The first of the three Ragga Muffins Festivals took place last weekend in Long Beach, California. The Long Beach Convention Center was full of Reggae fans, as well as many vendors selling arts, crafts, T-shirts, clothing and food to the masses. The two day festival is the biggest show in the Ragga Muffins tour, and the line up was impressive as usual.
Festivals like Ragga Muffins have become a tradition to many who make the annual journey to southern California to see their favorite artists perform, to reconnect with friends, and to enjoy the vibes of this big event.
I couldn’t make Saturday’s performance due to a previous engagement, but I heard from many that the show was a success. Some of the artists who performed on Saturday included the "King of the Dancehall" Beenie Man, the "Prophet" Capleton, the always engaging Cherine Anderson, Roots foundation duo, Sly and Robbie, and Bermudian sensation Collie Buddz.
When I arrived at the LAX airport on Sunday some disgruntled passenger on another plane said the "b" word, that’s right ‘bomb’, on a flight from El Paso Texas and then the airport was closed down from two hours after my plane from Oakland touched down. So there I was late for the festival, an old woman fainted next to me, and people everywhere getting agitated with the twenty or so TSA employees standing around doing nothing to console the 1800 plus people now standing in the airport while police and their dogs search for the non existent bomb.
So I ended up missing the opening acts, but as I received my press credentials I could hear Queen Ifrica belting out her big tune "Below the Waist". Immediately my mood was transformed from my stressful flight and I was feeling the good energy of the festival and seeing many friends and familiar faces in the Reggae community. Upon entering the convention center I was pleased to smell the abundant aroma of high grade herbs being enjoyed by the many fans. The L.A. community loves the Kush, and I expect a van load was burned by day’s end.
After Queen Ifrica’s inspiring performance, Anthony B took the stage singing some of his Dancehall remixes along with his original material. The "Original Fireman", Anthony B always is such a crowd pleaser delivering hits like "Waan Back", "Raid di Barn", and the moving "Mr. Heartless".
Midnite played a solid set. Of course many Californians are big fans of this group, and Vaughn Benjamin’s vocals carried through the air, like ancient prayers in an African mosque, or a Coptic church. Backstage I saw Capleton during their set, enjoying some of the good Cali collie with his crew.
The next artist to perform was probably the highlight for me, Tarrus Riley, What a show! Tarrus sang some new tunes, along with his many hits from this sophomore album "Parables" He sang one of my favorite songs, "Beware", and it was like we were in the studio with him. His voice is just as impressive on stage, as it is on his recorded works. He sang "One Two Order", another favorite of mine, and the crowd just felt the Niyabinghi vibes. Backstage Queen Ifrica was dancing with us equally enjoying Tarrus’ set. Other notable tracks he performed were "Lion Paw", "Something Strong" and his big, big tune "She’s Royal". Everyone I saw had huge smiles on their faces, and even more were singing his songs, word for word. I only wish Ragga Muffins could have brought him north to Santa Cruz and San Francisco this weekend.
Alpha Blondy could not make the festival due to Illness, nothing serious I hope. Closing the show was Gregory Isaacs who received lots cheers and applause, and I could see that he was happy to be performing for his fans. Gregory has been popular for so many years that I saw a family together enjoying the "Cool Ruler", Mom, Dad and their the Kids all enjoying the same singer, now how rare is that now a days?
All in all the show was a big success, and the staff that puts on this festival should be thanked for all their hard work and dedication. If you missed the Long Beach show, you can catch the Ragga Muffins Festival in Santa Cruz this Friday night, and Saturday in San Francisco. For more information go to www.raggamuffinsfestival.com
BigUp Radio Staff Writer