Bob Marley Festival

As sporadic intervals of rain splashed down upon dedicated fans nested along the moisture-ridden grass of historical Virginia Key Beach, the spirit of the 9th annual Bob Marley Caribbean Festival remained dry, proceeding as planned with the celebration of the legend’s music, life and philosophy. The Bob Marley Movement of Jah People presented the day long festival with various hip hop, soul, and reggae acts, propagating its reoccurring ideal of “One Foundation” to advance the event’s philanthropic efforts to benefit the needy.

People from all over flocked to the big lawn where the concert was taking place and assembled in their own personal niche, swaying with the music while inhaling potent clouds of smoke, commemorating the progression of art, freedom and independence. In the outskirts of the fest, several stands of food served the hungry, numerous people sat on the grass awaiting the arrival of friends, with some diverting themselves by reading issues of High Times magazine, and booths of Jamaican imported Red Stripe beer helped gratify the thirst of enthused reggae fans.

The rain didn’t affect the musical performances, with most of the scheduled artists showing up to rock the stage, taking the audience in for a musical trip that will long be remembered. The Marley family featuring Cedella Marley Booker, Stephen “Ragga” Marley, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and Julian Marley performed in honor of their renowned relative, playing their own original songs as well as emotive performances of Bob’s memorable compositions, each of which still manage to rebelliously profess fundamental issues and concerns that saturate the world’s humanity.

The earlier part of the festival was highlighted by a dynamic show starring Tony Rebel and Swade followed by Miami’s own resident Mr. Cheeks from the Lost Boyz. Cheeks, originally from Queens, New York, moved to Miami when the group disbanded partially after the death of its member Freaky Tah. Enlivening the stage, he boosted the crowd with several renditions of songs off of his solo album. People responded strongest to the thumping rhythms of “Lights, Camera, Action,” but even more fans reacted when Cheeks performed a poignant version of the Lost Boyz classic Renee.

Rebel and his band came through to perform some stirring roots reggae, calling out to the people of Jah as well as to all other people of the world, while he bounced around passionately on stage. For some, however, the escalating downpour ended up outweighing the inspired musical sets. “I was just getting impatient between sets,” explained a soaked, dazed girl from the crowd as she was leaving the concert, “because they were taking so long for the next artists to come on and the rain has damped up all my stuff.” Another attendee was disappointed with the turn out. “There were a lot, and I mean a whole lot, more people last year and everything seemed to flow more smoothly. I guess the rain sort of messed things up,” she commented.

Between sets, disc jockeys from 99 Jamz spun rap and dancehall, animating the front crowd, especially the Hispanic teenie-boppers at the front of the stage.

As the concert moved on, rain decanting intermittently, Erykah Badu, dressed in a taut purple dress with revealing black hair that fell below her knees, blessed the stage with her soulfully delicate croon. Encouraging the spectators to unite together in an amalgamated movement of freedom, her entrancing voice echoed beautifully throughout the fields. She performed several tracks from her acclaimed album Mama’s Gun and, in one of the evening’s highlights, even had a security guard carry her into the audience for one of her songs.

The show continued with powerful appearances by headliners Lauryn Hill and DMX. Hill, whose rare recent live performances have been noted for their promising display of new material from her upcoming album and candid tearful commentary, exalted a similarly touching routine here. Moreover, later on after Hill had left the stage, Wyclef Jean made an unexpected cameo with a compelling freestyle that made reference to Manhattan and the current political situation in the nation.

Since its conception, the festival has promoted a charitable endeavor to feed the hungry and has collected more than 900,000 cans of food in its brief history. This year, the proceeds will benefit the James E. Scott Community Association, Inc., a company committed to helping people help themselves.

Rain or shine, year by year this festival will continue to deliver an important message of peace, understanding, and unity to a world that needs it more so now than ever. Its altruistic efforts contribute to a benevolent support against poverty and starvation, in the memory of a visionary man whose music and everlasting kindness will remain here until the end of time.

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