In true Caribbean fashion, a crowd of thousands danced away challenging weather and market fluctuations, turning Bayfront Park into a sweaty Reggae dance party.
Since its kickoff in 1993, the Bob Marley Movement Annual Caribbean Festival has become one of the most beloved outdoor concerts in South Florida, a mandatory stop for reggae fans. The all-day, Feb. 27 event was conceived to resemble Jamaica’s most-famous son’s concerts, known for their hours-long, almost-mystical celebrations of the singer’s idealistic premises.
A beacon of freedom to people around the world, Bob Marley made known the reality of poverty and oppression for the black Caribbean, hidden amid beaches of fine sand and swaying palms.
Jamaican Nashion McKoy said that Marley’s music — based on the peace-and-love Rastafarian beliefs– manages to bring a lot of people together who otherwise wouldn’t.
“Our vibe is cultural soul, real music about struggle and pain,” said the 29-year-old, fledgling dreadlocks hanging from his head. “We live through our music.”
For its 17th anniversary, the festival’s roster included the Resolvers from Deerfield Beach, and local reggae band Jahfe, both of whom jammed revelers through the afternoon. South Floridian Tarrus Riley, with his roots-reggae philosophy took the stage, under rain and chilly weather that brought the crowd even closer together.
Elka Cools, a native of the black volcano-lava sand beaches of the Dominica Island, has attended the festival for six years. Cools said the demographics made the vibe no less than genuine Caribbean.
“What sets reggae apart is its essence – bring all black people together in true harmony,” she said, looking around the eclectic crowd. “This is as free as it gets in Miami.”
In the early evening, a double rainbow in the sky added a special magic to Jamaican Capleton’s performance, creating an almost serene atmosphere before Ky-Mani Marley’s energetic reggae-rock fusion. “This past year I learned a lot about friends, family, and life,” said Marley. “All I ask you is to allow me to be me tonight.”
Known for his irrepressible, “bombastic” performances, Shaggy cracked jokes throughout his set. Then Marley brothers – Damian, Stephen and Julian – took the stage. For almost two hours, they warmed up the crowd with “Positive Vibration,” “Punky Reggae Party,” “Buffalo Soldier” and others of their father’s classics, some that have become anthems for lovers of the genre.
Following its good-natured tradition of collecting canned goods for charity, the festival required four canned goods from attendees in addition to the ticket purchase. This year, a portion went to Curly House, a local food bank and outreach center, and some
supported the Haitian earthquake recovery effort.
All around the park, vendors sold Marley souvenirs and served corn chowder, jerk chicken and other typical, colorful Caribbean food.
Dwight Nicholas, a native of Jamaica, who has been 14 times to the festival, pinned down what has kept the event bubbling for 17 years.
“This is the one show in Miami that is about the vibration of the people, music food, weather,” he said. “It’s all we need right now.”