“At a time when everything seems so fragmented, it’s important to find a way to kick those walls down.”
That’s how Blake Morneau, head of media relations for the Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival, describes the magic of ska and reggae music.
It’s the 24th year for the festival and to the thousands of fans who flock to downtown Victoria to take in the music, the magic is a tangible thing.
“We’ve got people who have been coming since the beginning of the festival and now they’re bringing their children – they’re passing the love of the music along and that’s fantastic,” Morneau said.
For the uninitiated, Morneau explains that both ska and reggae originated in Jamaica in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It made its way to New York with Jamaican immigrants who quickly began to spread the music in their new home.
It didn’t take long to spread, first in North America, and then to the world.
Ska and reggae also have the distinction of spawning hip hop and rap genres, although hip hop actually existed in an early form in Jamaica as far back as the ‘60s.
According to Morneau, no musical genre has failed to be influenced in some way by ska, reggae or hip hop.
“The tempo of ska and reggae are like the beat of the human heart,” Morneau said. “The music was born in a small area of the world but the spirit of struggle that was born in those impoverished areas is still alive and relevant to millions around the world. It’s the joy of surviving the struggle.”
It’s a sentiment that’s shared by one of this year’s performers, hip hop artist and MC, Mo Moshiri. Moshiri lives in Victoria and was born in Iran during the Iranian revolution.
“The themes of struggle, anti-colonialism, anti-racism, and socially conscious are still alive in the music today. Hip hop emerged from the same musical roots and became a sort of deconstructionist art form that has fundamentally affected the English language and has been adopted to other languages as well. It’s very amazing,” Moshiri said.
“But there’s joy and celebration there too.”
It’s Moshiri’s third appearance at the festival and his first appearance as a solo headliner.
He’ll be joined by more than 30 other acts, exploring a whole range of styles and approaches to the music.
“If anyone hasn’t checked it out, this is an experience like no other. I can’t think of a better way to be introduced to different types of music,” Moshiri said.
And a quick perusal of the scheduled line up speaks to that diversity of sound and culture.
Sister Carol, Perfect Giddimani and Junior Toots will be coming to the festival from Jamaica, Ojo de Buey from Costa Rica, Stop the Presses from Brooklyn, New York and The Aggrolites and Chali 2NA from Los Angles, California. The Pan Wizards Steel Orchestra will travel to the festival from Washington, DC, while La Real Del Sonido will represent the sounds of Columbia.
There will also be performers from across Canada and Victoria.
While most of the performances are ticketed events, there are free events for all ages as well as a free wrap-up concert on Sunday, June 25, that runs from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. and features Ojo De Buey, My Son the Hurricane, Oral Fuentes, Street Pharmacy, Kownterpoint, and Young Royal.
The festival runs for five nights, from June 21 to June 25.
More information on the event, as well as the chance to purchase tickets for your favourite act are available at victoriaskafest.ca/tickets.