The ever popular Rebel Salute concert made headlines when the event received the only second ever official marijuana exemption from government authorities, guaranteeing that no patrons would be arrested for weed possession. Perhaps this made the music at this year’s concert extra magical, with stellar performances at Grizzly’s Plantation Cove in Priory, St Ann, from both reggae legends and exciting newcomers.
Opening night on Friday brought a bevy of classic crooners, including the ever tantalizing Sanchez, Tony Gregory, and South Florida’s own Pluto Shervington. Veterans Luciano and concert founder Tony Rebel held down the roots reggae fort, while classic groups such as The Heptones and the Congos made a stellar comeback with their vintage tunes. Praising the long-anticipated decriminalization of marijuana, long-time ganja advocate Chezidek conquered the stage. Newer acts such as Kabaka Pyramid and Kelissa held their own on stage with confident original music. In all, it was an enchanting evening despite delays and rushed sets due to an overloaded line-up; clearly the audience was just fine having too much of a good thing.
Night two on Saturday was a happy family affair, as Beres Hammond took the stage to an adoring audience, who were even more thrilled when the one and only Marcia Griffiths joined him on stage for a rousing rendition of “Live On.” Singjay Mavado made a decent showing under his real name, David Brooks, while the ever charming Queen Ifrica returned the stage to mellow roots sound.
But perhaps, despite the stellar musical line-up, attendees in the years to come may most remember the concert’s inaugural “Herb Curb” – an informative symposium and expo. Local and international purveyors were on hand, showing off their latest and most innovative applications of weed.
Though the concert started before the symposium finished, forcing speakers to holler over the music, the presentations ran the gamut. First Man, of the Rastafari Indigenous Village, spoke about the community’s persecution over the year for using ganga as part of the religious practice. Poet and broadcast Mutabaruka spoke about weed’s historic significance to the Rastafari faith, as well as the commercial potential of local hemp products in today’s international market. Meanwhile head of International Development at Tweed Blaine Dowdie discussed possible opportunities for international trade. Medicanja Limited’s Dominic McDowell bemoaned Jamaica’s missed opportunities to develop commercially weed’s medically valuable compounds, and what the country needs to do to catch up.