Reggae at the Stampede? A brilliant mix in the heat of summer

A horse with dreadlocks faces a music festival sign.
How’s Your Riddim? The Greatest Outdoor Show has some new costumes. Image courtesy of Calgary Reggae Festival Society.

Yup. Not exactly the standard fare for the ‘Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth,’ but you have to admit if there’s a music that belongs outside in the popular psyche, it’s Reggae. Does anyone even listen to reggae inside?

Except in Canada, of course. Otherwise there’d be an 8-month hiatus every year from the rasta riddim.

Given the popularity of the Stampede’s Nashville stage for country and Coke Stage for pop music, it’s a natural growth to bring some of the other cultural influences to this festival of the west. As ReggaeFest producer Leo Cripps enthuses:

“It is a great honour for us to be represented on the Calgary Stampede grounds.. . . With festivals like ours, Blues, Jazz, Folk, Sled Island, Afrikadey and Expo Latino, visitors to Stampede from within and outside our city will realize the diverse cultural mosaic we call home,”

Representing ReggaeFest on the Bell Centennial stage July 8th, 9th and 10th will be Soulicitors from Edmonton, Calgary’s J.k. & the Relays, and Roots Syndicate. All performances will be 45 minutes. ReggaeFest 2012 performer Makeshift Innocence graced the infamous Coca Cola Stage on July 5th. As ReggaeFest propaganda goes on: “Rastagarians know it’s not every day you get to Reggae and Calgary ReggaeFest isn’t just for Reggae fans. ReggaeFest transcends all racial, cultural and musical boundaries and runs August 15 to 18 at various venues in Calgary, concluding with the Mainstage event on Saturday, August 18 at Shaw Millennium Park.”

J.k & The Relays are formed by former members of Calgary’s Mocking Shadows and Montreal’s the Planet Smashers, The ReggaeFest says that “J.k. & The Relays’ brand of Ska and Reggae is killin dance floors and turnin heads at every show.” High praise!

Roots Syndicate’s six band members have strong ties to Jamaica, even though the band formed here in Calgary. Each member has trained, “not only to play music, but to entertain the crowd with each of their talents.” Presumably they don’t do magic tricks, because then they’d be on the Coke Stage.

“The Soulicitors are a five-piece Edmonton band, dying to save Canada from the rock music doldrums. Their sound is a unique blend of reggae, roots and soul music that is bound to twist your ear and get you out of your seat and dancing.” So says their MySpace page, so let it be.

Clearly, the ReggaeFest has placed contemporary variations on the traditional reggae line to appeal to, and demonstrate, the broader spectrum. No-one is mixing country and reggae yet, but perhaps meetings that go on during the Stampede’s 100th will create new musical forms.

Remember k.d. lang and country-punk? There’s magic in the mixing.

Leo mentions that “some people think the Reggae at the Stampede logo should be the new logo for the ReggaeFest, reflecting the western flavour and the reggae roots.” If you’ve ever had the pleasure of associating with a horse, it would seem somehow appropriate: horses take everything in stride, they represent an oppressed workforce, but they still have an inner connection to their roots, and they’ve got great rhythm.

Heck, they even dance.

Posted by Allen Thai

Author: Carey Rutherford

Swallowed by the mutual loves of words and music (but far too chicken-shit to perform them with a band), Carey’s writing career started slowly as a freelance writer in 2003, starved him nearly to personal bankruptcy until 2008, and changed directions while writing for FastForward, Beacon Calgary, GayCalgary, and Examiner magazines. With the death of many old-school periodicals, and the explosion of musical diversity in Calgary, the modern approach to writing about live music performance in the Calgary region presented uncluttered landscapes for the focussed passion that Carey’s conversations with musicians, drag queens, festival producers and small animals has uncapped. He was moulded by the brilliance of paper-based periodicals old and new (Life, rolling Stone, Swerve! and Adbusters etc.), and sees the info-verse as needing creative, empathetic, but clear-eyed Agents to communicate these performances.