Sounds Local: Reggae Fest to bring positive energy, hypnotic rhythms to Wendell

  • Local band Simon White & Rhythm Incorporated is presenting the second annual Wendell Reggae Fest on Saturday. Contributed photo


For the Recorder
Published: 7/4/2018 3:00:40 PM

It’s a beautiful day and it’s a beautiful way

Listen to what my beautiful people got to say

Change is coming in due time

What they do not realize

Change only lies in the youth’s eyes

—Simon White & Rhythm Incorporated, “Beautiful Day”

We can all benefit from the positive energy and hypnotic dance rhythms that is reggae music. This musical genre, which came out of Jamaica in the 1960s, has evolved into many sub-categories over the years. But one constant is that it continues to be marked by lyrics that focus on social issues while also promoting hope, peace, love and unity.

You’ll receive a heavy dose of all this and more when the Wendell Reggae Fest returns to Deja Brew Cafe & Pub in Wendell on Saturday. The family-friendly festival, which runs from 2 p.m. to midnight, is now in its second year.

The festival is presented by local band Simon White & Rhythm Incorporated, which is bringing back some of the fine talent that made the first festival a hit. Local band ReBelle, led by the duo of Kalpana Devi and Emmanuel Manou, will return with its powerful world music and reggae blend that it describes as “a force of love and rebellion.”

Total Collision, which features Roosta from the Fear Nuttin Band, was also part of last year’s lineup. DJ Live and DJ Camilo I-ganic will be on hand to spin tunes between sets.

Denroy Morgan, who came from Jamaica in the 1960s, launched his reggae career here in the United States and was a co-founder of the Black Eagles, the first reggae band out of Brooklyn, N.Y. He later had a successful solo career, scoring a hit with the song “I’ll Do Anything for You.” In addition to being a pioneer of reggae in the United States, Morgan is the patriarch of the Grammy-winning band Morgan Heritage. For this show, Morgan will be backed by Ianbassa as well as by Rhythm Incorporated.

In March, Rhythm Incorporated released its first EP, “Beautiful Day.” Being that the band formed in 2011, the release was a long time coming, and the five songs are a reggae-rap mix with traces of funk and rock with lyrics that touch on subjects ranging from gun violence to ganja.

“We have tons of stuff online like live shows that everybody listens to, but this is our first official studio release,” White said. “We are currently working on another project that is being produced by Asaph Records, and just released our second single which is a different version of ‘Beautiful Day.’”

Expect to hear tunes off “Beautiful Day” and more when Rhythm Incorporated takes the stage at the Wendell Reggae Fest.

The festival got its start last year when White, who is the lead singer and primary songwriter of Rhythm Incorporated, was approached by Patti Scutari, the owner of Deja Brew, about possibly presenting some type of festival at the establishment. Since White and his band mates had been discussing the idea of hosting some type of festival themselves, this seemed like the perfect opportunity. And so, the Wendell Reggae Fest was born.

Never having put on a festival before, the members of the band forged ahead and hoped for the best. When they only sold a handful of advance tickets, they weren’t sure how it was going to turn out, but then on the day of the festival, an estimated 300 people showed up. The Wendell Reggae Fest was a success!

“When we started the festival last year, we didn’t have any goals or anything,” White said. “It was just ‘Let’s put on this festival and see what happens,’ and it worked out really well. We decided ‘Let’s keep it going.’”

While it is the music that makes a festival a success or not, White, who is a native of Wendell and continues to call the tiny town home, feels that Wendell is a crucial part of the festival’s identity.

“Wendell is a small town best known for (its) radical concepts and self sufficient community,” White said. “(It was) the first town back in the ’80s to try (to) advocate the recreational use of marijuana, which swiftly got shut down. It is the home and was the hub of two of the biggest rock and reggae bands still yet to come out the happy valley: Loose Caboose and The Outer Space Band.”

White said he grew up being influenced by bands such as Loose Caboose, as well as his father, who was a musician.

Deja Brew has been a vital part of the local music scene since opening its doors in 2005. Many musicians cite it as one of their favorite places to play. The pub offers live music every weekend as well as the occasional festival like this one.

“It’s fun, family-friendly and cheap at only $10,” White said when asked why newcomers might want to check out the Wendell Reggae Fest. “And we’ve got some international reggae acts coming! It’s just a really good vibe.”

Advance tickets are $8 and are available at Deja Brew, which is located at 57A Locks Village Road. Tickets are $10 at the door and children under 12 are admitted for free.

This is a rain or shine event. Food and beverages will be sold. Ten percent of all proceeds will be donated to the Friends of Wendell, a volunteer-run emergency fund for Wendell residences in need.

Happy anniversary to the Ashfield Lake House

What Deja Brew is to Wendell, the Ashfield Lake House is to Ashfield: a local gathering spot where people can enjoy good food and drinks, socialize with their friends and neighbors, and enjoy some fantastic live music. Musicians love playing the Lake House and music fans love hearing music there.

The Lake House, at 141 Buckland Road, hosts all types of music, welcoming touring musicians from all over as well as local acts. To celebrate its third anniversary, the Ashfield Lake House is welcoming back the What Cheer? Brigade, a 20-piece punk brass band from Providence, R.I. that is the ultimate party band. The band has helped the Lake House celebrate its previous two anniversaries, and that’s not all — the musical line-up also includes Honeyfitz, Liberty Styles, La Neve and Cabin 7.

The celebration starts at 7 p.m. Admission is $5.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at:

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