*Los Angeles-The Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC), Cultural Affairs Commission presented the 29th Annual Jazz Reggae Festival, Saturday, April 25th, at the UCLA Tennis Center.
There was a lot of chatter before, during, and after the festival on Social Media (Facebook, Twitter) about the direction that the festival is heading. I’m sure that there will be more talking to come, once people realized that the festival was held a month earlier than in previous years.
JRF 2015 provided a fresh interpretation of its long history rooted in Jazz and Reggae Music. JRF expanded its genre to develop an eclectic and dynamic line-up that celebrated Los Angeles and its evolving culture.
A cool breeze greeted festival goers. The result was a cold chill that hovered over the campus for most of the day. Hoodies, jackets and sweaters were required attire for the festival.
JRF held a Battle of the Bands to determine who will perform on the Main Stage to open the show. The winning group was Westwood Village Ent. led by saxophonist Munir Griffin. I was glad to be in the audience to hear this wonderful band perform “Gates of Jupiter,” “So High,” and “We Dem College Kidz.” DJ Andres, Soulection complimented the festival with his dynamic musical soundtrack that had the crowd grooving all day.
People argued how you can have a Reggae Festival without any artists representing the genre. Vocalist Keznamdi joyfully filled the bill with a set of spiritually uplifting tunes to nourish our souls on the tunes “Darkness,” “They Don’t Really Care About Us,” “She Says,” and “Grade.”
Drummer/vocalist Anderson. Paak & The Free Nationals were rocking the festival with some hip-hop on “The Making of You,” “Milk and Honey,” “Already,” “Luh You,” and “Realla.”
Ce’Cile brought in some righteous vibes as she revved it up with some extremely contagious, high-octane rhythms of Jamaica, dancehall and reggae from her last CD- Still Running(from Love), and previous CD’s, Waiting, Bad Gyal, and Jamaicanization.
Kehlani had the crowd up on their feet throughout her set of double entendre, sultry lyrics. Her crowd pleasing set featured the tunes “Getaway,” “Deserve Better,” “This is How We Do Us,” “Act a Fool,” “Raw & True,” “FWU,” and “Til the Morning,” and “How That Taste.”
The weather pendulum was very erratic during the festival. Rain poured down briefly during Kehlani’s set. The show didn’t skip a beat.
Shwayze energized the festivities with an explosive set of original tunes. The crowd sang along on the following tunes “How I Want It,” West Coast Party,” “Buzzin,” Love is Overrated,” and “Corona & Lime.”
The crowd grew as the day progressed. This was quite apparent during the lively sets provided by JMSN, Marian Hill, Lido, Portugal. The Man, with the crowd “Chillin” with Wale as he close out the festival.
The 2nd Stage was cracking with the amazing sounds provided by talented UCLA student bands. This stage provided a platform for upcoming new artists. Apollo Soul kicked off the program with “Flavor Country,” “Hey Kid, I’m a Computer,” “Boiz Night,” and Small Ghosts.”
This set was followed by a great set by Nick Valentini. We The Folk had the crowd swaying and moving with an eclectic set of danceable world music with the tunes “White Table,” “Solo Contigo,” “Won’t You Come Back,” and “Last Night.”
Popular group The Eva B. Foundation, Eva Barrosse-vocals, David Miller-guitar, Jules Levy-bass and Dave Laudicina on drums thrilled the crowd with several original tunes “Too Far,” and Nick’s House,” “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5, and “I’ve Got You Under my Skin” by Cole Porter.
Also on the 2nd Stage- Evening Curation by Soulection featured DJ’s Eden Hagos, Zikomo, Kronika, J-Louis and Jo_Def spinning infectious, danceable grooves on the ones and twos. Evening Curation by Soulection allowed festival goers to bust out their own dance moves on the wide open space of the tennis courts.
All and all, everyone had a good time. JRF provided this through conscious music, world food, art, and sustainability education. JRF crafted an experience that was innovative, relevant and invigorating.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]