In the words of reggae icon Bob Marley, “one good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Those are words to live by and every year they are remembered, drawing in a diverse crowd of different cultures and families from all over California to Topanga, from the beach to the bay. Founded by local youths Brooks Ellis and Amit Gilad, the two-day event celebrated reggae culture with the biggest international artists in the world, from Jamaica to Italy, including headliners Ky-Mani Marley, Alborosie, and Easy Star All Star each blessing the Mountain Stage with their good vibes and soulful music.
According to Jamaican artist Nature, “reggae music is about unity, music should be able to bring all of us together.” Nature made an appearance on the Mountain stage with Arise Roots, a local LA reggae band native to Southern California. The non-profit fundraiser for the Topanga Community Club also featured many up and coming performers on a second stage, the Hill Top stage as well as other international artists spreading the love with their revolutionary lyrics. On Saturday, July 25th, notable reggae bands Fortunate Youth, John Brown’s Body, and headliner Easy Star All Star took the mountain stage and on the following day, Gilad’s band Full Melt performed for an “irie” crowd on the Hill Top stage along with Ital Vibes and Jahgun.
Nearly every patch of the grassy field was covered with colorful knit blankets, lawn chairs, beach umbrellas, and festival goers camped out in tents in front of the Mountain stage. As Alborosie’s rich and powerful voice echoed through the hills on the last day, crowds of people migrated to the main stage to watch the internationally known Italian artist flip his waist-long dreadlocks and take the stage. With over 30 vendors, a craft beer and wine garden, snow cones, vegan food trucks, a bouncy house, and a rock-wall, Reggae on the Mountain proved to be the perfect weekend extravaganza for people of all ages, including families with small children.
“What we need is love, unconditional love,” sang Marlon Asher as the crowd moved collectively to the rhythmic beat of the reggae music. Asher sings from the heart, a firm believer that reggae music on the whole is about “keeping people aware of who they are, and who they’re supposed to be in life.” Reggae music has been spreading the peace, the love, and unity long before its influence on the culture of Southern California. Since it originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s, reggae has inspired artists from South Africa to the United Kingdom to experiment with its thick bass and fusion with other popular genres such as jazz, blues, and R&B.
Taking the Mountain stage for the second year in a row, Latino reggae band Quinto Sol blended the cultures and musical stylings of the Jamaican, the Latin, and the Cuban cultures, which gets people dancing in a different way. “We mix it all in. We’re latinos playing reggae, so there’s a natural accent in the music that comes from where we come from and we blend it in and it works,” said band member Martin Perez. Although their lyrics are primarily in Spanish, the crowd was unified under the universality of reggae music and its auspicious abilities to bring people together.
On Sunday, the second youngest of Bob Marley‘s eleven children took the Mountain stage for the last performance at Reggae on the Mountain. Sun kissed strangers and both new and old friends, gathered together for Ky-Mani Marley’s rich music, known for its transcendence of cultural lines. Marley brought chills to the crowd, closing the festival weekend with a performance of his father’s famous song “One love,” the perfect reiteration of the unity and oneness held at the heart of reggae music, spread from one generation to the next.