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Skelly of Israel Vibrations performing at the Belly Up Tavern in September.
The event was formerly known as the Bob Marley Festival; the name change has proven critical to paying recognition to the foundation and new artists.
An exclusive sneak peek at the lineup that Makeda Dread Cheatom, director of the WorldBeat Center has scheduled, is impressive. In an interview, she spoke about the fans’ preference for certain genres of reggae music: “San Diego is unique in that it likes roots and culture reggae.”
Confirmed artists for this year's February show Freddie McGregor, Cornell Campbell and Israel Vibrations reflect the fans' sentiment. Richie Spice, a prolific songwriter and known culture reggae artist, will perform at Tribute to the Reggae Legends for the first time.
Cheatom and her staff took an unusual approach to the artist selection this year, surveying fans to determine who they wanted to perform at the annual concert. As of this week, Israel Vibrations, Don Carlos and Steel Pulse are leading in the vote count. Fans participating in the survey will have a chance to win tickets to the concert.
Half Pint and I-Octane were also mentioned as strong possibilities to perform. Sizzla was slated to appear, but, as with many reggae artists, visa issues will prevent him from attending. Dancehall reggae fans will definitely feel slighted, since Collie Buddz is the only confirmed artist in the genre. No fault of Cheatom’s -- it’s the ongoing issue with violent lyrics aimed at gay people, which has resulted in massive boycotts and cancellations.
For Cheatom, it’s about helping the foundation artists thriving, many have to perform nonstop to earn income.
“These [reggae] legends are dying poor and have no health insurance,” Cheatom said. “On my weekly reggae radio show, I’m going back to all foundation music.”
According to Cheatom, a surprise roots and culture artist will be announced with the full lineup, and he alone is worth coming to see perform.
Tribute to the Reggae Legends will be held Monday, Feb. 21, at the Valley View Center (formerly the San Diego Sports Arena). Ticket prices for the all-day concert are $41 for general admission and $61 for floor access.