Sumfest is some fest

 Montego Bay will be hosting superstars of the reggae world between 17 and 24 July.

Sumfest is an annual shindig that is considered a central part of the scene, showcasing the best of dancehall, reggae, R&B and hip hop worldwide.

This year, huge names confirmed to perform include Chris Brown, Shaggy, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer in a stellar lineup that’s gonna get booties bumpin’.

Splish splash
The festival was established in 1993 to replace the previous Sunsplash and has since become Jamaica’s largest festival.

Held in the home of reggae, the annual bash is considered to be the world’s premier reggae event while also promoting Jamaica’s tourist credentials, – something that in the light of recent troubles has become all the more important.

The festival’s motto is Promoting Music.

The Universal Force and international acts have also appeared at Sumfest over the years to great effect. These include Kanye West, Lionel Richie, 50 Cent, the Temptations and LL Cool J.

Locally-based heroes, including both Damien and Ziggy Marley, Bunny Wailer, Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown, are also among the familiar names that have graced Sumfest over the last 17 years.

“Summerfest Productions believes in the music of our small island nation and sees Reggae Sumfest as the premier vehicle through which to promote and showcase the incredible talent of our Jamaica’s music,” said the promoters. It’s hard to disagree with them.

Living for the weekend
This year’s bash kicks off on Saturday, 17 July with the opening beach party at Cornwall Beach, and the gates will open from 10am giving plenty of time to get into the party vibe.

Dancehall rules the roost on Thursday, 22 July with Bounty Killer the headliner of a very strong lineup. This is the event that last year got the artist an impromptu gig in company of the police; he was subsequently arrested for indecent language and disorderly conduct. Bounty Killer, real name Rodney Pryce, had fallen foul of Jamaican laws that prohibit onstage profanity. It’s going to be interesting, of that you can be sure.

Also on the bill is Mavado, the singer from deep in the Cuban area of Kingston and winner of the 2010 EME award for male singjay of the year. You might remember him for Real McKoy, which appeared on the trailer for the game Grand Theft Auto 4. Providing the Gully Creeper dance and controversy is Elephant Man, not one to mince his words, and a plethora of other artists, including Ding Dong, Voicemail and Demarco are also on the bill.

Friday on my mind
The following night, Friday, 23 July, Chris Brown heads the first International Night. The R&B artist is still only 21 but has notched up three major international tours and millions of worldwide sales since debuting in 2005 with the single Run It. Brown’s career had taken something of a downturn after he was found guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, pop star Rhiannna. His visa to enter the UK was refused in June 2010 as a result.

Etana, also known as Shauna McKenzie, released her debut LP The Strong One two years ago and has since come to the fore as an artist of skill and many influences, from acoustic folk to roots reggae and soul. The singer-songwriter will be one of the highlights of the festival. Other names to watch out for are Jah Cure, Gyptian and Tony Rebel.

Saturday night
The second International Night, on Saturday, 24 July, will be notable for an appearance by Shaggy. Over the years the singer has done everything from duets with Cyndi Lauper to being awarded the Jamaican Order of Distinction, in the rank of commander. He also recorded the official mascots’ anthem for the Euro 2008 football championships, Feel The Rush. It’s gonna be boombastic.

Beenie Man provides reggae fusion and high energy dancehall and of course has seen his own controversy over the years for reported homophobic comments. The altogether more cerebral approach of Christopher Martin may be more palatable to some, and then there’s also Tarrus Riley. Gramps Morgan and QQ giving it some welly.

It’s a fact
The festival consistently attracts crowds in excess of 30,000 and is also notable for offering arts and crafts and some of the best jerk any man has ever tasted. Be warned – hotels nearby will more than likely already be booked out. The sensible festival-goer looks to reserve months in advance, but veterans of Sumfest also note that phoning around may also turn up a few last-minute cancellations.

Other top tips include making sure you have comfortable footwear – six-inch heels may look great but there’s a lot of walking and standing involved. Like any festival, it’s worth taking a light raincoat with you, rain or shine, as you can always use it as a blanket to sit on if you don’t snag one of the always in-demand chairs.

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