The self-described “greatest reggae show on earth” touched down in Montego Bay, Jamaica, last week, as the 22nd annual Reggae Sumfest kicked off three thrilling nights of dancehall, R&B and hip-hop shows. Diverse international acts like Sean Paul, Wiz Khalifa, Beenie Man, Future, Jason Derulo and Tessanne Chin entertained the 12,000-strong Jamaican audience outdoors at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex into the wee hours of each morning. From July 17-19, the colorful crowd set off air horns, fireworks and the occasional homemade aerosol flamethrower to punctuate the night’s best performances.
Reggae legend Beres Hammond made a surprise bow during the set of his daughter, The Wizard, as the dreadlocked songstress performed a bass-heavy remix of her dad’s 2001 smash, “Rockaway.” More highlights included another unannounced appearance by R&B singer Jordin Sparks, who joined her beau Jason Derulo for their duet, “Vertigo”; rapper Wiz Khalifa’s rock-star attitude on headbanging hits like “On My Level”; and Future bringing extra intensity to his first Jamaican appearance ever on hip-hop tracks like “Same Damn Time.”
Never exclusively limiting itself to homegrown Jamaican musics like dancehall and reggae, the Reggae Sumfest has always stood just as committed to the world’s pop music. Nevertheless, each night’s headlining act — Beenie Man, I-Octane, Freddie McGregor — represented some of the island’s biggest reggae stars, keeping the crowd active even as they ended their sets at six in the morning. Dancehall acts Spice, Sugah and Mr. Vegas brought expert levels of showmanship to the genre.
Until Jamaica’s cross-genre Jazz & Blues Festival returns in January, the Reggae Sumfest without a doubt satisfied the appetites of Jamaican music lovers for months to come. –miles marshall lewis (@furthermucker)
Photos Courtesy: Jamaican Tourist Board