Dancehall goes back to its roots

Ansel Meditations & Sister Nancy headline Woodstock Reggae Festival this Saturday

by Bob Margolis
August 19, 2010 02:23 PM | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Ansel Meditations
Speaking with Lea Boss a week before the 26th annual Woodstock Reggae Festival, she still sounds a tad behind the beat, but with a heaping dose of vim – plus some vigor: “I’m excited, since it’s coming close to this wonderful setting and with a very special lineup.” The gig takes place under the umbrella of WDST-FM and Boss’s organization Upstate Reggae this Saturday, August 21 at the Bearsville Theater.

Rather than inviting some big name to clog the energy flow, Boss has once again arrived at a wide-ranging lineup that blends the Big Time with the next generation. Returning champs of all things harmonic, the Ansel Meditations bring that sweet sense of rhythm, melody and on-point harmonies to the fore. They also arrive with a serious pedigree. “I knew about their recordings with Marley – ‘Funky Reggae Party,’ ‘Rastaman Live-up’ and ‘Blackman Redemption’ – but I had no idea they also recorded with Jimmy Cliff on ‘Bongo Man,’” said Boss. The band has also been touring throughout the “dark” continent and will have copies of Live from Africa with them at the gig.

Just about every story of reggae drops off at the start of the 1980s: big mistake. This is a time when the strident attitudes of dancehall pushed aside the earnest vibes of Rasta. Led by Yellowman, with his brand of swagger-bawdy lyrics and gold chains, dancehall reflected harsh realities of ghetto life in an economic upturn. Feisty deejays like Sister Nancy and Lone Ranger have been sadly underheralded. The Sister, known as one of the three queens of the dancehall era, will be making her first Woodstock appearance and only her second in the Hudson Valley. She played a gig at Bard almost ten years ago.

Okay, the legends have been represented. But what of the future? Rest assured, oh jaded ones: A collection of students at SUNY-New Paltz, both former and current, comprises the Big Takeover. The band, which has been working with Boss, also has a new record out, recorded at Applehead, which hopefully will be available at the gig. Finally, for those terrified at the next wave of high-schoolers, hope will be restored by the Paper Planets, a dub ensemble made up of students at the Woodstock Day School.

Tickets to the 26th annual Woodstock Reggae Festival at the Bearsville Theater run from $20 to $35. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m. For reservations and information, call (845) 679-4406.

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