Middle East warms up to reggae

Friday, May 16, 2014    

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ONE of the largest countries comprising the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is Dubai. Its flourishing economy has made it the cosmopolitan centre of the Middle East.

While most of its older citizens observe rigid religious rituals, a younger generation has embraced western pop culture including Jamaican music.

A gauge of dancehall/reggae's popularity in the oil-rich country is Reggae Beachfest, a monthly event showcasing sounds from Jamaica.

The series started last year in the city of Dubai. Its seventh show is scheduled for June 7, the last before taking a break to observe Ramadan, a Muslim period of prayer and fasting.

It resumes in September.

African promoter, Kenya Don is the main organiser of Reggae Beachfest which has seen performances from acts like Wayne Wonder, Dawn Penn and Tanto Metro and Devonte.

He told Splash that the show attracts a diverse audience.

"When we first went (to Dubai) with Cecile in 2012, at that time the clientele was mainly Africans but since setting up shop here we have changed the game and Reggae Beachfest is predominatly everyone from all over the world," he explained. "Americans, British, Canadians, Australians, Africans, local Emiratis... You find everyone at Reggae Beachfest."

Held on the first Saturday of the month at XL Beach Club's Dubai Marina, Reggae Beachfest also bridges the generation gap. From 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm, it is open to the family; the next five hours is dedicated to lovers of old-school dancehall/reggae; at midnight, hardcore dancehall takes over.

Dancehall/reggae acts such as Grammy winners Sean Paul and Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley are among the high-profile pop artistes who have performed in Dubai.

With its expatriate community rapidly growing, the country has gradually relaxed its strict religious customs.

The Nairobi-born Kenya Don has promoted reggae shows throughout Africa for nearly a decade. He has done shows there with Tarrus Riley, Gyptian, DeMarco and Busy Signal.

He recently launched a Reggae Beachfest in Bahrain.

-- Howard Campbell





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