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Sierra Nevada World Music Festival 2016

Sierra Nevada World Music Festival 2016

Sierra Nevada World Music Festival 2016

By on - Photos by Lee Abel - 2 comments

Festival Thrives Despite Down Pour; Legends and New Artists Shine.

“In the morning yah I roll a spliff/Countless thoughts in my head send me adrift/In the morning yah I talk with myself the birds the trees and anything else.”—“In the Morning Yah,” Sheldon Shephard, No-Maddz, Sierra Nevada World Music Festival 2016

SNWMF 2016 - Richie Spice

Even an unexpected rain storm in Boonville, CA on the opening day of the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival couldn't stop the music. Unfortunately, the cloud burst on Friday, June 17 kept 80-year-old music legend Lee “Scratch” Perry from performing on the main stage and caused Don Carlos’ set to be rescheduled. However the groove continued on the smaller, Village Stage that night at Mendocino County Fairgrounds with Pablo Moses and his band. Revelers took shelter under jackets umbrellas and a nearby gazebo and danced to Moses’ hits such as “Ready, Aim, Fire!” Fans also took shelter in the late night dancehall set as Brooklyn’s finest reggae singer/melodica player Rocker T delivered a soulful set, backed by the Bay Area’s Jah Warrior Shelter Hi-Fi sound system, featuring selectors King Ivier and Jah Yzer.

Miraculously, on day two, Saturday June 18, the sun came out and the 23rd Annual Sierra Nevada World Music Festival Summer Solstice and Peace Celebration continued in fine fashion. Kudos to Epiphany Artists—promoters Warren Smith and Gretchen Franz and their talented production team for pulling it all together.

Without a doubt, Saturday night belonged to Grammy nominee Beres Hammond, who made a dramatic return to the California stage after 10 years. Emcee Junor Francis introduced Hammond, 60, as the singer, who has been on the charts consistently since 1985, the man who continues to inspire the current generation as well as their parents and grandparents. To wild applause, Hammond appeared on the main stage without his trademark (beard), but wearing his signature Kangol-style cap. Backed by the dynamic Harmony House band, Hammond, known for his dusky, reggae-soul vocals, literally had people in tears with his songs of freedom, love, joy and pain. “Step Aside,” “No Disturb Sign,” “They Gonna Talk,” “Rockaway,” “She Loves Me Now,” “What One Dance Can Do,” and “Putting Up a Resistance” were just a few of the gems that Hammond delivered. “Sierra Nevada, thank you for always celebrating the music,” said Hammond, who’s been called Jamaica’s Sam Cooke.

SNWMF 2016 - Beres Hammond and Toots Hibbert

It was a hard act to follow for the night’s headliner, the legendary Toots and the Maytals. Grammy winning reggae star Frederick “Toots” Hibbert had also been away from the stage for several years due to a 2013 head injury he sustained after someone threw a bottle while he was performing at the River Rock Festival in Richmond, VA. Hibbert, 73, did not disappoint, delivering Toots and the Maytals classics such as “Pressure Drop,” “Funky Kingston,” “Sweet and Dandy” and many more. With his sensual baritone and stylish dance moves, Hibbert was one of the first to put the soul in reggae. It was definitely a family affair, as Toots was accompanied on stage by his son, Hopeton Hibbert on bass, daughter Leba Hibbert on backing vocals and son Junior Toots singing “Roll One Up” as a guest vocalist. Even Toots’ grandson, aspiring rapper Clay Hibbert, took the stage. If you looked closely, you could see Beres Hammond dancing in the wings of the stage.

Saturday’s daytime line-up was dominated by a sensational lineup of the artists who I’ve dubbed the PYD’s (Pretty Young Dreads). This was a time for the young, gifted and gorgeous to shine. After their respective performances, No-Maddz, Kabaka Pyramid, Tanya Stephens, Mellow Mood (identical twin dancehall artists from Italy), Etana and Richie Spice joined moderator Danny Crucial in the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival Press Tent.

Backed by the Yellow Wall Dub Squad, Stephens performed her string of risqué dancehall hits and love songs such as “Yuh Nuh Ready Fi Dis Yet,” Draw fi Mi Finger,” “Boom Wuk,” “Goggle,” “It’s a Pity,” “I Can’t Breathe” and “These Streets” on the main stage. In the press tent, Stephens talked music, politics and feminism. The witty singer/songwriter/ producer and Bernie Sanders enthusiast had much to say when a member of the media asked her what advice she would give to aspiring female artists.

SNWMF 2016 - Tanya Stephens“I would say, don’t be labeled as a ‘female’ artist, just be an artist,” said Stephens. “Stop being intimidated by the word ‘fraternity’ and stop thinking that this is a male dominated industry. They may be many in terms of numbers, but in terms of potency, not so much. We have them beat. Just come in, kick down the door and do your thing. Don’t be hung up on the ‘female’ label; our job is not sexual. I know that people mean well when they compliment me by saying that I’m one of the best female artists, but I feel marginalized by my gender. I look at women and I see no competition. That may sound egotistical to some people, but I’m not an accidental artist. I work very hard. If you hear me put out 10 songs, it means I made maybe, 150 songs. I demand more than just the title female artist. It’s like saying all right, we need some breasts, and I don’t even have that much breasts.”

No-Maddz, the eclectic dub poetry collective from Kingston, JA, returned to SNWMF for the second year in a row. The natty dressed No-Maddz ensemble includes Sheldon Shepherd (vocalist and writer), Everaldo Creary (vocalist and ordained deacon), Christopher Gordon (percussion), Oneil Peart (vocals) and Levi Stover on bass. The group extolled the magic of performing amongst the trees on the Village Stage last year and the fun of staying at the Discovery Inn in Ukiah, CA this year and performing on the main stage. If you are a fan of Linton Kwesi Johnson or Mutabaruka, you will love the “In the Morning Yah,” a collection of dub poetry and visual art, which No-Maddz offered for sale at SNWMF.

A notable mention—Cecil "Skelly" Spence and Lascelle "Wiss" Bulgin--Israel Vibration--a SNWMF favorite over the years, put on a grand roots/reggae performance backed by the Roots Radics band featuring famed bassist Flabba Holt. Incidentally, the adorable toddler dancing with I-Vibes on stage right was none other than Wiss’ grandson. It was, after all, Father’s Day weekend.

Sunday June 19, day three of SWMF was once again bright and sunny, and the vibe was relaxing enough for me to take my niece to the Kidz Zone, a festival favorite for parents and wee folk, for face painting. On the way, I stopped through the famed SNWMF food court to indulge in one of my favorite guilty pleasures, a hand dipped ice cream bar from Frozen Fantasies. On vendors’ row, Don Carlos had an impressive merch booth where fans could purchase CDs and other memorabilia. Other treasures $20 and under that I discovered: a tiny pink marble pyramid, a Frieda Kahlo magnet, a hand painted hat from Ghana and a Lucky Dube T-shirt.

La Santa Cecelia, a Grammy winning group from Los Angeles, created a buzz on the main stage with their intoxicating blend of Latin Rhythms. Lee Tafari, Earthkry, Ras Muhammad, Sara Lugo, the Delerians and Ceu were just a few of the emerging artists who gained exposure and most likely social media hits at SNWMF. Three heavyweights who made reggae universal—Inner Circle, Leroy Sibbles and Alpha Blondy closed out the festival on the main stage, each with impressive performances.

SNWMF 2016 - Leroy Sibbles

After his set, I asked Sibbles how it felt to be back at SNWMF.

“Oh, it’s beautiful,” said Sibbles, the former Heptone and Studio One singer, songwriter, arranger and bassist who created the “Full Up” riddim behind the Mighty Diamonds’ classic “Pass the Kutchie.”

“I’m enjoying myself; and the weather’s cool; in Jamaica right now, it’s hot. I could use a little cooling down.”

Heads up: look for Sibbles’ remake of the Isley Brothers” 1980s’ heart warmer, “Between the Sheets.” Perhaps he will perform it at some point at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival.

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