Good vibes. Jamaica. Bob Marley. They’re the elements that make up the sounds of reggae. Though it originated from the beaches of “the land of wood and water,” reggae’s relaxed, uplifting energy has spread worldwide.
Those vibes will take over the Beach House (7219 Market St.) on Saturday, July 18, for the third annual Reggae Fest. Performances will include Morgan Heritage with special guest Jemere Morgan, Edge Michael, Zion, and Streets Afire. Along with various roots reggae groups, there will be live painting by Cammeron Batanides.
Returning to the festival for his third year, Edge Michael is known for his super-charged performances. He describes it as “high-level performance—overall, a real happy vibe.”
At the festival, Michael will be handing out free copies of his new single, “Legalize It,” from his new album “Legalize It: The Legacy Continues.” Set for release on July 29, the Peter Tosh original hits close to home for Michael in more ways than one. First off, it’s perhaps one of the most popular songs of the genre. Secondly, Michael is Tosh’s nephew.
Although he never met Tosh face-to-face, he does recall phone calls during childhood. “He was trying to be strict and tell me to be a good kid,” Michael recalls.
Tosh died in 1987 when Michael was only 4, not leaving much time for the two to bond. Still, the impact was ever-lasting.
“It is extremely important to me to carry on the Tosh legacy and the legacy of morally conscious music and reggae,” Michael explains. “Why? Because the world needs reference to truth; reference to equal rights and justice; reference to humanity.”
Michael’s rendition of “Legalize It” is not too far from the original. However, he does stress how his version is more upbeat and lively. Michael also finds the song extremely relevant to the current climate surrounding the legalization of marijuana. He believes there are many positive aspects regarding its legalization.
“The realization becomes more and more evident [through] the legalization of marijuana,” he explains. “In recent times, cancer has been one of the leading diseases and there is evidence that marijuana has healing potential for cancer.”
Along with supporting medicinal use of the drug, Michael references his uncle’s take on “Legalize It” years ago. “In 1972, Peter Tosh said the legalization of marijuana could build a strong economy,” Michael explains. “Forty-three years later, we have proof of that statement in Colorado’s economic growth and the turn around of Colorado after legalization. Bare in mind, I am not just promoting or celebrating or arguing the legalization of marijuana. I am advocating its responsible use, not irresponsible use.”
Edge Michael has been singing and playing music since birth. Growing up in Jamaica allowed him to fully tap into his calling to his nation’s roots music. In 1994, he took his first step toward performing outside of Jamaica.
Upon his first release 1996, “Hard Road to Travel,” Michael began working with record label Loco Records, wherein he released six albums. For his eighth studio album, “Legalize It: The Legacy Continues,” Michael switched to JAMZ Inc. in order to reach a wider range of audiences worldwide.
“My career has taken me across the globe and in so many towns, cities, villages,” Michael says. “I see the need for help in so many ways.”
Inspired by the “Almighty,” Michael founded his own charitable organization, The Edge Michael Foundation, in 2004. Monies raised go to children in orphanages in Jamaica.
“I have not kept track of the amount I have helped,” he says. “I only want to give as much as I can—I have no interest as long as it is as much as humanly possible for me and from my external forces.”
As well Michael tries to donate to local charities in towns he tours. He has donated to Wilmington’s own Good Shepherd Center on several visits.
“My perspective is if everyone takes on the perspective to give something toward the less fortunate, that’s something you can donate,” Michael says. “There’s always something you can do. I know I cannot do it all; I am not trying to be a hero. I am simply trying to do my part in being my brother’s keeper. Life would be so much easier for us if we would each do a little to help the unfortunate amongst us—not only with donations but equally as important, the time … to give.”
Having toured with various reggae stars, including The Wailers, Groundation, Beres Hammond, and Tarrus Riley, Michael enjoys touring most in the name of Jamaican pop. “Bring me a crowd, a microphone and a stage, and I’m happy,” he claims.
Also performing at Reggae Fest is “The Royal Family of Reggae,” known as “Morgan Heritage.” The group has traveled all over the world for more than 15 years, going from festivals to the Caribbean to Europe to Africa. They’re landing at the Beach House for the first time this weekend.
Five children of musician Denroy Morgan make up the band: Peetah, Una, Roy “Gramps,” Nakhamyah “Lukes,” and Memmalatel “Mr. Mojo” Morgan. Although from the United States, their Jamaican roots were prominent influences on their life and music. Their father, Denroy, would play music from Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Steel Pulse, Third World, and BB King. Their highly creative upbringing inspired the band’s formation.
“Being family and in a band together makes the difficult times much easier than if we were not siblings,” Wendy Morgan, band manager, says. “So, there’s no difficulty in being family and band mates, rather being a family helps with the difficulties within this life.”
Their first album, “Miracles,” was released under MCA Records in 1994. Thereafter, their eight studio releases came out on VP Records. They decided to release their tenth album, “Strictly Roots,” in the spring, on their own independent label, Cool to Be Conscious Music Group. The transition was a big change for the band, according to Morgan.
“The difference now, as an independent, is being responsible for making sure as many people as possible either has the album or knows it exists,” Morgan says. “We chose to do an independent release, because we wanted to bring our music to our fans [in] a certain way that we felt could only be done independently.”
This album features new sounds the band has never ventured into exploring before: ‘strict’ roots music with edgy, modern twists. Morgan Heritage took inspiration from a more global and diverse style of reggae, due to their inspirations of travel and cultures observed over the past year and a half while on on tour.
“One of the biggest inspirations while writing this album was the fans and how diverse reggae music fans are these days across the globe,” Morgan explains.
Both Edge Michael and Morgan Heritage will be among the four bands playing Beach House’s Reggae Fest on July 18, starting at 6 p.m. The live performances will go until midnight, with an after party hosted by DJ Riz until 2 a.m.