As if echoing the adage of the U.S. Postal Service regarding rain, snow, sleet or hail, came the delivery of the annual 2005 Bob Marley Festival. The record-setting rain fall and slippery roads caused many accidents in San Diego County, but the sell out crowd of more than 15,000 managed to make it safely to the San Diego Sports Arena.

        Driving to the event was a snail trail on Interstate 8 westbound. The clouds were dark and thick with rain pelting the road. With two feet of water covering many playing areas, remnants of baseball and soccer fields alongside the freeway resembled kiddie pools. Toward Point Loma the clouds began to part, letting the beautiful blue skies peek through. Brilliant rays penetrated the windshield and warmed my face. At once I knew Bob, God, or something more powerful than Mother Nature had decided that this event must play out in sunshine.

        The sunshine was a perfect prelude to this upbeat event. The concertgoers skanked, held their arms in the air with praise and cheered for every performer. The promoter of this event, Makeda Dread and the Worldbeat Center, put together a great concert. After experiencing this lineup, it is almost impossible to think anything less. The artists in order of appearance were: Kush & Blood Fiyah Angels, Tribo De Jah, Don Carlos, Martin Campbell, Tanya Stephens, Barrington Levy, Gentleman, Misty in Roots, Israel Vibration, Alpha Blondy, Jimmy Cliff and Steel Pulse.



Don Carlos

Due to the limited time of the one-day festival, the artists' sets were kept short. Fortunately, the time constraints of a 40-minute set could not hinder the luminescence of Don Carlos. Sauntering onto the stage wearing a sweatshirt, jeans and an infectious ear-to-ear grin, his ability to spread his irie vibes to those around him proved, as always, one of his best attributes.



Martin Campbell

Following Don Carlos was a none-too-impressive Martin Campbell. He sang his dub songs locked in a near stationary position for most of his performance. Void of both emotion and enthusiasm, he kept his eyelids tightly clamped. It seems a bit late in a long career for stage fright or fear of missing a note to enter the picture. His energy level should make the fans move and groove, not consult their watches.



Gentleman

Launching into his set, Gentleman refreshed the vibe with his lively and smooth harmonies. Apparently, he is the first German reggae artist to emerge onto the dancehall scene who managed to achieve a notable international breakthrough. He is unique in his ability to blend roots with dancehall into his lyrics and the crowd lovingly cheered him on.



Misty In Roots

Misty In Roots

The next group, Misty in Roots (roots reggae), has criticized dancehall artists with regards to the lyrics. The song Dancehall Babylon is indicative of their feelings:

"The heathens don't praise Jah in their dance. All they want is sex and vanity."

Hopefully, these words are not directed at performers like Gentleman. Artists such as Sean Paul or Shaggy are much better examples of musicians using sex as their main subject. Sean Paul's lyrics talk of "getting it on" and "turning me on." In regards to Shaggy, well, his name says it all.

        Misty in Roots gave a superb performance. The band's career and the members' personal lives have accomplished many feats being a major influence in the Rock Against Racism movement as well as overcoming the major loss of one of the band's founding members, Delvin Tyson aka Duxie. Not only are they collectively stronger, they are one of the best roots reggae bands still making beautiful music.



Israel Vibration

Israel Vibration

After Misty in Roots, Israel Vibration played a lively set. During the hit, The Same Song, the crowd became totally engulfed in the music. The two singers are starting to lose the completeness and harmony in their voices that originally helped place them where they are today. Still, they always heighten the entertainment value of any show with their dynamic dance extravaganza. My complete gratitude and respect goes to them for coming out and giving the crowd a great show with stellar dance moves to accompany their presence.



Leon Mobley

One highlight of their set included sound coming from the djimbe; the resonance and style of which was so familiar it could only belong to a most incredible percussionist, Leon Mobley. I first saw Leon in action touring with Ben Harper, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear him pop up at the festival. Seeing his smile and his funky energy is a must for music lovers. You can find info about Leon and his band Da Lion, a group of African American percussionists, at www.leonmobley.com.



Alpha Blondy

Alpha Blondy took to the stage representing his homeland, the Ivory Coast. After Bob Marley's death, many speculated that Blondy would be the logical heir to the reggae throne. He has been a recording artist for almost 25 years and has far surpassed many expectations by being nominated for a Grammy in 2003. His lyrics incorporate the same themes as Marley's: thoughts on struggle, revolution, peace, love and corruption. He has always appreciated Jamaican style with his own twist of West Africa culture. I was blown away by his presence on stage - Blondy sings in Dioula, English, French, Arabic and Hebrew. His lyrics are true to life and his emotion toward these issues explodes when he sings. I am truly blessed that I was able to hear him live and capture him from behind the lens of my camera.



Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff

Unable to stay until the end of the concert, I concluded the evening with Jimmy Cliff's monumental set, which included: Many Rivers to Cross, The Harder They Come and I Can See Clearly Now. The crowd erupted every time he began a new song, the lyrics bouncing around the arena on the swinging coattails of positive vibrations. To sum his performance up, a line from Cliff's Club Paradise seems fitting: "Sweet Paradise."



Ishmel (from Ishmel and The Peacemakers)
and his son.

Kim plus friends from San Diego

Hit the play button on the player to see the video clip of Israel Vibration and to hear a song they performed.



Below is our photo cube to see more pictures of these artists mentioned above. Also, come back soon for an interview with Leon Mobley about his music, projects in the works and whatever else he wants to share with us.


Text & Photos : Kimberly Parker (February 2005)
(Please do not reproduce without permission).




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