January 17, 2018

Words by LargeUp Crew
Photos by Martei Korley

Rebel Salute celebrated 25 years as Jamaica’s “People’ Show” this past weekend, with two nights featuring the usual jam-packed lineup of reggae stars, veterans and up-and-coming acts.

Created by singer Tony Rebel in 1994 as a tribute to the late singer Garnet Silk and his own annual birthday celebration, Rebel has grown from a small retreat to an institution that sets the tone for reggae in the coming year. As usual, the shows featured a massively long lineup (totaling over 100 artists), with shows that began at dusk and lasted deep into the following morning. As anyone who’s attended Rebel Salute knows, you’d better be in it for the long haul or you’re better off staying home! While the show is known for its emphasis on clean living — no alcohol, no meat and no cursing or slack lyrics have been abiding principles since Day One — this year’s guests had to be prepared to get super dirty. The rains that have kept Jamaica consistently wet for the last few months, wreaked havoc on the festival’s long time home, the grounds of Richmond Estate in Priory, St. Ann, ruining more than a few pairs of shoes.

Rebel Salute’s 25th offered a greater emphasis on female artists than it has in years past, with appearances running the gamut from the long-time Queen of Reggae, Marcia Griffiths, to Koffee, a 17-year-old singer from Spanish Town whose song “Burning” has just begun to bubble. Other women performers included Queen Ifrica, J.C. Lodge, Ikaya, Tosh Alexander, and, in a rare appearance, Althea and Donna of “Uptown Top Rankin” fame. Let’s be real, we didn’t catch the whole show and missed a few key performances, but when there’s this much reggae to be had, you’ve got to pace yourself.

Here, Martei Korley, who’s documented “The People’s Show” almost annually since our inception, takes us inside #RebelSalute25

Benjie’s patties are a staple of live shows in Jamaica. Benjie himself is originally from Ghana but has made Jamaica his home for many years.

A vendor displays some of his calabash crafts

Jamaica has been extraordinarily rainy for the last few months, so the vending area was a bit of a wash. You had to search for high ground as you made your way towards the Herb Curb.

The Herb Curb is a vending area at Rebel Salute where vendors can showcase wares of the green variety. Here, Ites of Steam Team JA heats up the coals before sipping a cup.

Yes, a few different growers had their wares on display

Meanwhile, on the stage… Singer Da’ville shows love to the Queen of Reggae Music, Marcia Griffiths

The Master of Ceremonies, Tony Rebel, makes his annual appearance on Night 1

Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, reacts to some jokes at his expense from Tony Rebel

Holness, Minister of Culture Babsy Grange and the Ras. This looks like it must have been an interesting conversation…

Is Andrew Holness still here? Mutabaruka ran on stage to see if the Prime Minister was still present — He had some jokes to offer, too.

The crowd roaring as J.C. Lodge takes the stage

There was a lot of focus on women this year, including sets from some of reggae’s most overlooked female veterans. Here’s one: J.C. Lodge

J.C. Lodge’s daughter

Glacia Robinson, a Christian singer, offers her testimony. An unexpected highlight, she sounded like a Jamaican Nina Simone and played guitar, too.

Bushman, another staple of Rebel Salute over the years, had to turn up for the festival’s 25th anniversary

Lutan Fyah gazes intently towards the crowd

Gyal You a Party Animalllll” It’s Charly Blacks!

Bugle gets set to take the stage 

Vendors cutting up cane, fuel for the late-night long haul

Singer Jah Vinci makes an appearance

Tony Ruption, MoBay’s drum genius, keeping the rhythm for Third World.

Reggae Ambassadors! Third World

Jesse Royal, inna vibes. Finding the serenity inside the performance, the singer takes the last draws of his spliff in the beginning of his blistering sunrise set, anchored by the ‘Mega Bass’ of Michael Fletcher.

The crowd, still full of energy, as the sun begins to rise on Saturday morning

A closer look at Jesse Royal

Double Vision: Assassin, aka Agent Sasco, performing at dawn

Singers Nikki Burt and Deja joined Assassin on harmony, resplendent in African-print dresses

Producer Kareem “Remus” Burell and journalist Pat Meschino share an embrace near the end of Night 1 — well, Morning 1, that is.

Back at the Herb Curb for Nyabinghi on Night 2. Note the boots and bare feet here: Shoes were useless!

Iyarkie and his bredrin came prepared to fend off the rain

Ikaya interacts with her harmony vocalists, including the soloing Shanice Drysdale (Second from Right)

An attendee studies the show intently, under a glaring green light

Iconic vocal group The Abyssinians, led by Bernard Collins (center) perform on Night 2

Leroy Sibbles , who has appeared at Rebel Salute many times over the years, delivered a commanding performance on Night 2

Singer Little Hero, known for the song “God Alone,” takes the stage

Dancehall star Jahmiel brought a touch of “Badness” to Night 2

That’s dancehall star and choreographer Ding Dong, who’s just made his way from the stage through the VIP section, asking for help to be lifted over fence to the general admission area…

Meanwhile, on stage, singer Chevaughn was performing “Holiday” with Ding Dong’s crew, Ravers Clavers.

Queen Ifrica cuts a striking figure during her performance on Night 2

Queen Ifrica performing with her daughter, at left, and another friend, who happened to the the niece of singer, Luciano

Mic check, mic check…. Luciano heading to the stage with Rebel Salute stage manager Ryan Bailey

After barreling through a strong set, Luciano brought out his good friend, Beres Hammond, for a cameo

Unga Barunga of Notis, waiting at the counter for his Ital Sip

There was no Popcaan at Rebel Salute this year, but there was popcorn

Capleton brings the fire to any stage show at which he appears

Dawn rising on Sunday morning

Showing his star power, Freddie McGregor stirred up the sleepy crowd up at daybreak

In a salute to the working man, I-Octane invited this ‘nutsy’ (peanut vendor) to join him on stage.” I respect working people, I work for working people, ” he said.

Grounds crew, posing for a pic

And now, time to get your vehicle out from the mud.