Miami Beach Reggae Fest aims to spread ‘Peace & Love’ … and feel-good music
Miami Beach Reggae Fest founder Eddy Morillo also helms the Miami-based, Venezuelan band, Bachaco. (Photo courtesy of Dani Perez)
The Miami Beach Reggae Fest promises to serve up groovy music and great vibes. But it’s also being envisioned as more than your typical concert.
Billed as promoting “Peace & Love,” the festival – which was scheduled for Sept. 11 at the North Beach Bandshell – seeks to offer a life-affirming sense of community, something we’ve had far too little of over the past year and a half.
“Being on a date that is so politicized, I figured I have to pay tribute to peace,” said festival founder and organizer Eddy Morillo, who also helms the headlining Miami-based Venezuelan band, Bachaco. “I wanted to do something that is not politicized, but is mostly about connecting left and right, peace and love. All together.
“And I liked the symbolism behind the date because of reggae music being a way of transmitting love,” he continued. “I figured it would be a good match to try it on a date that has been shadowed by negative events, so I wanted to make something positive out of something dark, basically.”
The festival will feature three acts (plus special guests): Fidel Nadal, Bachaco and Doctor Krapula, presenting a mix of feel-good reggae rock with conscious lyrics and a Latin touch.
“It’s a mix of three different nationalities: Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia,” said Morillo about the lineup. “Three different groups that each interpret reggae in their own particular way. Fidel is an Afro-Argentinian, which is very peculiar – most Argentinians are not even close to being Afro – so his perspective is something unique. Doctor Krapula from Colombia is more of a reggae-rock, ska set-up, but very heavily influenced by reggae …
“If you’re a true reggae fan, whether it’s Jamaican or not, this [festival] is gonna be something you should definitely look forward to.”
The lineup pays homage to how beloved reggae is in Spanish-speaking countries and shines a light on Miami’s mix of Latin and Caribbean influences.
“I’m very happy that he’s bringing this talent,” said James Quinlan, director of The Rhythm Foundation and its venue, the North Beach Bandshell. “I think it’s very interesting the strength that reggae acquired in South American culture, and he’s been able to put it together into a package here. That’s exciting, and that’s what makes it different.”
Of course, the pandemic continues to disrupt life as we knew it pre-shutdown, way back in early 2020. But Morillo felt it was time for an audience and musicians to get together and celebrate the joy of live performances again.
“This is my first show since the pandemic started,” said Morillo. “I have not done any events for over a year now. And that is also a reason why I decided to come with a bang, trying to do it as big as possible, because there’s a thirst. There’s a thirst for music in people’s lives now. And I’m trying to do something where we can start where we left off, basically.”
Why a full festival?
“We have a lack of festivals,” Morillo said. “I know there’s probably a lot of festivals of other genres, other styles, other types of producers and promoters, but the Latin community doesn’t really have a festival that is not mainstream. I’m not even talking about myself – there really isn’t an avenue for these artists to come together at a festival setting.
“So I do this more from a cultural standpoint: Obviously it’s supposed to be a for-profit event, but I do it without even thinking about what the profit is going to be. I do it more for the love of the community, for being able to connect with these artists that are similar to myself. There isn’t a festival where I fit, I think. So I decided to put it together and not only promote myself, but other artists that are similar, that share similar values, thoughts and concerns.”
Morillo couldn’t have chosen a better venue for reggae music’s soothing, swaying beats than the Bandshell.
“Just before we had to close [because of the shutdown], we finished the installation of this canopy at the Bandshell,” said Quinlan. “And that has really been a significant change, an upgrade to the experience, and just a protection from the sun and rain. The shape of the stage is also a wind-deflection element for the breezes that come off the ocean. You feel the breezes, but when those breezes become winds, and they do, you really appreciate the thinking that went into that design of the Bandshell stage itself.”
The themes of peace and love, naturally, recall the music of Bob Marley, and it’s no surprise that the life and legacy of the reggae legend had a profound impact on Morillo’s life.
“Being a Latino, having grown up with reggae music very close to me, it’s a joy to be able to share the music,” he said. “I remember when I was 13, 14 years old in Venezuela, traveling cross-country, and somehow I ended up with a copy of Bob Marley’s [greatest hits album] ‘Legend.’ At the beginning, I didn’t even know what it meant, because I didn’t speak English that well. And translating the words, understanding the meaning, and seeing that there was more to music than what I had already been introduced to as a Latino kid, it really opened up my eyes to the world.
“The lyrics are very positive, about love, about peace, with yourself and with the world,” he continued. “It’s more spiritual, and that’s what we need today.”
WHAT: Miami Beach Reggae Fest
WHEN: 4:20 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021
WHERE: North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach