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Posted by on Aug 1, 2016 in MUSIC, Music | 0 comments

Positive Vibrations Reverberate After 7th Annual Reggae On The Mountain

Positive Vibrations Reverberate After 7th Annual Reggae On The Mountain
by Stephen A. Cooper

Mountain Stage at the 7th Annual Reggae on the Mountain | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Mountain Stage at the 7th Annual Reggae on the Mountain | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

When Third World guitarist Steven “Cat” Coore marched onto “Mountain Stage” mid-afternoon on the first day of the 7th Annual Reggae on the Mountain (July 23-24 in Topanga Canyon, California, about forty minutes from downtown Los Angeles) it was mercifully cooler than the band’s world-famous standard, ‘96 Degrees in The Shade’; on the other hand, the reggae music festival-goers had already been treated to was hot, hot, hot.

Third World guitarist Steven “Cat” Coore at 7th Annual Reggae on the Mountain | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Third World guitarist Steven “Cat” Coore at 7th Annual Reggae on the Mountain | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Known for fusing reggae with soul and pop music, Third World showed the assembled (largely red, green, and gold attired) crowd how, over its four-decade-long history, it has managed to rack up 10 Grammy nominations and an equally dizzying number of chart-topping hits like ‘Reggae Ambassadors’ (another of its aptly named classics played to the crowd’s delight). The infectious joy of Third World’s songbook, its electrifying performances, and its willingness to constantly experiment is what has enabled the group to maintain such a long-enduring and impactful presence in the reggae music industry.

Showing ingenious planning by concert organizers, Don Carlos, a literal godfather of reggae music, was a perfect follow to Third World to close out the festival’s first day of fun. Looking positively resplendent in a perfectly fitted white suit, Don Carlos sashayed his long angular body to the front of the stage with dreadlocks flying, flanked by two female singers that were equally dressed to impress. A founding member of the legendary reggae band Black Uhuru, Don Carlos has enjoyed a long and successful solo career – his smooth vocals, charismatic swagger, and joy for life, and for his fans – make him an irresistible draw.

Don Carlos greets fans a day after performing at the 7th Annual Reggae on the Mountain | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Don Carlos greets fans a day after performing at the 7th Annual Reggae on the Mountain | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Day two of the festival which filled to capacity (a good reminder for next year to reserve your tickets early) was more typical of Southern California in the heart of summer: broiling. But, even despite the heat, the jovial festival-goers – well-described as “a diverse crowd of different cultures and families from all over California to Topanga, from the beach to the bay” – didn’t seem to mind as they alternatively skanked and swayed to the rhythm, momentarily losing themselves in the heart-pulsing beats. Notable acts to perform on the Mountain Stage included Ital Vibes, Arise Roots, Quinto Sol & Friends, and popular dancehall artist, Keznamdi.

On the “Hill Top Stage,” which offers a small, intimate, indoor setting, Los Angeles, California, based roots-reggae band, Iya Terra, was the standout performer. This self-described “young group of musicians have chosen the name Iya Terra, meaning ‘Higher Ground,’ as the launching pad to create positive, conscious music while spreading messages of anti-establishment, simple living, and a healthy lifestyle.” Frontman Nathan Feinstein sang his heart out and those fortunate to experience his energy, his edginess, his inventiveness, and his obvious passion for reggae culture, will not forget the experience.

Nathan Feinstein, lead guitarist and vocalist of Iya Terra performs at 7th Annual Reggae on the Mountain | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Nathan Feinstein, lead guitarist and vocalist of Iya Terra performs at 7th Annual Reggae on the Mountain | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Of all the acts to perform at this year’s Reggae on the Mountain though, it was, predictably, the headliner, Grammy-award winner (for best reggae album in 1986) and legendary reggae band, Steel Pulse, that stole the show. Formed in 1975 at Handsworth Wood Boys School, in Birmingham, England, Steel Pulse has cultivated a worldwide following of loyal, loving fans, including Reggae on the Mountain attendees. David Hinds, the band’s lead guitarist and vocalist, rocked the house with fan-favorites like ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Not King James Version,’ and the group’s masterpiece, ‘Roller Skates.’ The crowd head-bobbed and sang in agreement as Hinds’ powerful, inimitable voice soared from the canyon toward the still-blazing late-day sun, singing Roller Skates’ profound mantra: “Life. . . . Life without music . . . . I can’t go.”

David Hinds, lead guitarist and vocalist of Steel Pulse backstage the day before he rocked the house at the 7th Annual Reggae on the Mountain | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

David Hinds, lead guitarist and vocalist of Steel Pulse backstage the day before he rocked the house at the 7th Annual Reggae on the Mountain | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

As Jasmine Ashoori wrote for The Culture Trip about her interview with festival organizers Brooks Ellis and Amit Gilad, Reggae on the Mountain provides “a non-profit fundraiser for the Topanga Community Club,” a “local charity that hosts a wide range of programs from non-profit preschool and soccer leagues to Alcoholics Anonymous.” Explaining further the reason for Reggae on the Mountain, Ellis told Ashoori: “To spread culture and love is the basis of what we do. One of the most meaningful things you can do is come to a place with strangers and friends, exchange positive vibrations and emotions, and learn from cultures and experiences. You can take that into your heart and into your soul, and then that goes with you into the world. So festivals spread love at the core and music can really shift people, just like all the fine arts bring us together.” With that philosophy and the great success of this year’s show, Reggae on the Mountain has firmly established itself as one of the world’s premiere reggae festivals.

In a backstage interview minutes before Don Carlos wowed the crowd, Gilad said that he hopes the concert will continue to grow; internationally renowned reggae artists Gilad hopes to secure for future Reggae on the Mountains include Damian Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Toots and The Maytals. Like everyone else, this reggae fan can’t wait to attend!

A few reminders for concert veterans and essential tips for first-time attendees: the concert may sell out so buy your tickets early (it is advisable to start checking the festival website at www.reggaeonthemountain.com in early July for precise information on ticket pricing packages and for the finalized concert lineup and schedule); children 12 and under are welcome free; no dogs; coolers and lawn chairs are welcome but no glass or outside alcohol (there is plenty of gourmet food and drink to be had at reasonable rates on the premises); parking is free on Topanga Canyon Blvd. but be sure to have all wheels over the white line (you can park as close to the venue as possible and flag down shuttles or wait at a designated shuttle stop); prepare for very steep climbs in the usually sizzling hot weather in Topanga Canyon (loose clothing, comfortable shoes, boatloads of sunscreen and liquids, hats, tents, umbrellas, sunglasses, etc., are all highly recommended).

Reggae on the Mountain is located at 1440 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga Canyon, CA 90290.

Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California.

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