Marley’s Legacy Alive and Well During 20th Annual Tribute Show


Running the gamut from languid old-school island grooves to lively hip-hop-flavored pop, the 20th annual Bob Marley Day Festival showcased one of its most diverse lineups ever in its weekend stand at the Long Beach Arena, confirming reggae’s staying power and influence.

With an assortment of authentic Marley cohorts--family and peers on one end and a bona-fide modern reggae superstar on the other, Sunday’s lineup provided a particularly valuable glimpse at reggae’s past and future.

The past was joyously represented in the festive ska-style rhythms of Toots & the Maytals, whose upbeat approach always sounds as rich and buoyant on stage as on record, due mainly to the heartfelt vocals of Toots Hibbert.


Two other vocal legends, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt--members of the I-Threes, Bob Marley and the Wailers’ backup singers--paid homage to the festival’s namesake by adding feminine touches to the hits they used to perform. Marley bandmate Bunny Wailer also made a rare appearance.

It was Marley’s son Ky-Mani who most invoked the spirit of his father. With thick dreadlocks, facial features, and a deep, yet lazy vocal style all eerily similar to his father, Ky-Mani’s renditions of such songs as “Three Little Birds” and ‘Get Up, Stand Up,” were both sweet and mesmerizing.

Beyond Marley, the festival also celebrated Jamaican music in general. There’s no doubt the genre has come a long way, and neo-reggae star Shaggy showed just how far. With his robust baritone and effortless phrasing, Shaggy’s infectious sounds melded reggae’s ethereal qualities with hip-hop’s brash dance beats. Funky renditions of ‘95’s “Bombastic” and current hits, “It Wasn’t Me” and ‘Angel” (off his No. 1 album “Hotshot’) seemed to please the crowd, even if some purists didn’t “raise their hands in the air” when requested. By the time Shaggy demonstrated his roots with a touching version of the Melodians’ “Rivers of Babylon,” the crowd was clearly in his corner.