THE reggae summer festival circuit has become increasingly competitive in the last decade, as promoters negotiate to get the biggest names on their marquee. Reggae Sumfest, which runs from July 21-27 at Catherine Hall in Montego Bay, is the lone Jamaican festival during that period.
Last week, Johnny Gourzong of promoters Summerfest Productions acknowledged the growing competition, especially from European events.
“The summer festivals (in Europe) have always affected us in terms of artiste availability, but things have become more problematic with the spike in artiste fees and the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar,” he said.
“That’s tough for us because an artiste can go to Europe and earn Euro 35,000 for a show,” Gourzong added.
The Summerjam Festival in Germany, One Love in Italy, and Garance in France, are also held in July. They feature some of the biggest names in classic and contemporary reggae.
Some artistes who will be on the European circuit including Tarrus Riley and Barrington Levy, are also on Sumfest which Gourzong estimates will cost US$2 million to stage.
Familiar faces like Beres Hammond will return along with dancehall favourites Beenie Man, Lady Saw and I-Octane.
Rising American Rhythm and Blues singer Miguel is confirmed for International Night 2. Gourzong says talks are in progress with a big name pop act to headline International Night which closes the festival.
Though Dancehall Night continues to be a big draw, International Night remains Sumfest’s trump card. Pop heavyweights such as Wyclef Jean, Destiny’s Child, R Kelly, Usher and Chris Brown have appeared on that date.
A major coup for Sumfest came in 2009 when Randy Jackson (older brother of Michael) performed with his band at Catherine Hall on International Night. His appearance, just weeks after his superstar sibling’s death, was covered extensively on major American outlets including TMZ and E! News.
“That gave us excellent exposure,” said Gourzong. He notes the impact of pop artistes on the show.
“From the beginning we said the festival would not be exclusive. We won’t limit ourselves to any genre.”
Reggae Sumfest kicks off with its traditional beach party at the Aquasol Beach Park in Montego Bay.