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Omari Banks, Reggae Musician, Talks 24th Annual Moonsplash Caribbean Music Festival

Awards season is over, which means music festival season is finally upon us. And what better way to kick it off than with the Caribbean’s esteemed Moonsplash festival?

Founded in 1991 and curated by legendary reggae musician Bankie Banx, the three-day music extravaganza, which took place March 13 through 16 this year, featured live Caribbean music played by the industry’s most intoxicating stars at CNN’s #1 rated beach bar, The Dune Preserve, on the island of Anguilla. In addition to the event attracting island enthusiasts and international tourists from across the globe, celebrity guests including John Mayer and Jimmy Buffett have also managed to bless the Moonsplash stage in the past with surprise performances.

Among this year’s lineup of performers were Banx himself and his son, former professional cricket player Omari Banks. The 31-year-old rising musician recently chatted with The Huffington Post about how he plans to contribute to his father’s musical legacy, and how he feels about Moonsplash being the longest-running independent music festival in the Eastern Caribbean.

After years of watching Moonsplash develop into the festival that it is today, how did it feel to perform at this year’s event?

Moonsplash was something that I really grew up around. I’d actually like to say that I’m a Moonsplash baby. I remember its inception and I’ve performed at Moonsplash since I’ve been 7, 8 years old. I was a child at the time, but I would get up and do one or two songs. But it’s always special for me to perform at the Moonsplash festival. It’s my dad’s festival, so I’ve seen the hard work and sacrifices that he has made to ensure that Moonsplash is successful. Getting up onstage to do my thing is something that I always appreciate and [I] love to get positive feedback from the crowd. As an artist that’s an amazing thing.

Are you involved with assisting your father in planning each year’s festival?

Not as much. In terms of planning, you have to be involved, in the sense [that] if my dad has an idea he’ll bounce the idea off of me, etc. But for the past, I would say, three to four years — seeing that I’m an artist now — I try to step back in terms of performing. Because even my dad sometimes, he’s the one who’s worked so hard for Moonsplash. But for me, I actually try to focus on the music, which is performing. And make sure that I’m in the right frame of mind to go up onstage to perform. But my dad always knows that he can ask me whatever it is to organize the event., and I’m open to that all the time.

How important would you describe the importance of Moonsplash remaining as the longest-running independent festival in the Eastern Caribbean?

I think it’s very important. We as Anguillans, we like to have a stake in our own. If you ask anybody, not just myself, Anguillans are proud people. They’re proud to say that they own the land of the country. And that’s important when you have a business which is our main industry in tourism. I think that goes hand in hand to say that my dad understands that it’s important what he does. From the acts that he brings in, my dad is somebody that’s socially aware and he tries to bring in acts that can have an impact, not just draw crowds, but also fit into the theme of Moonsplash. Moonsplash and the Dune Preserve always [have] a positive spin. And my dad is always looking to bring in someone who has a good influence and make a great contribution to Anguilla in that way.

It’s important to him, because Moonsplash is part of his legacy. And it’s important that he keeps it independent, because it’s part of his legacy and I’m sure he wants to play a role in shaping his destiny.

In recent years, John Mayer, Buju Banton and Jimmy Buffett are some of the special guests who have graced the Moonsplash stage. Where would you like to see the festival evolve in years to come?

Personally, I’m an artist who can appreciate all kinds of music. And my dad is the same. Some of his biggest icons or people that he [likes] as artists are people like Bob Dylan who inspire him. And those guys aren’t necessarily reggae singers. So I think my dad is open to all genres. It’s really about music and the art form. And that being said, it’s generally a reggae festival, but it’s more about the message and positive vibe that’s affiliated with Moonsplash.

In terms of your music career, last year you released your debut album, “Move On.” Looking ahead, would you be interested in recording a collaborative project? If so, with who?

That’s definitely something that I would want to do. Possibly with Nas or Jay-Z. I don’t do rap music in the sense that I’m not a rapper, but from the lyrical content or even within my reggae vibes we have a style called dub, which is similar to rap music. It’s kind of a chant kind of feel … I also like John Mayer and Lauryn Hill. I like Lauryn as an artist. I think lyrically, she’s awesome. I love her “Miseducation” album. As an musician you hear so much and you’re inspired by so many.

S Africa moving to reggae’s drum

This is the six of a 10-part series looking at the impact of dancehall/reggae culture around the world.

SINCE the dark days of apartheid, reggae has played a pivotal role in South Africa.

Jamaican music still thrives in that country, which has produced its own reggae titan in singer Lucky Dube, who was murdered in October 2007.

Gavin Paul Jolliffe, a white show promoter who lives in a village called Asburton on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg in the province of Kwazulu Natal, says the reggae scene in that region is small compared to other major centres.

“During the rise of reggae music in the ’70s and ’80s, South Africa was in the middle of a war in Angola and an uprising, and access to international media was restricted by the then apartheid government. So we missed out on much of the positive music flowing at the time,” he told the Sunday Observer by e-mail.

According to Jolliffe, it was the white population with control over media who were exposed to reggae. Black domestics who worked in their homes heard the music of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh and told friends about their powerful message.

The first black medium that exposed reggae in South Africa was an independent magazine called Drum.

“Then, surprisingly, Jimmy Cliff toured South Africa (in 1980) and reggae caught on in the black communities,” Jolliffe recalled.

He added that during that period, Tosh generated a lot of excitement through his visit to Swaziland, another southern African country.

Today, there is a growing Rastafarian community in ‘Kwazula’ and an annual Bob Marley Earthday in the port city of Durban, hosted by The Meditators, a leading reggae band.

Jolliffe is presently working with a young band called Undivided Roots, a sibling group for whom he acts as “father, promoter, manager and driver”.

In addition, he promotes the Rockstone Band out of Cape Town.

Jolliffe says reggae fans in Kwazulu have discriminating tastes.

“Dancehall is catching on fast, but the scope is even wider for reggae,” he stated. There is support for roots-reggae and the more commercial tones of British band UB40.

Jolliffe says there are about 10 reggae bands in Kwazulu with the most popular being The Meditators who are from Durban.

One of the biggest challenges for reggae in the province is lack of airplay on mainstream radio stations. Smaller stations, however, are playing more of the music.

As far as shows are concerned, Jolliffe notes that not many overseas reggae acts perform in Durban.

“In fact, most promoters pass it by. But if a place in our country that has potential/environment to host reggae bands, it’s Durban with its tropical climate and beaches,” he said.

Jolliffe’s passion for reggae music began after seeing a painting of Marley’s Uprising album on a wall. He recalls music blasting from the yard “with the sweet smell of ganja in the air”.

“It was like I had come home. Reggae/Rasta touched my soul and never left. Being white and an activist, disagreeing with the system was tough, but reggae gave me focus,” he said.

Remembering Reggae Pops, ‘the soul of the L.A. dance floor


L.A. fixture Reggae Pops dances with singer Lianne Le Havas in her video “Age” on YouTube

The Facebook page of the dancer known as Reggae Pops has been filled with memories over the past hours as longtime club-goers pay honor to a smooth-moving fixture on the city’s night-life scene. Pops, born Nemencio Jose Andujar, died earlier this week, leaving a huge hole on the city’s dance floor. Read more

Bob Marley’s Grandson Under The Gun While Legal Wrangling Over Reggae Star’s Legacy Continues

Bob Marley’s grandson, Matthew Prendergast, has found himself on the wrong side of Jamaican law after facing off with a security guard at the Bob Marley Museum, located in St Andrew on Hope Road.

The descendant of Bob and Rita Marley, the King and Queen of Reggae Music, is a 25 year-old musician himself, who reportedly resides in both Jamaica and Miami. Read more

Reggae & pop icons Beres Hammond, Air Supply to share stage in NYC

Reggae’s hit machine Beres Hammond will join Australian soft pop duo Air Supply as headline acts at the annual Groovin’ In The Park Concert at Roy Wilkins Park in Queens, NY on Sunday, June 29, 2014.

Hammond, who ignited New York City with musical flames when he last appeared on Groovin’ Concert at Roy Wilkins Park in 2012 is expected to again have his way with music lovers when he belts out favorites like “Rockaway,” “In Love With You,” “What One Dance Can Do,” “She Loves Me Now,” “Step Aside” “Double Trouble” and “Putting Up Resistance.”

Hammond’s stellar career was launched in the 70′s with the release of “One Step Ahead,” a blockbuster single which stayed at number one on the charts for 14 weeks. In the 80′s he cemented his name with the smash “Tempted to Touch,” and subsequent albums “Love Affair,” “Full Attention” (1993), “In Control” (1994), “Love From a Distance” (1996), “A Day In The Life” (1998), “Music is Life” (2011) and “One Love One Life” (2012), which topped the Billboard reggae chart.

Whenever pop duo Air Supply is mentioned, it is always in superlative, A-list tones. In 2011, they mesmerized music fans at the annual Jamaica Jazz & Blues festival, and left music lovers begging for more and more.

“This is history for us tonight!” declared Russell Hitchcock, lead singer of Air Supply, moments after the group hit the stage to rapturous applauds. With the crowd in tow, Hitchcock belted out “Even The Nights Are Better,” “Just As I Am,” “Chances Are,” “Power Of Love,” “Lost In Love” and “Here I Am,” much to the delight of fans who sang along word for word.

“We are excited about signing the group to perform in Roy Wilkins Park for the very first time” an elated Andrea Bullens, co-producer and executive of Groovin’ Inc. said.

“Air Supply is a powerful group. Their catalogue of hit songs are impressive. To have a group of their stature share the stage with reggae icon Beres Hammond will be a musical treat for fans. I am confident it will be a fantastic presentation” she stated.

After being signed by music mogul Clive Davis to Arista Records in the mid 80′s, Air Supply went on to score eight Top Ten hits in the United States, including “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All,” “Good Bye,” “Its Never Too Late” and “Lost In Love,” which was named “Song Of The Year” in 1980.

Hammond and Air Supply will be joined by Chronixx, Reggae Queen Marcia Griffiths and her friends John Holt, Judy Mowatt and Bob Andy.

Sponsors supporting Groovin’ In The Park 2014 include Grace Foods, TD Bank, SQPA, Nutrament, Money Gram, The Smoke House, The Door Restaurant, BullZii Marketing, Groovin’ Radio, VP Records and Western Union.