The Recorder – Sounds Local: Reggae Heaven in Wendell

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If you’re a fan of reggae music, you’ll want to head to the town of Wendell on Saturday July 16 for the return of the Wendell Reggae Fest.

As in previous years, the festival will take place at the Deja Brew Cafe and Pub on Lockes Village Road. Returning after a two-year hiatus due to COVID, Wendell Reggae Fest creates a family-friendly environment while hosting some of the best reggae bands.

The music will start at 2 p.m. and continue until 11 p.m. In addition to all the music, there will be food and drink sales and a children’s tent.

Rhythm Inc., a Wendell-based hip-hop reggae group led by Simon White, hosts the Wendell Reggae Fest. White, who grew up and still resides in the small town of Wendell, started the festival in 2017. Back then, his only goal was for the festival to be one big party, and he certainly accomplished that because the party is has become a successful event that attracts hundreds of reggae lovers.

White feels having the festival in Wendell is important as he recognizes the area has produced a number of reggae outfits, including classic local band Loose Caboose. A reggae group formed in 1972, Loose Caboose helped bring reggae, a music originating in Jamaica and known for its heavy beats and uplifting messages, to audiences in the Northeast.

When the festival started, all artists were based locally, but now that it has grown, the lineup has expanded to include bands from outside the immediate area.

“There are a lot of changes in the groups we have this year,” White said. “I’ve worked with a lot of these musicians in the past and played with them in different settings and different states. Many are based in Connecticut, but they actually play all over the place.

Artists who will turn Wendell into a reggae paradise on Saturday include the following:

I Anbassa plays global reggae based on Rastafarian music mixed with traces of funk, rock and Afrobeat. Burnie T, who like I Anbassa is based in Connecticut, was born on the Caribbean island of Dominica and started out as a reggae drummer playing in several different bands. He has since established himself as a talented songwriter. Prince Negasi is a reggae singer, musician and producer from Portmore, Jamaica, and his band Souls of Zion are a young generation of roots reggae musicians.

Some of the local talent includes singer Shanti Starr, originally from Gambia but now living in Wendell. She has worked in various musical setups and traveled the world. Additionally, she is a member of Gaia Roots, an all-female world music ensemble.

Some new bands in the lineup also feature well-established local musicians.

Wheel Out features vocalist Roosta, a freestyle rapper from Kingston who is probably best known for his work with The Fear Nuttin’ Band. Wheel Out is a new project for Roosta which features Tom Matthew on guitar, Bryan Worley on bass and Javi Zen on drums and combines rootsy beats with a more modern cross-cultural sound.

“Wheel Out is Roosta’s new project now that Fear Nuttin’ Band haven’t played much,” White said. “* IanISouTree and the SoulRizor Crew is a new project from Ian-I of the Alchemystics and there’s Root Fiyah, a new band from Abdul Baki who have also been involved in the Charlemont Reggae Festival.”

The festival will also feature a number of DJs, including DJ Live from Amherst and DJ Vibe Wise from Orange. Rhythm Inc. will close this day and night of music with an energetic set of its own music.

Doors open at noon. Advance tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the Wendell Country Store. Tickets at the door are $20. Admission for children 12 and under is free.

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams at the Shea Theater

If you want to hear some unique rock music this weekend, head to Turners Falls and experience the sounds of the Slambovian Circus of Dreams at the Shea Theater Arts Center on Friday, July 15 at 8 p.m. This band, from Sleepy Hollow, New York, has been a Valley favorite for years, and they will be playing their very first show at The Shea.

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams has been around since the late 1990s and you might remember them as Gandalf Murphy and Slambovian Circus of Dreams. Of course, it’s also possible that you attended “A Very Slambovian Christmas”, their annual holiday show which has always stopped in Northampton.

The group is led by JoziahLongo on lead vocals and includes Tink Lloyd on accordion, cello, mandolin and flute and SharkeyMcEwen on guitar. For this tour, they will have three additional musicians on keyboards, saxophone, drums and bass. You’ll hear a strong folk influence in their music, as well as a mix of psychedelia and prog-rock. The group is currently touring in support of their sixth album “A Very Unusual Head”, a project that spanned four years and recorded in two countries. The 60s influence shines through loud and clear on tracks like Bowiesque’s “Stand Under” and Sid Barrett’s psychedelic quality of “Solve it All Dali.” All the songs from the new album should translate brilliantly on stage.

Longo is a charismatic leader and the group is known for their lively and theatrical performances. They have gained a loyal following over the years based on the strength of their performances and have toured extensively across the country and around the world (they visit Britain after the show at the Shea) with a focus especially on the shows here in the Northeast.

If you’ve never seen the Slambovain Circus of Dreams before, this is the perfect opportunity to hear what it’s all about. And if you’re an old fan, come and welcome the band to Shea.

Tickets and more information are available at thesheatheater.org.

Home Free body show at Peskeompskut Park

Also in Turners Falls this weekend: a free show presented by Shea Away with Home Body and Frank Hurricane on Saturday, July 16 at 6 p.m. at Peskeompskut Park.

Home Body is synthesist Eric Hnatow and singer Haley Morgan who together create sparkling electro-pop music that transports listeners to another dimension. Their shows are visual and aural spectacles that feature dance and costumes along with their dynamic music. The couple organized this event and they invited friend, spiritual and folk blues musician/storyteller Frank Hurricane to open for them.

“Frank is a friend of ours who we met while touring the underground scene, he lived in Turners for a while and played many historic events in Franklin County over the years, and is always up for a fun time,” Morgane said. “He really is a rare find.”

Morgan went on to say that during the pandemic, Home Body has been writing new songs and recording them for the follow-up to their 2019 sophomore release, “Spiritus.” Look for some of this new material to appear in their set on Saturday.

This event is supported by RiverCulture, The Shea Theatre, Greenfield Cooperative Bank and a grant from the Mass Cultural Council.

Sheryl Hunter is a freelance writer who resides in Easthampton. His work has appeared in various regional and national publications. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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