Festival promoter Warren Smith is dead

Festival promoter Warren Smith is dead

Observer senior writer

Monday, February 15, 2021

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WARREN Smith, founder of the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, died in northern California on January 11 at age 75. The reggaefestivalguide.com website confirmed his passing.

“Promoter and reggae aficionado Warren Smith crossed peacefully after a long illness at his beloved ranch in Northern California on Monday, after falling asleep while wrapped in his wife's, Gretchen, arms, surrounded with love and listening to Bob. Warren spearheaded The Sierra Nevada World Music Festival which promoted conscious music for 25 years in Northern California,” the site reported.

It noted that Smith, “Built a community where conscious music, roots music, and world music were embraced. He will be deeply missed.”

Roger Steffens, the respected reggae archivist who knew Smith for many years, described him as “a major figure on the ethnic music scene in California”.

The Sierra Nevada World Music Festival was first held in 1994. It was last staged in 2019 but organisers postponed the event last year due to the coronavirus.

One of the premier grass roots music festivals in the United States, it attracts major acts such as Black Uhuru, Burning Spear and Tarrus Riley as well as lesser-known artistes like Winston Jarrett.

Born in Sacramento, California, Smith promoted his first reggae show at San Francisco's famed Winterland Auditorium in July 1975. Inner Circle, Dennis Brown and Toots and The Maytals performed.

Three years later, he held the Island Music Festival in Trelawny with Peter Tosh and Burning Spear as headliners.

Smith also operated Epiphany Records which released songs and albums by Jamaican roots-reggae acts like Earl Zero and the Soul Syndicate Band.

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