The 7th annual Reggae On The Mountain (ROTM) music and culture festival chronicles another successful venture for festival organizers Label 27. The company's mission of celebrating art, music and love can be seen, felt and heard at the growing music festival held every summer in the mountains of Topanga Canyon, California. This year brought reggae legends Don Carlos, Third World and Steel Pulse to the Main stage, among a slew of other conscious musicians including Empress Akua, Quinto Sol and talented newcomer, Keznamdi.
Keznamdi is a roots reggae singer from Kingston, Jamaica, who is poised to become one of the breakout reggae musicians of the year. The artist is a passionate songwriter who is not afraid to express his dedication to the Rastafarian way of life, which is wholly translated through his music. The singer performed a vibrant set with his live band, Keznation, to many great reviews. One festivalgoer wrote on Instagram days after Keznamdi's performance. "Still feelin' the vibes from Reggae on the Mountain and Keznamdi blessing us with sweet, sweet reggae music," captioned a video clip of the artist performing live. The set included a cameo from fellow up-and-coming Jamaican artist, Calico. The collaborative brotherhood between the two artists drew the crowd in even more.
The Hilltop stage made its debut for the second year in a row, complete with several food vendors and tables to sit and enjoy the live show and DJ sets.
Other performers who graced the festival's Main stage included Arise Roots, Pachamama, and The Delirians, as well as headliners Don Carlos, Third World and Steel Pulse. The energized crowd soaked in the music and sun and were treated to complimentary bottles of Vitamin Water. As Third World performed their hit single, "96 Degrees in the Shade," festivalgoers could literally feel the heat rising from the band's powerful and energetic performance. One Snapchat post showed it was exactly 96 degrees as they performed the hit single of the same name. It was Empress Akua's performance, backed by East LA natives Quinto Sol, that stole the show as she performed alongside a member of their family tribe - an adorable young empress who sang along to Akua's soulful melodies.
Check out our slideshow of the dynamic performances below:
What is most unique about Reggae on the Mountain is the community it brings together. Locals to Topanga Canyon are out in full swing, with lots of guests bringing along young children, including newborn babies. It is a family atmosphere where kids being introduced to the culture and music make the vibe extra special during the 2-day experience. This year, one festivalgoer proposed marriage to the delight of his longtime girlfriend in the middle of Steel Pulse's set. She said, "Yes!"
The experience for the festival attendees is one thing, but we wanted to know how the musicians felt about the crisp, pure, California vibes. KingstonToLA caught up with Steel Pulse bass player of 13 years, Amlak Tafari, to hear his take on California's powerful reggae music industry.
"From a global perspective, it is definitely, definitely unique. In the world of reggae, California is a sovereign state. I have lived in San Diego and Los Angeles. I lived in Berkeley. I lived in Oakland. I have seen the growth of the reggae music industry here," says Tafari. "Reggae in California has become an industry. Reggae from Jamaica was a feel, a passion and an expression of life. Reggae in California, people feel and they express, but it's a different root. It's a different source."
Tafari continued to speak on California's reggae music marketability, which culminates at festivals such as Reggae on the Mountain. "I have no doubt that California is the epicenter of the reggae music industry."
Tafari is onto something about reggae music's appeal for the Californian. The beloved genre, and all its subgenres, has fused an evergrowing community of fans on the West coast. There's just something to the California energy that blends perfectly with reggae and its feeling. Maybe it's the vibes, the waves and the mountains. Reggae on the Mountain serves as a reminder that this music genre speaks to people from all walks of life; moving, swaying and celebrating the sounds of the times.
See the vibes for yourself with this clip of Steel Pulse's upbeat 2016 performance shot by festival attendee, Joachim Wiesel:
Images courtesy of Parker Bartlett. All rights reserved.