February is the official Reggae Month in Jamaica and it’s when the island really celebrates its musical heritage. And on 21-22 February 2015, the island will host the Blue Mountain Music Festival (BMMF) – an event where music meets art, meets nature, in the stunning Holywell Recreational Park.
The festival was developed from the original ‘Misty Bliss’ – an eco tourist festival led by the Jamaica Conservation & Development Trust. But now, it has become a bigger and better two-day event, thanks to BMMF Executive Producer and CEO of Bombrush Records Roshaun ‘Bay-C’ Clarke.
I was lucky enough to get an interview with Roshaun who launched the inaugural festival last year, which has since been named by the Jamaican Ministry of Tourism as one of the best events of the year.
He gave me the lowdown on what you can expect from the BMMF, the wellness and conservation work that’s tied into the festival and why both Jamaicans and overseas travellers should get this in their calendar.
Hi Roshaun, How did the Blue Mountain Music Festival come about?
I moved to the Blue Mountains in 2009 and the first song Bombrush Records produced in my house was a smash called Shaka Zulu Pickney by Taurus Riley. I took it as a sign that great music and art can be inspired from these mountains. From there I knew I wanted to stamp an event in the mountains and I had been dreaming of doing the festival since. I would say I toyed with the idea from 2011 but it wasn’t until summer 2013 that I made the decision to do it and once I decided that, it all just fell into place.
What makes the Blue Mountains location so special?
The Blue Mountains are special on so many different levels. It’s absolutely breath-taking to experience the beauty and serenity when you’re there but also, it’s arguably the most recognised landmark in Jamaica. It’s the highest point on the island and produces some of the most beautiful trees, flowers, raspberries and coffee known here.
The major point for me, is the inspiration. Bob Marley wrote music by Strawberry Hills in the 70’s. Then I moved here 30 years later and ran into Shaggy who says he wrote his album ‘Lucky Day’ there. From Mick Jagger to Snoop Lion, so many huge artists seem to have acknowledged the special energies that run through these mountains. I want to share that with everyone, especially those Jamaicans who might not be aware of how much of a treasure the Blue Mountains are.
Jamaicans love to party. So with the right entertainment package put together I hope to expose this ‘hidden treasure’ and let them love the mountains as much as I do.
How important was it that the festival had this wellness theme to it?
This was very important for me and the Bombrush Team. For this very reason, I invited the Guardian Angel Foundation to be a part of the event. This is a charity started by my colleague Craig Thompson with the mission of assisting those suffering from hypertension.
Yoga sessions and massages will take place throughout the two days and we will serve natural teas and food and drink products.
For me, it felt very natural to integrate the wellness component into the festival.
Does the festival have a strong focus on supporting the local economy?
Yes. The festival is a partnership between my label and the Jamaica Conservation & Development Trust who are managers of the Blue Mountains. And for several years, they’ve kept an annual event called Misty Bliss which is entirely based on the concept of empowering the local communities.
As a resident of the mountains, it’s my vision to carry on creating huge economic opportunities for the surrounding communities. So, even though we have to have big sponsors on board, we stand committed to empowering local guest houses, tour guides and those who sell local cuisine. We continue the Misty Bliss name for the second day as part of the eco-tourism drive from JCDT. It’s about providing local craft and food vendors a platform to expose their talents and help them make a living
How many people are hoped to be there?
We hope to attract between 2,000 and 3,000 people over the entire weekend.
What’s the line up of acts?
T.O.K (Roshaun’s dancehall group), Tarrus Riley, Freddie McGregor, Chino, Kreesha Turner, Duane Stephenson, Voicemail. Ryan Mark, Rootz Underground, Suzanne Couch, Mystic Revealers, Uprising Roots, Chevaughn, Fantan Mojah, Skygrass and more….
Can you stay at the Blue Mountains festival?
Yes, you can camp on the festival grounds or lodge in nearby cottages, guest houses, hotels or bed & breakfasts.
What does this mean for Jamaica’s tourism as a whole?
The BMMF was endorsed by the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment for Reggae Month. We anticipate more Jamaicans than tourists for the first year or so but we’ll expect to see some of the true reggae lovers who visit Jamaica for the entire Reggae Month. But we definitely expect the event to grow and it will be great for Jamaica’s tourism industry.
What 5 words sum up the Blue Mountain Festival?
Art, Music, Camping, Lifestyle. Experience
How do people from overseas get tickets?
Tickets can be bought at www.bmmfja.com
The Blue Mountain Music Festival takes place on 21-22 February 2015
Follow Roshaun on Twitter: @TOkBayC
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Big thanks to Roshaun for sharing the photos and experiences from The Blue Mountain Festival. For more info, check out the YouTube video and photos from last year’s event, below.