sponsored by ROOTZ REGGAE & KULCHA
BY EYE -2-EYE COMMUNICATIONS, INC.
6th Annual Bob Marley Festival Report
6th annual Bob Marley Festival in Miami made a
series of serious public relations blunders this
year, although the event continued to steam-roll
along. We've held our tongues for a while although
things haven't been right with this festival for
years now. However, things went from bad to worse
this year, and this has forced us to make a few
comments. For the promoters -Movement of Jah People-
the "Wake Up & Live" Bob Marley
Festival was obviously a huge financial success,
with an estimated 25,000 people paying $15, $20
(and more if they didn't bring any canned food
with them). With high flying divas Lauryn Hill
and Erykah Badu on the bill, all seemed like business
as usual at the Bayfront Park amphitheater. However,
behind the scenes all was definitely not "kosher".
Things got off to a bad start at the Miami Beach
press party to launch the event. Besides starting
very late and not having any of the featured artists
present, the catered menu included ham, served
by (among others) a gay or cross-dressing man
in a dress. Why?... How?... Who?.. I mean, why
would anyone knowledgeable or
sensitive to Bob Marley's principles and lifestyle
make these kinds of arrangements, -that menu,
that venue- knowing that they would be catering
to Rootz/Reggae/Rasta/Kulcha-conscious guests?
(The same thing happened at the anti-climatic
launching of the Bob Marley exhibit at Disney
in Orlando in February, when they also served
pork and provided a lot of hard liquor -but
that's another story.)
of the biggest problems has always been the insensitive
treatment of South Florida based artists. For
instance, Cappo and his Benaiah band played the
festival three years in a row, backing up a host
of supporting acts every year for free. When the
entry fee went from free, to $5, to $10, and Cappo
asked for "expenses", Benaiah was cut
from the line up. Then there were the drummers
from the Nyahbinghi House in Miami, who were cut
from last year's show because they requested a
stall at the event -a space in the park- in lieu
of payment. And to this day, although the Melody
Makers (the band and not Ziggy & the Marleys
as far as we know) is paid "expenses",
Florida based artists are required to perform
for free or else they are overlooked. Imagine
then, the horror of young artists like Nellie
Starr and Contractor, who, after being present
and on time, were suddenly told they had "2
minutes!" to perform. Perform they did, but
without their band, which simply unplugged when
given the "2 minutes!" warning. These
artists had to pay for stage outfits, had to pay
their backing band, had to pay for rehearsal space
and time, etc. Nellie Starr even flew in her father
from Martinique to see her debut on the big Bob
Marley show. (She was on stage for less than 120
this anyway to treat artists? Where is the reciprocity?
Then there was the conflict with the press, in
particular the local Caribbean and Reggae press/media.
To a man, woman and media outlet, they all felt
very much "dissed" this year by the
Movement of Jah People, which spent no advertising
dollars with any of the Caribbean/Reggae radio
shows or publications. From Winsome Charlton of
Hi-Class and WAVS radio, to Eddie Edwards of Jamaica
Awareness, WVCG radio and "Mention"
newspaper, to "Rhythm Vibes" and "Now"
magazines -the story was the same. No radio adz,
no ticket give-aways, no interviews. To add insult
to injury, there were no back stage passes, no
complimentary tickets, no sensitivity, no understanding
and no nothing for the ethnic and Rootz media.
Some members of the Caribbean press were even
told that if they want press passes for next year
they will have to be sponsors of the event. (Ed:
they told me the same thing last year when they
turned down my request for passes. This year they
told me there were no more passes available because
they had already exceeded the number allotted
by the Fire Marshall.) And it wasn't only the
local Caribbean media in Miami which suffered.
Well known freelance journalist Vinette Pryce
from New York ran into the same problem as did
other legitimate media organisations and personnel
from out of town.
to the promoters, the restriction on passes was
intended to minimize the number of "do-nothings"
and "groupies" hanging out back stage.
We overstand that, but what's that got to do with
journalists and photographers trying to do their
Small wonder then, that this year's festival didn't
even really feel like a Bob Marley or Rootz/Reggae
event. The mainstream radio, TV and press commercials/adverts,
all focussed almost exclusively on the presence
of Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu, and not on the
reason for their presence -Bob Marley and his
Earthday celebration. It was all about Erykah
and Lauryn, and after they performed, masses of
the crowd started leaving (although it became
very cold by Maimi standards that night.) And
another thing. Where
were all the Black people? Why exactly is it that
sizeable numbers of Black people, Rootz people,
and Rasta people no longer attend this show anymore?
Is it the steadily increasing entrance fee, or
the lack of real vibes? Whatever the reason, once
again there were relatively few people of color
there and many of those who did attend were Haitians
who came especially to see Lauryn "Fugee"
Hill. Movement of Jah People clearly needs to
become more sensitive to the Rootz/Reggae artists
and the Caribbean media which has always supported
and sustained this festival in many different
ways. Yeah, over 700,000 cans of food for Miami's
homeless have been donated to Camilus House over
the years, and that's great. But the promoters
need to get this event back on track as
a meaningful cultural event and not get lost in
the "One Love" hype. Remember: Bob Marley
was a Reggae revolutionary who urged Black people
and poor people to "Get Up (and) stand up
for your rights". So first things first.
There'll be all the time in the world for the
euphoria of "One Love", after we achieve
"Equal Rights and Justice".
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