Reggae and Rastafarian are one.
Where the Jamaica-born music goes, dreadlocked Rastas and their faith follow. Along with the “holy sacrament.”
No bricks or mortar required.
“The ‘church’ is the people you’re with,” said Ashiya Odeye, a Rastafarian “reverend” who lives in Sacramento.
“We are one family in reggae music,” Ranking Joe, a Jamaican performer, said. “One music. One faith. One love.”
On Saturday, their temporary temple becomes the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds, where Jaharvestfest is being held for the first time.
Ranking Joe (Joseph Jackson) will be joined by Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar, two of reggae’s most revered and influential musicians, and Tosh1 (Jawara). He’s the 36-year-old son of Peter Tosh (Winston Herbert McIntosh, 1944-87), a founding reggae musician and its most outspoken advocate of marijuana’s legal use as a spiritual sacrament.
Odeye, 65, began staging the event as a 50th-birthday tribute (“annual harvest festival”) to Onatti Jellether at Sacramento’s William McClatchy Park in 1999.
Tickets have been purchased “all over the country." The “same people” who were among the 3,500 at a previous reggae gathering in Sacramento’s Oak Park. “We’re expecting the same thing.”
Odeye moved Jaharvestfest to the steadily busier Stockton fairgrounds because there’s “more room and we got a good deal.”
Odeye, father of five adult children with wife Onatti, described Jaharvestfest as a “family event.”
California voters decide on statewide legalization of marijuana Nov. 8. There are two medicinal marijuana dispensaries in Stockton. Odeye is taking a more-benign Tosh-ist position. Tosh1 will address the issue.
The festival is an “unabashed salute and praise to cannabis,” said Odeye, once a speech writer for Namibian President Sam Nojomo. “There’ll be a section … dedicated to ‘the joly herb’ — and addresses by activists and spiritualist involved in freeing it up for medicine and recreation.”
After learning about the Rasta faith in 1968 from a Dominican Republic student, “I was in the forefront of movement,” said Odeye, who was told by a professor that he reminded him a Jamaican rasat. “Teaching in Rasta schools.” He was also wrote about wars and violence in Biafra, Angola and South Africa for a United Nations publication. The U.N. formally recognized Rastafarianism as a faith in 1983.
Despite monumental efforts by Shakespeare, 64, and Dunbar, 62 — Kingston natives who’ve added their talents to 200,000 recording projects during 45-year careers — reggae never has succeeded in the mainstream musical atmosphere of the U.S.
Their spirits have supported most major creators of the slinky rhythms, sweet melodies and clear-eyed lyrical views of humanity.
That includes Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley (1945-81), virtually a “saint” globally, who came closest in the 1970s. A few artists (Paul Simon, Millie Small, Eric Clapton, Johnny Nash) got to the top 40.
“It is (known and honored),” said Odeya, a Philadelphia native who studied theater at New York University. “But it’s underground. It’s not being pushed out.
“It stands for things the music business doesn’t: love; peace; unity; respect for each other; helping do things to move us forward for the future of a lot of different people.”
An old-schooler, Jackson, 57, scoffed at EDM and other electronic musical currency while respecting its historical relevance.
“Things happen in the world community,” said the Kingston-born Jackson in a deep Jamaican patois. “We’re teaching about that injustice. There’s a lot of it going on, too. It’s more worser in term of people treating people It’s a journey, You know. You know.
“Reggae is spiritually uplifting for people in the world who are looking forward to an uplift from music. Spiritual music gives the power to reggae, you know.”
His parents (Alfred and Florence) were members of Kingston domino-playing teams. At 15, he started playing during breaks and at tournaments and dances.
“My father had a little sound system in the house," Jackson said. "I used my lunch money to buy records. Music is music. My mission. I love it. I build it by my trademarks.”
That was followed by a herky-jerky verbal rhythm on his distinctive rhythm pattern.
The first song he wrote was named “Michael Jackson.”
“I'm an activist for reggae music,” Jackson said. “I have to thank my father for providing music that's come to free generation after generation. It’s not an easy fight. Artist after artist are so eager and get burned. The younger learn from the older. A stepping stone. It's step-by-step.”
Odeje (facebook.com/jaharvestfest2016) is designating most of Saturday’s profits to the Order Of Olufunmi (facebook.com/orderofolufunmi), an organization that provides community services.
— Contact Tony Sauro at (209) 546-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tsaurorecord.