It's All Good
If it seems like an odd time to be talking about Reggae on the River, 2017, it being a summer event and all, it would be because the lineup of artists who will be appearing at French’s Camp this year, was released recently, much to the delight of thousands of appreciative fans.
I happen to be one of those fans.
Interestingly enough the lineup means almost nothing to me, primarily because I have only heard of two of the artists, but also because it makes no difference to me who is going to perform: I enjoy listening to all of it. Coincidentally, last year there were also only two artists whose music I was familiar with, and one of them I boycotted because of his outspoken opposition to the gay community.
Also, it must be noted, I am not an aficionado of Reggae music; another person far more savvy than I, might recognize most of the artists. It’s all good, as they say.
Ironically, it took an iconic name to draw me to my first ROTR festival, in 2015, and that was Stephen Marley, whose work mesmerizes me. What I discovered at this first venture into the reggae festival scene, was that it didn’t make any difference who was playing: Just being there and letting the music work its magic, was the only thing that mattered.
Because I am a volunteer each year, working several days prior to the start of ROTR, and a day afterwards, I get back-stage credentials, allowing me to view the music from one of the two platforms that line both sides of the stage. I am literally thirty feet from the center of stage, looking down from a height of ten feet.
Last year, knowing that there was really only one headliner that I recognized, I was still excited at the prospect of the music, and was not disappointed. In studying the lineup in advance, I had determined that one artist I could not afford to miss, was Fatoumata Diawara, who came on early Saturday evening.
She ended up playing in front of a half-filled bowl. Up until this point in time, I had already taken in somewhere in the neighborhood of sixteen hours of music overall, but this artist knocked my sandals off.
“Born in Cote d’Ivoire, raised in Mali, and now based in Paris, Diawara’s life covers a whole gamut of contemporary African experiences: fighting parental opposition to her artistic ambitions and the cultural prejudice faced by women throughout Africa, earning success as an actress in African and French film and theater, touring the world as both a dancer and a singer, and finally dedicating herself to music.” *
She was electrifying; there is no other way to describe her. I had already checked out her bio, I was expecting a grand show but I was not expecting her to steal the whole thing away. Not only was her music riveting, so were her dance movements.
“After the show I watched as Fatoumata danced down the ramp and out onto the grass behind the main stage. I have access to this area, so I drifted down the ramp (illegally, it turned out later) and ended up a dozen feet away.
I was trying to get the lay of this stage land. A woman who had been standing next to me the better part of the show, was having her photo taken beside Fatoumata. When the pic was recorded, they embraced. I wondered if they friends.
It took several of these brief encounters to make me realize that Fatoumata was simply interacting with her fans. It did not seem possible to me that one could watch her perform and not be a fan, but what do I know?
Then I realized, I was a fan too. What does one say to a vibrant entertainer like this? ‘Gosh, I just LOVE your music. You are just so AWESOME!’
Bet she’s never heard that before. As a performer, her stage presence encompassed everyone. We, over on the side stage, got our share of her attention. I was right at the rail, with no one between us, and I was taking pics in the beginning, and moving to the music afterwards.
She could conceivably have gone the whole show without seeing the old hippie in the yellow Humboldt tank top, with the goofy ‘foo. Maybe. I guess. Who knows?
|She was just standing out|
on the grass.
But when all the other fans had departed, and I had built up my courage to approach her, having determined that security would not tackle me in the process, I would like to think that there was a shadow of recognition in her smiling visage.
Stepping up to her, but not close enough to invade her personal space, I said, ‘You are a powerful woman. The World needs powerful women.’
She broke out into a radiant smile and framed that smile with the palms of her hands and it was the perfect response.” **
When I get ahold of this year’s program, I will check out all of the artists, and note those of particular interest. Because my volunteer status requires most of my work before and after, but not during the festival, I can see any of the artists I want.
Though many people who are at ROTR, are here for the party, I am not; I am here for the music. I have a party going on in my head 24/7, so when I come to French’s Camp, for those four days, I already fit right in.
- I quoted from the ROTR, 2016, program.
- * I quoted from my piece of last August, “Slice of My Soul.” http://markyswrite.blogspot.com/2016/08/in-good-hands.html