The Recorder – Sounds Local: The Charlemont Reggae Festival returns, “Rooted in love and positivity”


The Charlemont Reggae Festival returns this Saturday after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. It is now called the Charlemont Reggae Festival: Rooted in Love and Positivity. Brought to you by Greenfield’s Hawks and Reed and Resinate Cannabis, the organizers realized that we are going through tough times and could use some relief. This is where the Charlemont Reggae Festival comes in.

The family festival, now in its 25th year as an annual event, will feature more than ten artists performing on two stages. There will be children’s activities, live art, and a variety of food and craft vendors. Berkshire Brewing will be on hand to serve cold beers.

“We decided to have the slogan of love and positivity this year. For me, there is good music and there is bad music. Good music makes you feel good at home. inside, and for me, that’s what reggae music does; it brings out that love and positivity in everyone,” said Ben Goldsher, who along with his father, Steve Goldsher, and a team of Hawks and Reed are the organizers of this year’s festival.

This year’s lineup, a mix of nationally acclaimed artists and local bands, is sure to share the spirit of love and positivity through the upbeat messages heard in their music.

“We’re bringing an amazing band from Kingston, Jamaica called EarthKry. They’re an up-and-coming band with a great sound that definitely won’t disappoint you,” Goldsher said of the festival headliners. “We thought it would be a perfect fit, bringing roots rock reggae to the festival while giving them a nice platform to develop their music. As soon as you hear their music, you will fall in love.

EarthKry are in the middle of a US tour that takes them across the country.

Much like iconic reggae band The Wailers, the group chose their name, EarthKry, “to signify their mission to voice the grievances of the underdog through the vibes of their Legacy music.”

“We also have a really good band from New York called Sun Dub and a bunch of our favorite local reggae artists,” Goldsher said of the lineup.

These acts include the Equalites, Rebelle, Dave Noonan’s Green Island, Rhythm Inc., Amandala’s Burnie T, Abdul Baki and Root Fiyah, Shanti Starr, SoulKeys, Wheel Out, Tuff Riddim International and I Anbassa.

Keyboardist Jason Metcalf first performed at the festival in 2005 when he was a member of the Alchemystics and has performed there every year since. He said it’s a local staple and one of his favorites on the scene for one-day festivals.

He will be back this year, lending his talents to several bands. “I will be playing sets with Rhythm Inc., Green Island, Shanti Starr and Burnie T.,” he said. “This year I also got to pay a special tribute to Bob Marley and Dennis Brown (I Anbassa Presents: The King and the Crown Prince), bringing in some of my favorite people to play with.”

New England’s oldest reggae festival, this event has played a vital role in promoting the local reggae scene and reggae music in general. RasJahn Bullock, of pioneering reggae band, Loose Caboose, and later member of Alchemystics, organized the first festival in 1985 as a one-off event. Then, in 1995, musician Abdul Baki, who is performing this year with his band, Root Fiyah, founded the current Reggae Festival which continues to this day. At that time, a lot of people didn’t know reggae music at all and the festival helped change that.

RasJahn and his wife Elizabeth Loving and a dedicated team eventually took over running the event. When RasJahn passed away in 2017, it was difficult for Loving to continue overseeing the festival.

Ben Goldsher was a lifelong reggae fan who had experience booking reggae acts at Hawks and Reed, including legends like the Wailers, Lee Scratch Perry and Yellowman, so it made perfect sense that Hawks and Reed intervene.

“We got involved because we wanted to keep the legacy of what this awesome event meant to the community,” Goldsher said, of Hawks and Reed taking over the festival in 2019. “And we couldn’t to do it without all the community support, we have some great partners, especially the cannabis dispensary Resinate.

He added that a big part of their involvement was also because they wanted to carry on the legacy of RasJahn and all he did for the reggae community.

“I knew him as the lion daddy, he was the man who kind of set the scene and made things happen for a long time, so we’re dedicating this festival to him this year and years to come,” Goldsher said of RasJahn, who has also graced the Hawks and Reed scene many times over the years.

After waiting two years due to the pandemic, organizers are delighted to be back and ready for the weekend ahead.

“A lot has happened in the past two years and there’s still so much going on in the world,” Goldsher said. “It gives us a moment to have fun and listen to music, be with the community and spread love and positivity.”

Doors open at noon, music starts at 1 p.m. Advance tickets are available at

Children 12 and under are admitted free.

Music at the Heath Fair

If you want to listen to live music this weekend, the hill towns are the place to be. Not only does the Charlemont Reggae Festival take place, but the Heath Fair takes place this weekend (August 19-21) and anyone who knows the little agricultural fair knows that every year they have a fantastic musical line-up.

Robert Bourke is responsible for booking groups and said he couldn’t put together such a large lineup without the help of grants from the local town’s cultural council.

The music kicks off Friday night at 5:30 p.m. with the string band, Uncles of the Pioneers, a group of Hilltown-based musicians – John Clark on bass, Rob Adams on guitar and Dennis Avery on dobro – who play jazz, gospel, rock and more. At 7 p.m., it’s the Zydeco Connection with the Bourbon Street Blasters, who will bring a New Orleans touch to Heath with their spicy and dancing music.

Saturday is a full day and evening of music starting with the Trouble Sisters at 11am, a folk group that includes Karen Brooks from Heath. Then it’s the Deep River Ramblers at 1 p.m., the trio made up of bassist Paul Kochanski and multi-instrumentalists Jim Henry and Chris Brasher. This band got together earlier this year to play a Doc Watson Tribute show at the Back Porch Festival and had such a great time together. (These guys are so good you might even want to skip Cow Bingo to grab their set.)

Doug Wilkins will play a special children’s show at 3 p.m., followed by Zara Bode and her Li’l Big Band at 4 p.m. Bode of the Sweetback Sisters is a powerhouse vocalist and with this project she’s assembled a full band, including a horn section, to put their own spin on some old radio hits. According to Bode, “Dancing isn’t required, but know that your feet can be inspired.”

The evening ends with the Whiskey Treaty Trio at 7 p.m. A stripped down version of the band, this set will feature Billy Keane, David Tanklefsky and Greg Smith, delivering the same great music we’ve come to expect from this band.

The music starts early on Sunday, with string band The Slide Gliders at 10:30 a.m. Opal Canyon, led by Debra DeMuth and Dave Houghton, brings American music to the stage at noon. The weekend ends with Meadow Brothers roots music at 2 p.m.

All of this great music is included with fair admission which is $12, $10 for seniors and children ten and under free. For more information including directions:

Sheryl Hunter is a freelance writer who resides in Easthampton. His work has appeared in various regional and national publications. She can be contacted at [email protected]


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