Since its inception, reggae has often been tied to politics, and many, including the promoters of the Family Reggae Festival, see the music as Jamaica's most important export. Because of this, many, not including the promoters of the Family Reggae Festival, try to limit reggae by mandating a certain roots sound with socially relevant lyrics. Here in Miami, a Jamaican gateway city, we've always known better, thanks in part to the late Clint O'Neil, whose radio show, Sounds of the Caribbean, kept chronological pace with reggae but always mixed together every flavor of the Jamaican music. We also understood the wide-net message that reggae can be fun dreads, even commercially viable! and still be worthwhile thanks to fairly regular tour stops over the decades by Third World, master purveyors of a reggae rife with R&B, dance, disco, and other poppy strains.
Defining its mission as promoting "reggae as an expression of Caribbean culture ... and supporting the industrial development" of the music, FRF leads the way for those who think three-beat riddims can appeal to the masses, can be more than anthems for Rastas with a cause. So it makes sense that the promoters have enlisted the latest incarnation of Third World, along with the highly palatable veteran Marcia Griffiths, to headline the fest. Those popular stalwarts will be joined by Chrisinti (a melodic singer who, since the lackluster sales of his 2002 debut album, has been wrestling with the popularity vs. "conscious" dichotomy) and local stars the Fourth Dimension Band.
The organizers have also selected six student groups who will get a chance to perform with the pros, a number of radio stations and record labels that will set up kiosks, plenty of food vendors, sellers of clothing and art, and six local groups that will perform in a showcase. They will also present the first Reggae Pioneer Award to the memory of Clint O'Neil. The South Florida Family Reggae Festival takes place from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, October 30, at the Coconut Grove Expo Center, 2700 S Bayshore Dr, Miami. Admission is free. Call 305-468-9611, or visit www.familyreggaefestival.org.