Representing the roots of Reggae 

Festival brings authentic dancehall sound to town

By Shelley Arnusch

What: Roots & Culture Reggae Festival

Who: Strugglah & Don Rankin Foundation Sound with special guest local DJ Phroah

Where: Garfinkel’s and Moe Joe’s

When: Friday, Sept. 19 and Sunday, Sept. 21.

Most people love reggae. Take any group of people of varying musical tastes and chances are, the one CD they’ll agree upon is any sort of Bob Marley greatest hits compilation.

But in the same sense, most people’s knowledge of the genre ends with the Bob Marley greatest hits compilation. Few reggae fans have had much exposure to true dancehall reggae culture, or fully understand the essential elements and forms of the music.

Showcasing the roots of reggae inspired the locally based Landmind Productions crew to organize this weekend’s Roots and Culture Reggae Festival, featuring Calgary band Strugglah and Toronto’s Don Rankin Foundation Sound, which will provide an authentic dancehall reggae experience.

A Sound, explains Landmind’s Andrew Brown, is comprised of several elements including equipment, talent, technicians and a collection of dubplates – specially commissioned records on which the featured artist incorporates praise and recognition of the Sound, its players and its system quality.

Don Rankin Foundation is considered one of the top Sounds in Canada with over 250 dubplates in its collection. This weekend the plates will be in the masterful hands of Don Rankin’s selector Junior Currie, and backed up by ragga rhyme mastery of MC Photi Rankin.

The festival also includes Calgary-based Strugglah; a consciousness-raising reggae collective led by MC/vocalist Iwango Jahfire. The band is a Whistler favourite and has played alongside such renowned performers as Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear and the Wailers. There will also be a special guest appearance by local DJ Phroah who will throw down an energetic set of ragga jungle beats.

The entire Roots and Culture lineup will be performing on both nights of the festival. Hit the dancehall tonight at Garfinkel’s, rest up for a day, and then hit it again on Sunday, Sept. 21 at Moe Joe’s. Tickets $10 at the doors of both venues.

Jahfire on de prairies

Think of the Calgary music scene and what comes to mind is usually some variation of a Garth Brooks/Dixie Chicks tribute band. Calgary is known for a lot of things and reggae is most definitely not one of them. (Writer’s note: I lived there. Trust me.)

But life is full of the unexpected and if it’s soulful and consciousness-raising reggae you’re looking for, look no further than Cowtown, home base of consciousness-elevating reggae crew Strugglah.

So what’s it like being a reggae band in a very un-reggae town?

"It’s great," says enigmatic frontman/vocalist Iwango Jahfire, whose deep, Caribbean-accented voice sprinkled with Patois expressions oozes rhythm even over the phone. "For me, everyday I celebrate life. Life is something we must daily celebrate. So living in Calgary for me is celebrating differences. Most of our aims and goals are humanitarian aims and goals. We’re striving to connect the minds of the people…One love, equality and justice."

The eight-year-old group, varying from a four to seven piece when performing live, was on track to release their third album last October when a stroke of misfortune hit in the form of a robbery of all their recorded material and studio equipment. The group is still recovering from the loss and the album is still in the works.

Rest assured, the album will eventually be released, because Strugglah, like the global struggle for peace and unity from which they draw their name, is driven by a purpose that transcends petty crime.

"Our music is not just for entertainment purposes," says Jahfire. "This is a job we’re doing, serving our fellow man, our brothers and sisters…we all have something we can share with each other. That’s what makes life beautiful. We’re struggling through the music to create some form of better understanding to the human family."

Become a part of the global struggle for one love through reggae music at the Roots and Culture Reggae festival this weekend. Strugglah joins with Toronto’s Don Rankin Foundation Sound and local DJ Phroah for two shows at Garfinkel’s tonight and Moe Joe’s on Sunday, Sept. 21. Tickets $10 at the door.

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