Our Music, Our Festival: Revitalizing  Reggae Sumfest

Ever since he took the reins of Reggae Sumfest in 2016, American born businessman and music industry veteran Josef Bogdanovich has been on a mission to modernize the now 25-year old festival while retaining its original mission of showcasing Jamaica’s finest musical talents. “We are injecting new ideas into an established event,” explained Bogadanovich who has resided in Kingston, Jamaica for the past 20 years during which time he has invested heavily in the island’s music industry. “People want that energy coming from the rock (Jamaica) and we are going to give it to them in an innovative, professional way.”  


With a comprehensive lineup of reggae acts ranging from upcoming dancehall deejays to seasoned roots veterans complemented by international guest acts, Reggae Sumfest stands as the island’s largest music festival. Inaugurated in August 1993 as a vehicle to boost tourism during the summer’s low visitor arrivals season, and as a replacement for its predecessor Reggae Sunsplash which had relocated to the outskirts of Kingston, Sumfest has brought thousands of visitors to Jamaica and generated millions for the island’s economy. It has also provided a high profile platform for Jamaican artists: many careers have been launched, ascended to the next level or attracted interest far beyond the island’s shores, directly from the Sumfest stage. 


Celebrating its 25th anniversary July 16-22 with an expanded seven-night program, Reggae Sumfest’s activities kick off with a beach party on July 16th. Three exciting nights of imaginatively themed parties follow: a Yacht Party on July 17th, the Sumfest All White Party at Pier One on July 18th, and Sumfest Blitz on July 19th, a 90s dancehall bash honoring Kingston’s legendary Wednesday night sound system dances Weddy Weddy (featuring Stone Love) and Passa Passa (featuring Swatch International). On Thursday July 20 Sumfest’s Heavy Weight Clash will take place at Pier One with Jamaican sound system selectors vying for supremacy in a heated musical battle. Sumfest’s two main nights (July21, 22) at Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex will present the biggest names in reggae and dancehall in marathon length concerts beginning at 9 PM and rocking until 6 the following morning. The silver anniversary lineup features Jamaica’s premiere international dancehall ambassador Sean Paul, American/Jamaican R&B/Hip Hop star Sean Kingston, Canadian R&B singer Torey Lanez and Nigerian dancehall luminary Patoranking. Other notable acts include dancehall’s latest sensation Alkaline, veteran deejays Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Mad Cobra and Mavado, Montego Bay born singer Jah Cure and sing-jay Queen Ifrica (also hailing from Mobay) whose uncompromising opinions have earned her the affectionate moniker Fyah Mama. The equally fiery Sizzla Kalongi will bring Sumfest 2017 to a blistering conclusion with a much-anticipated performance. Sizzla’s inimitable sing-jay style has influenced an entire generation of artists since his mid-90s debut including impressive rising star Kabaka Pyramid, who also performs on Saturday night.  


According to the Jamaica Tourist Board nearly 14,000 people attended Reggae Sumfest 2016 and more than 20 million impressions were generated via interactive 360 Virtual Reality (VR) live streaming, offers Bogdanovich, who is aiming for an even bigger audience this year, on the island and in cyberspace. “We are targeting 50 million people in every country on earth; streaming is a global phenomenon and the kind of production and transmission we will provide will be second to none,” declares Bogdanovich. “We are still using the slogan we adopted last year, our music, our festival, representing what this music is about, peace and love. I love reggae and dancehall music, I love events and I think the Sumfest brand will be around for a long time to come.” 

by Patricia Meschino  

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