Montreal, Canada is a vibrant and multi cultural city of over 2 million people, it is multi-lingual even in a predominantly French province. As any big city, many cultures and subsequent art forms coexist in a very active community. The West Indian and African diaspora is very present in Montreal as in many major urban centres, and one of the benefits to Montreal is artists who have formed a reggae scene over the past 30 years. Other forms of West Indian culture have also arisen like cuisine and dances, and local artists and artisans have helped pave the way.

The reggae scene in Montreal started in the late 70's and early 80's with bands and performers like Kali&Dub, Jah Children, Jah Cutta & Mello G, Inus Aso, and Smokey Joe. These original founders of the local reggae scene are alive and well, and continue to perform to the pleasure of fans on a regular basis. During the early 80's local clubs The Spectrum, and Rainbow were often the site of many shows, both for local and international artists. Much of their hard work and livication to their art is why reggae thrives here, has endured for 30 years and still going strong. "Inspiration Giver" by Jah Children and "Rise Up" by Kali&Dub are two of the best albums released from this earlier era of reggae in Canada. New Age Records was one of the few record stores at the time that would carry a large selection of reggae, making it possible nonetheless to get albums.

In the early 90's, Little Thunder Sound was formed, and Montreal had one of the first champion sounds in effect, capable of playing on a level similar to big sounds from yard. Formed by Edgeton Allen with his sons Donovan and Courtney, Little Thunder Sound put on many dances that brought in sounds and singers rarely before seen here. To this day they are a leading sound and promotion, also operating a store AAA Records specializing in imports of the latest chunes. Little Thunder also has opened the doors to many other sounds, and helped form dancehall culture in Montreal. Mango Bay, one of the premier upscale Jamaican restaurants in the city is also an effort of the Allen family.

Indeed much has changed over the years, no longer are reggae shows promoted in church basements and high school gyms as up until recently. The Montreal Reggae Festival has had 5 strong years, each a 3 day event that includes many big acts performing before 10 000s of people each night, Morgan Heritage, Mikey General, Turbulence, Luciano, Fantan Mojah and many others regularly headline. It is at an outdoor venue by the port with plenty of food and artisans present, providing a perfect setting in open air, all the more necessary for a one draw now that smoking inside clubs is prohibited. The promoters of the event have opened reggae clubs for year round shows, EB RestoBar and The House of Reggae are two clubs that cater to the reggae massive in Montreal, providing regular events and shows. Top notch resident sounds like EQ Sound Crew with Fire T, Fire Squad, Examine Sound, Nighthawk Sound, and Iceman provide club and dance goers with plenty of fresh vibes and required doses of classics and hits.

Many new artists have developed in recent times, singers, djs and sing-jays like Mikey Dangerous, Sampaloo, Dan Beats, Skillman, Uzi Kushna, Megado, Ujah, and Prince Canary have invigorated the scene, providing new tracks to top notch riddims by area based productions. Female singers and djs like Kyah Kindhu and Timeberlee show the talent level is equal for many of the women performers. Many young Rasta artisans also have developed signature products that are instantly recognisable. JahOne, RastaLine and Rollaz are clothing lines from Montreal based designers and makers. Badges and custom made wears from JahKnown and Napthali are also prominent with Rastas in Montreal.

Cuisine is never a problem in Montreal, restaurants like Hot Spot, Spices, Frontline, Jean's, Mas Place, BonneBouffe and Montreal Caribbean all provide good food at a reasonable price for people who need a proper fix of West Indian or Ital meal. In short, Montreal has everything and anything a Roots needs, and from the efforts of many we are still blessed that reggae continues.

Article & photos Montreal Reggae Fest 2005: Ras Arthur
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