so confident when I walked onstage. I just loved to sing!”

Griffiths would go on to form the vocal group I-Three with Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt before they famously became Bob Marley’s backup singers with the Wailers in 1974. Since Marley’s death in 1981, Griffiths has become a legend in her own right.

“The business has changed very much for the better since I first started, and I think I can pat myself on the shoulder when I say I have contributed to the development of women in this business,” Griffiths said. “When I began, it was a very macho, male-dominated business, but today it is 50-50, and it feels good to hear every single female artist in the business say I was their inspiration over the years.”

Griffiths, who co-headlines on Sunday, is one of three major female performers at this year’s reggae festival. Etana (a.k.a. Shauna McKenzie) fuses neo-soul with roots-reggae rhythms on Friday, and on Saturday Alison Hinds will show why she is revered as the “Queen of Soca” worldwide.

IRAWMA Host, Etana Speaks with Red Carpet Shelley

Etana (right) Speaks with Red Carpet Shelley

Hinds’ 1996 solo hit Ragamuffin won the prestigious Road March at Barbados’s Crop Over Festival. The following year, Hinds won the Road March again and also won the Party Monarch title with her hit Twister. Unbelievably, she was the first woman to win those titles in Barbados, and she continues to put on a spectacular, high-energy live show.

Alison Hinds

Alison Hinds

Other big names at the festival include Maxi Priest (Friday), the most successful solo act in British reggae history. He scored a No. 1 Billboard hit with Close to You back in 1990 and is touring his new studio album, Easy to Love. Grammy-winning dancehall superstar Sean Paul will perform Saturday, and smooth Rastafarian singer I-Octane (a.k.a. Byiome Muir) will mix it up with roots reggae and dancehall on Sunday.

Maxi Priest performs on Easter Sunday in NYC

Maxi Priest performs on Easter Sunday in NYC   Photo credit:  Sandra Edwards-Smith

After wowing Montrealers with an intimate show at Le Belmont in November, modern roots-reggae superstar Luciano will close the festival on Sunday. Born Jepther Washington McClymont in Davey Town, Jamaica, in 1964, Luciano is known as “the Messenger” and his booming baritone has become a staple on reggae radio stations.

“The festival circuit is hugely important to reggae, because it has kept the music alive internationally,” Luciano told The Gazette. “We still get small club dates, but the festivals are a bigger and more exciting experience, both for the bands performing as well as for the audience.

“The festivals also draw a wide mix of music lovers, young and old, white and black. So there is much more interaction. And even though I go onstage and practically sing the same songs night after night, over and over again, I still keep it fresh because the audience brings a different energy to each show, and we feed off of their energy.”

Luciano will co-headline the same day as Sanchez, the hugely popular dancehall and lovers-rock singer who got his start working with several Kingston sound systems. Rounding out the top of Sunday’s bill will be Griffiths, who promises to sing some of Marley’s music.

“I think of Bob often and always pay tribute to this man in all of my performances,” said Griffiths. “I can say that I knew who that man really was, knew he was a very special human being. We played in stadiums all over the world, and Bob is still the only musician who is popular in every corner of the world. I believe his music and spirit will live on forever, and I am so grateful that I was able to be a part of that whole experience.”

The 11th annual Montreal International Reggae Festival runs Friday, Aug. 15through Sunday, Aug. 17at the Jacques Cartier Pier in the Old Port of Montreal. For more information, visit .




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