The hills were alive with the sound of bongos?


Posted 08.15.06

COVENTRY, VT | Somehow the weather did not seem right for Reggae music. You usually associate Reggae Music with the warm breezes and the sound of breaking surf that invokes the tempo of the music.

But Sean Long from Burlington seems to think that Reggae is a good fit with Vermont.

"The tempo seems to blend in nicely with the attitudes of Vermonters and the Green landscape of the state," he said.

Long, with four other friends sat on beach chairs and took in the easy undulating sounds and rhythms that filled the air.

"I fell in love with Reggae eighteen years ago when I was a concert in Battery park in Burlington. I have been hooked ever since."

girlReggae is a solo experience. The band played at an easy pace as fans either spun hula hoops as they gyrated to the rhythm or did a solo dance that resembled a slow twist. Others, seated, just bobbed their heads with their eyes closed possibly dreaming that they were on a beach in far away Jamaica.

Reggae is about as native to New England as the Ballet is to Nashville but the Vermont Roots Reggae Festival is now in it's 20th season with no signs of dying out.

Reggae followers are not as numerous as "Phish' fans that in 2004 came to a Coventry field a few miles away by the thousands, causing traffic problems of nightmare proportions.

drummerRoots Reggae is the name given to specifically Rastafarian reggae music developed in Jamaica. It is a spiritual type of music, whose lyrics are predominantly in praise of Jah (God).

Recurrent lyrical themes include poverty and resistance to government oppression.

Roots reggae was an important part of Jamaican culture, and while other forms of reggae have become more popular in Jamaica (Dancehall for instance), roots reggae has found a small, but growing, niche globally.

singerReggae in a broad sense refers to most types of Jamaican music evolving in part from Jazz .The two sub-genres of reggae are roots reggae and dancehall reggae, which originates in the late 70s. Reggae is founded upon a rhythm style which is characterized by regular chops on the back beat, played by a rhythm guitarist, and a bass drum hitting on the third beat of each measure.

The festival was held at the 100 acre Rogers "Hillcrest " farm owned by Julian and Maureen Rogers and their son Michael. Normally, the festival will draw anywhere upwards of 500 people. Some of them camp in a nearby pasture, walking back and forth to the venue a short distance away.

A short distance from the band stage a small herd of cows languished beside their barn calmly chewing away on their cud seemingly to the rhythm of the easy-breezy sounds of Reggae. In the background a panoramic view of the mountains and rolling hills.


Starting each day's music fare was an invocation (prayer) given by Ethiopian Dread, a singer-drum-spiritual leader from Ethiopia.

The bands to follow had equally as colorful names such as : Songs of Solomon, El Pueblo, JAH-N-I, Batch , Ras Attitude with the Zioneers, The Itals, Lionize, Dr. Jah, Johnstone, San Deego and Journalist ,DIS-N-DAT Band, Berklee Bob Marley Ensemble, Black Rebels, Rebel Tumbao, Roots Nation, Taj Weekes and Adowa, Michael Hahn, Viscus, Conscious Roots, Jah Cutta and Determination, Prof. Lance Sunarine, Mystic Rebel.

The three day festival organized by Jharna Harvey-Ahmai and her husband Bush I Harvey-Ahmai of Montague, MA operating under the name of The Almighty Group did not proceed too smoothly initially, with problems getting permits to hold the event dragging right up until a few days before the start of the festival.

The Almighty Group was hired by the organization Vermont Roots Reggae to produce and organize the event. Proof that would address insurance, security, as well as medical and fire needs had to be met.

"The permit we got was for between 1000-1200 people. We really were over-prepared for everything required," Harvey-Ahmai said.

By mid-Saturday everything was running smoothly with only one small incident reported Friday night. The fans seemed happy, there were no crowds, no shortage of parking places, camping spaces, food, or water. If the organizers, the vendors, the police, the neighbors, and the Rogers family were all happy Sunday night, the Reggae festival will probably be back again next year.

Copyright © 2006 Gordon Alexander/Log Cabin Chronicles/08.06