This weekend Ottawa is about to do something that many music-loving, world-class cities have been doing for a long time â€“ launch its own reggae music festival.
And local musician Mackendy Dorcilhomme says it’s long overdue.
“Montreal, New York, Miami â€” so many great cities of the world have reggae festivals and it’s important for us, here in the capital, to have our own event to celebrate this amazing music,” says Dorcilhomme, who performs simply as Mackendy.
The Haitian-born singer has lived and worked in Ottawa for several years, and says though support for reggae music in Ottawa is strong, it could use a little boost.
“It’s good here and I am happy to be a part of it, but I hope this festival will let people know the talent here, and of what reggae music in general is all about.”
Mackendy will be one of 20 musicians to take the festival stage at LeBreton Flats tonight and Saturday. He and fellow hometown reggae musician Ras Lee will be singing alongside headliners like British singer Maxi Priest, Canada’s own Snow, Collie Buddz from Bermuda and Jamaica’s Half Pint.
The festival was conceived three years ago by Benjamin Williams of Ottawa as a way to celebrate reggae music and raise awareness about sickle cell anemia, a blood condition that affects millions world-wide, including the child of his close friend and business partner.
Williams recruited a team to get the festival off the ground, including Natasha Von Castle, who says organizing the event has been an exciting challenge.
“It’s a surprise that a reggae festival like this hasn’t been promoted before in Ottawa, but we are happy to bring the event to the people and raise money for a great cause,” says Von Castle.
“Attracting big names was one the easiest parts of organizing this. It’s a lot of work to get it off the ground, but everyone involved has been so passionate about making it work.
Organizers are expecting between 5,000 to 10,000 people to for the event, based on ticket sales so far.
Von Castle says she and the rest of the team will take two weeks off after the event wraps, then will get to work planning next year’s event.
“We’re extremely driven and focused and want this not to be a one-time thing, but a fun part of the summer festival scene in Ottawa that people can look forward to,” she says.