by Howard Campbell
KINGSTON, Jamaica – It’s approaching that time of year when Tony Rebel dons his artist/promoter’s hat, preparing for his Rebel Salute festival. As it celebrates its 30th anniversary, this year is an even bigger deal for the lanky Rastafarian.
Rebel Salute is scheduled for January 19-20 at Grizzly’s Plantation Cove in St. Ann parish, about 15 miles west of the resort town of Ocho Rios. Fittingly, it has 30 acts, 15 for each night.
“Fans can expect more of what they’ve been getting for the past 29 years. We’re just going to augment it,” said Rebel.
Because it features mainly vocalists, opening night is dubbed ‘Singers Paradise’. Marcia Griffiths, Sanchez, Mikey Spice, Benjy Myaz and Richie Stephens, as well as Third World are the main acts.
Closing night is a dancehall showcase led by Capleton, Anthony B, Queen Ifrica and Sean Paul who makes his Rebel Salute debut.
Tony Rebel first held the show in 1994 in his native Manchester parish to celebrate his January 15 birthday. The inaugural gig had his good friend Garnet Silk among the top acts, and was a roots-reggae bonanza.
Over the years, he has maintained a strict policy that sees no sale of alcohol or meat. That, Tony Rebel points out, is an indicator he is not in for financial reasons.
“It’s never been about just making money, if it was I would have gone to Red Stripe Beer and other companies like dat. We want to build a community that keeps our culture alive, we don’t want it to die,” he said.
Along with Garnet Silk and Everton Blender, Tony Rebel helped revive Rastafarian content in dancehall music during the 1990s after nearly a decade of slackness and gun lyrics from acts like Yellow Man and Ninjaman. His hit songs then included Fresh Vegetable, Sweet Jamaica and Reggae Put Jamaica pon Top.
Rebel Salute has served as the global reggae festival pipe-opener for many years now, attracting tourists, journalists and booking agents, mainly from Europe.