Cross summer desert heat with cool island beats and so is born ...
Lots and lots of happy feet.
I like seeing people grab their friend and run onto a dance floor that doesnt happen when you go to a rock show, says Chris Parkhurst, keyboardist for Hawaiian-flavored, Las Vegas-based reggae group HaleAmanO, one of numerous acts booked for Saturdays eight-hour, ninth annual Reggae in the Desert festival.
You think of Las Vegas as this high-paced nightlife, but there are still people who dont want to go out and hear 180 beats per minute, like at the clubs. There are people who want to enjoy their time and their friends and their drinks.
Aiming to wrap the town in soothing aural breezes while turning up the burner on hot reggae rhythms this years mega-concert at the Clark County Government Center Amphitheater also brings to the stage such acts as star duo Sly and Robbie, mellow canary Barrington Levy, Queen of Reggae Marcia Griffiths, the freestyling Mystic Roots out of San Diego, and esteemed Jamaican artist Yellowman.
Adding authentic atmosphere to complement the music, Reggae in the Desert also includes the Caribbean Islands Vendor Village, featuring reggae-style items, exhibits, food and drink.
Ive paid particular attention to making sure that entertainerwise, we stay true to the roots and dance hall reggae, rather than go too commercial like the casinos do, says producer/promoter Frederic Apcar. Sly and Robbie, those guys are legends. Yellowman, out of all the artists Ive ever dealt with, this guy is one of the most down-to-earth. As famous as he is popular, he gives it all he has.
That, say reviewers, is an enormous amount. As one once wrote: Listening to Yellowman sing is like watching Michael Jordan play basketball. He knows hes got it, you know hes got it, and its a trip just experiencing him perform. Widely known as King Yellowman, the musician/songwriter/DJ rose to reggae royalty from a harsh upbringing.
Raised in a Catholic orphanage in Kingston, Yellowman aka Winston Foster was shunned as an albino. We were discriminated (against), says the performer in a phone call from Jamaica, recalling his affliction that eventually gave him his name, now synonymous with reggae artistry. I was alone when I was there. I remember some of the time, I sit there myself, crying, you know? I used to be called a lot of names that I couldnt describe right now.
Talent propelled him past the prejudice that came with his condition. Thats what keep me strong, he says of his passion for the music. The same people who discriminate (against) me, some of them come to me and they apologize. Some became friends, you know?
Since then, Yellowman who also beat cancer of the jaw in 1986 after he was told he had as little as three weeks to six months left to live has both excited and upset the reggae community with song lyrics considered boastful and sexually explicit.
Enormously influential, his exciting rhythmic inventions were absorbed by Americas hip-hop community. Among his hits is perhaps the longest single-word song title in reggae: Zungguzungguguzungguzeng. (Just say, zoonga-zoonga several times over, more or less.)
I love listening to Yellowman, says Hawaiian-born Ryan Fleming, guitarist/leader of HaleAmanO which means House of Sharks in Hawaiian. HaleAmanO is making its Reggae in the Desert debut, after performing around town at the House of Blues, the Hard Rock Hotel, The Mirage and at the Henderson Events Plaza.
Its a big accomplishment to finally get a spot in this festival. When I moved here, you miss all the music from back home, so I thought wed share it with the people of Las Vegas, because its a type of music thats rarely heard. Were soul-R&B-roots-rock-and-reggae. A lot of people from rap and rock, they all gathered at our shows and came up to me and said, I dont really like reggae, but I love your sound.
That, he says, includes performing raggamuffin, a style of Jamaican rapping, as well as the addition of a ukulele. Jamaicans, they trip out on the ukulele being played in reggae music, like, Wow, that little thing makes a big noise, Fleming says. When Jamaicans came to Hawaii, they called it Ja-waiian music.
Sounds so ... breezy.
A beat to take your mind off the heat.
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.