Reggae is a unique musical style which blends uplifting music with catchy beats and an occasional political message, while transcending national and racial boundaries. It wasn’t any surprise, then, that the Associated Students of UC Irvine’s 18th-annual UCI Reggaefest was thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing. The friday afternoon of June 3 featured six bands that performed and were complemented by perfect sunny weather and clear skies, which practically begged listeners to collapse under a tree in Aldrich Park and soak up the sunshine and music.
Reggaefest was much more than simply a festival of great music. As a hacky sack game continued behind the stage, numerous booths sold reggae-themed paraphernalia including Bob Marley T-shirts, hacky sacks and items with Marley aphorisms such as ‘One god, one aim, one destiny,’ and of course, ‘One love.’
Free food and beer was definitely an integral part of the event. Brad Manubay, a fourth-year biological sciences major, affirmed that the event ‘was really relaxing. Good music, good food, free beer, good times … I think the food gets everybody, and the free beer.’
Manubay thought that the free refreshments might attract those UCI students who were not already serious reggae fans. An incredible variety of reggae styles was presented by the bands Meet Me at the Pub, Jah Fellowship, Kontiki, Jativa, Detour Posse and the headlining band Natusol. From Polynesian reggae to dance hall, soca/calypso, and Detour Posse’s cover of the Beatles’ ‘Let it be,’ Reggaefest provided an eclectic variety of music which was accessible for those inexperienced with the music but still groovable for hardcore reggae fans.
Leena Youssefian, a third-year biological sciences major, agreed.
‘I had a lot of fun. … I like the music but I don’t normally listen to [reggae]. It’s a nice mood for the setting. It’s fun and you get to relax between classes,’ Youssefian said.
Contributing to the accessibility of UCI’s Reggaefest was the lack of a cover charge. Unlike UCLA’s Reggaefest last week, which cost $15 to get in, anyone taking a walk through Aldrich Park could appreciate the music of UCI’s Reggaefest.
Previously, UCI’s festival had been held at the Student Center Lawn. Due to construction, however, Aldrich Park set the stage this year and offered a more expansive environment than was otherwise available in the past. Even during busy times in the six-hour event, there was enough room for the dancers, chill-out-under-a-tree people, booth shoppers and everyone else to fit comfortably.
Aldrich Park was a more fitting setting than the Student Center for the expansive event. I appreciated the construction’s impact on Reggaefest this year as I was able to more fully absorb myself into reggae culture in Aldrich Park. Natural park beauty and a general sense of freedom at the event enticed students to enter UCI’s Reggaefest and become involved in the experience.
Kristine Crisostomo, who graduated UCI in December 2004 and majored in political science, enjoyed the Aldrich Park setting of this year’s Reggaefest.
‘Today I particularly liked it because it was a lot more spread out, there was a lot more room to hang out as opposed to previous years where we were more congregated at the bottom of the hill [at the Student Center],’ Crisostomo said.
But what was most special about UCI Reggaefest was the energy with which the bands infused their performances. Detour Posse, for example, was great at enlivening the crowd. The vivacious performances by the reggae artists reminded me of a Southern California-local Brazilian artist, Katia Moraes and her band Sambaguru.
Southern California talent was highlighted at the event. Kontiki, a band which has relocated to Whittier, released an album a few years ago in Hawaii which was voted the best reggae album in Hawaii. Jah Fellowship, a band hailing from Long Beach, performed with a horn section, an organ player and played reggae which harkened back to their roots; the music had a message and was positive.
Like Jah Fellowship, Jativa is based in Orange County. Detour Posse is also based in the greater Los Angeles area with the exception of the lead singer, who is from Trinidad. The drummer of Natusol, Jerome Taito, is a fourth-year anthropology major at UCI. The main singer and guitarist of Natusol, Taumata Grey, is a fourth-year music and performing arts major.
These artists served up musical offerings which could be enjoyed for the simplicity of their chill beats or appreciated as a gateway to reggae culture.
‘People live and breathe reggae,’ Taito commented.
Organized by ASUCI, the 18th annual UCI Reggaefest provided a wonderful and entertaining escape to celebrate the start of the weekend.
‘It’s tight, free food, free drink, music, everyone just wants to chill and have fun. I’m pretty sure everyone here is having fun right now. They did a good job. . . They’re expressing themselves with their soul, that’s all music is,’ Taito said as the festival was coming to an end.