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Belinda Brady at the Irie Music Festival

Belinda Brady at the Irie Music Festival in Mississauga

The long-awaited Mighty Diamonds delivered a soul-stirring stroll through their series of harmonious hits and roots reggae classics, hauling/and/pulling-up the Band many times to the delight of the uproarious, cheering crowd, hitting high notes after high notes, roots reggae classic after classic, all cheered on by a warm welcoming crowd, dancing waving hands in the air and singing along rapturosly. The Diamonds still gleam with glorious those glorious harmonies that established them as foundation teggae vocal artists since their beginnings in Trenchtown in 1969.

Inspired by the Motown singing groups of the 1960s, the group, harmony singers Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson, Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson and lead vocalist Donald “Tabby” Shaw knew they had the talent. One critic said they had “soulful, gorgeously pure harmonies and tight, catchy songwriting”. But they just had to wait for the right song and situation. That happened in 1973 with their first hit/song “Shame and Pride”, then again with “Country Living” and “Hey Girl”, before signing a major deal with Virgin Records. In 1976 they released their first album, “Right Time” and it became an instant classic full of hits like “Right Time”, “I Need A Roof”, “Have Mercy” and “Africa”, solidifying their long-held reputation in Reggae and Rastafari.

The Mighty Diamonds wowed the Rastafest multitude with its seemingly never-ending fountain of songs, bigged up numerous artists and members of the audience, and called up Toronto native Horace Martin on stage to do a number. The Mighty Diamonds were immediately preceded by the always entertaining Echo Minott, who was a crowd pleaser with his hit songs including “Lazy Body” and current single, “No Peace in the Middle East”, from his latest album. He invited the audience to come celebrate his birthday with him at a club in the Eglinton and Keele area later that night. With a well-rounded roster of Toronto artists bringing their “A”/game, including Donna Makeda, Jahsmin Daley, Righteous & Omri and The Trinity Drummers; Stur Gav and Boxer Joe kicking nice tunes between acts; CHRY radio/DJ King David leveling the vibes with his excellent mastering of ceremonies; over twenty nuff/sized booths selling all the food and beverages, flags and bangles earrings and arts and crafts, fruits and juices that you could consume.

After the Festival finished, amidst the clean-up, the JamaicanXpress intercepted King David, who is alo a Rastafest organizer, helping out at the sound tent. “Rastafest 2012 was excellent”, he tells us, “It just keeps on growing and growing in the right direction from strength to strength, positively, you know. The thing about Rastafest is that there was a need and we’re trying to satisfy that and when we see a big crowd that really enjoyed themselves, it really warms the heart.” He went on to say that “Local talent is a major part of Rastafest. They are the foundation of the festival. And when we went to Jamaica we took a lot of Canadian artists with us. We plan to take the Festival to the whole Caribbean.” A huge smile comes over his face when asked about his favourite moments. “Just the beauty of the people coming out”, he beamed, “Each artist came up and gave it up and the people accept it with love, and the mountain edge band was off the mountain and in another zone. They were solid!”

When then spoke to RastaFest’s chief organizer, Masani Montague, as she was fielding questions on her cellphone, in front of her and from down the way, she was momentarily speechless, her voice hoarse from over-use, but enthusiastic and full of exhuberance about the success of the Festival, “We waited one full year for the Mighty Diamonds, and I must say that it was worth the wait”, she tells us, “It was a pleasure. It was nice. Echo Minott, Donna Makeda the Trinity Drummers and all the artists did very well, and all the Toronto-based artists had a chance to shine. The festival has grown its getting bigger and bigger and what we are looking for are more ways to generate more money so we can continue to keep it free. We are still one of the few major festivals that’s still entirely free. I am pleased by the big, big turnout.

We thank our key sponsors Canadian heritage,, who have been with us for the last 6 yrs, Western Union and other sponsors like the TTC, who had ads on the trains and bus shelters. And we have to really, really big up our many vendors, who have been very important to us. Each vendor bring their crowds and help bring revenue. They deserve plenty credit.” “I want to tell you something”, she continued, excitedly, “Sisterfest is the next thing on the agenda. We’re doing Sisterfest in March, International Women’s Month”. Then she dropped two pieces of fresh information, exclusively, to the JamaicanXpress newspaper, “Next year, I can tell you this, and you are the first person to be hearing this, Rastafest’s headliner is going to be a female headliner for the first time. I have never had a female headliner and I am putting it out here for the first time that the female headliner I want is Marcia Griffiths.

I would love to work with Marcia Griffiths. We have had Queen Ifika (sp?), Tanya Stephens and Lady Saw, but never as headliner. We will change that with Marcia Griffiths next year. Also, we are taking SisterFest to Jamaica, with plans to add Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.” Masini says she is pleased with the vibe of the festival, which is the vibe she says she gets from one of her own favourite festivals, a vibe she wants to maintain. “I go to a lot of festivals myself and the one that I think closest represents the vibe of Rastafest is Afrofest because the festival has a nice culture vibe where you meet and greet enjoy and network with a lot of people.

Its more than just a concert and vendors selling stuff, its more about the total vibe.” Masani says she wants to keep Rastafest free to the public but needs more sponsors in a time of cutbacks in corporate sponsorship. Looking at the thousands of people at the free Festival, one couldn’t help thinking that if you multiply those thousands by, say, $5? $10 $20, that that would bring in needed revenue; and that RastaFest officials will have done the math and have figures in the back of their heads when they start raising funds for next year’s hopefully free Festival.  Viewed

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