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Kaya Fest 2018

Kaya Fest 2018

Kaya Fest 2018

By on - Photos by Chris Yates - Comment

The Power of Kaya.

This past weekend marked the 40th anniversary of Bob Marley’s Kaya album, originally released on March 23, 1978. In celebration, Tuff Gong and Fruit of Life Productions put on the second annual Kaya Fest, held at the NOS Event Center in San Bernardino, California.

With the Miami Sun Times rating last year’s Kaya Fest as one of the top 10 musical moments of 2017, this year’s fest came with a star-studded lineup from reggae legends like Inner Circle, Third World, and Marcia Griffiths to a reunion of all the Marley brothers playing in California after a decade-long absence.

Kaya Fest

Commemorating Bob Marley in any fashion is no easy feat. A man who brought message music to the masses, the mystic and philosophical genius wrote and recorded many of the songs on Kaya soon after an attempt on his life was made. With the release coinciding with the One Love Peace Concert in Kingston, Jamaica, it seems as if, almost 40 years later, these songs and sentiment are just as relevant today. Kaya is one of Marley’s “softer” albums, a unique and philosophical tribute to love that some criticized as having lost their militant quality & call to rebellion.

Bob Marley, Running Away: You running and you running, and you running away, but you can't run away from yourself

Four decades later, these lyrics can be seen as a call to rebellion -- a rebellion with a radical call to love our neighbor. Situating ourselves in our current political & social climate where violence is widespread and people are often polarized against one another, Kaya offers an alternative to running away and to combat our issues with love. As more and more corruption is brought to justice, most notably in the realms of politics and the entertainment industry, Kaya brings to light the importance of a personal morality noting “You cannot run away from yourself.”

With Cannabis legal in 9 states in the US, Kaya (the album) marks a perfect celebration for Kaya Fest’s “Education before recreation” theme. The plant as a whole was discussed as having many benefits, not only the bud that is smoked. While a social emphasis on the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes continues to rise, there was an importance established on other health benefits and the whole value of the plant itself.

Putting this album and Bob’s legacy in context was an important aspect to experiencing the wholeness this festival had to offer. With the star-studded lineup, here are my festival highlights:

Day 1:

  • Hawaiian reggae superstar Anuhea opened the festival with an energizing performance, setting the mood for the rest of the weekend. Known for her personal and poetic love songs, the crowd jammed along as she played hits like “Higher than the Clouds” and “Come over love.”

  • Known as “The Bad Boys of Reggae,” Inner Circle brought an absolutely electrifying performance that brought everyone to their feet and dancing. Not only were they celebrating Kaya but their 50th anniversary as a band! For those who’ve seen them in concert, this is not necessarily a highlight because they bring down the house every show they play – so here’s your highlight. Finishing up their set, they covered Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud.

  • The “Main Event” did not disappoint… All of the Marley Brothers on stage, singing their hit songs but also covering some of their father’s tracks. What was the best part? Hearing their father’s spirit and voice come alive in each one of his sons.

Day 2:

  • Sunday marked the day that showcased some of Jamaica’s up and coming talent. Kabaka Pyramid hit the stage, showcasing some of his new songs on his upcoming album Kontraband. Sway Calloway came on stage to introduce Chronixx, mentioning that this is the “voice of the future”, which everyone in the audience agreed with.

  • What I was personally looking forward to the most was Stephen Marley’s acoustic Kaya Tribute. Hearing some of these songs on Kaya Fest in an acoustic setting was something incredibly special and brought a contemplative tone to the set.

  • Sunday was filled with magnificent musical moments but was also filled with a number of audio issues, leaving the festival to start almost two hours after schedule, thus cutting De La Ghetto completely out of the lineup. One of the most comical moments was the battle Yaadcore had with the audio engineers. Whether it was his music or his microphone, about every 10 minutes Yaadcore would walk to the edge of the stage and say “It seems like every 10 minutes they turn down my music, if you want them to turn it up the music: I say turn, you say up. TURN UP”.

Although there were some technical difficulties and normal festival venue gripes (inadequate bathrooms, long food lines, etc.), Kaya Fest proved to be an event dedicated not only to Bob Marley’s album but to unify rather than divide. The star-studded lineup that did not disappoint, and the perfect Southern California weather brought us out of our daily monotony while also challenging us to accept our call to radical love.


Reproduction without permission of United Reggae and Chris Yates is prohibited.

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