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Courtesy of Ithaca Reggae Festival

July 31, 2019

Ithaca Reggae Festival Brings Music and Education to Stewart Park

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A few days before the weekend of the Ithaca Reggae Festival at Stewart Park, I checked the weather forecast from the seat of my bus. Seeing its projections brought my palms to a light, cold sweat. Warning signs of ear-splitting thunderstorms and torrential rain forced me to pray that taking the three-and-a-half-hour drive upstate for the festival was worth it.

Fortunately, on the day of Ithaca Reggae Fest, the threat of thunderstorms and rain disappeared. The sky was baby blue and filled with plush clouds. And to top it all off, I was listening to fantastic live music beside the beautiful waves of Cayuga Lake in Stewart Park. Attending the Ithaca Reggae Fest is an experience that is welcoming, groovy and funky. Be sure to mark it on your calendars for next year, and each one after!

Upon entering the front gates, the festival greeted its goers with an eclectic crew of skaters. Next to the skate park rested a large tent coined the Education Camp, which highlighted various local organizations in Ithaca. One of these organizations was The Cornell Soil Health Lab who asked festival-goers to paint a collaborative piece on a large canvas using only soil!

Various food trucks were also featured at the festival. With carefully prepared options coming from local Indian, Mexican and Carribean cuisines, festival-goers would feel as though they were eating around the world — journeying to New Delhi, Cancun, and Jamaica all within ten steps.

Throughout the day, the different acts truly exemplified how talented nuanced the production of reggae music. Since the festival wasn’t overly packed, standing close the musicians was easy and it completely enhanced the experience. The musical talent gathered at the Ithaca Reggae Festival was stellar.

A Few Highlights

Dub Apocalypse ( Timo Shanko — saxophones/bass, Tommy Benedetti — drums, Johnny Trama — guitar, Aaron Ballamy – bass) had a tasteful blend of soulful chords, provided by the colorful sax and guitar. And they utilized atmospheric effects that forced you to sway.
Cha-Cha & The Medicinals, who teamed up for this festival, left a series of positive messages throughout each of their songs: speaking on love, peace, and happiness with their groovy beats and funky guitars. Everyone was encouraged to dance and “spread the love”.
Kevin Kinsella, his powerful voice and his highly emotive and engaging stage presence carried festival goers away. Kinsella’s delicate harmonies and timely horn arrangements accented each other flawlessly.
The Analogue Sons ( Lee Hamilton — saxophones, Mike Stark — piano bass, Lars Burggren — drums/percussion, Aaron Speiser — melodica, dub) performed throughout the whole day; in between acts and even joined in on some. The Analogue Sons are prolific and skilled improvisers. They never ran out of material and added new flavor to each song they performed, oftentimes setting each other up for expressive solo performances.
Mykal Rose w/ Sly and Robbie ( Mykal Rose — vocals, Sly Dunbar — drums, Robbie Shakespear — bass), pioneers of the sound of Black Uhuru and leaders of the roots movement, their powerful and unifying lyrics, escalating harmonies and melodic chords vividly illustrated to festival-goers how their music is not mainly just an outlet to have fun, but a medium for expressing their identities and beliefs while positively impacting the hearts and minds of their listeners.
Jeremiah LaCon is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at jcl345@cornell.edu.