Off the World Beaten Path

Pato Banton, Israel Vibration and Yami Bolo honor reggae legends

Reggae often gets a bad rap, and there are two prevailing reasons for this: its close association with pot and its reappropriation and distortion by privileged kids who just want to smoke that pot.

But reggae, at its roots, has always been more than just a way to get high and chill out. In the late ‘60s and ‘70s, reggae quickly developed into a cultural movement personified by Bob Marley and solidified in Marxist-tinged lyrics like, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery / None but ourselves can free our minds.”

Importantly, however, it wasn’t just a counter-cultural movement, it was also an affirmation of culture. Its use of Nyabinghi -- Afro-Jamaican ritual drumming -- rhythms, calypso, mento and American R&B is evidence of this.

As such, when authentic, true-to-form reggae comes to town -- especially in the form of a two-day festival, and especially in the midst of our current political climate -- it’s best to pay attention.

On Saturday, Feb. 18, and Sunday, Feb. 19, the World Beat Center (2100 Park Blvd.) at Balboa Park will host Tribute to the Reggae Legends: Music is the Weapon. The all ages festival features Pato Banton, Israel Vibration with the Roots Radics, Yami Bolo, the Gladiators and more.

This year will be the 36th installment of the festival during Black History Month, and its central focus will be promoting human rights through music, channeling the spirit of Marley, Peter Tosh and Burning Spear.

Elections might be over for the time being, but you still have the power to cast a vote. So, instead of paying $10 or $20 for a cheap, quick and reappropriated knock-off, spring for the real deal and get a two-day, $65 pass or a one-day, $35 pass (both days run 1 p.m. to midnight) to Tribute to the Reggae Legends, and help music be the weapon.

For more info and the full lineup, click here.

Rutger Rosenborg was almost a Stanford neuroscientist before he formed Ed Ghost Tucker. He now plays in the Lulls and makes music on his own when he's not writing. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.

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