FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 24, Toronto, ON – The golden age of Canadian reggae left an indelible imprint in the country’s musical landscape. It’s a legacy that continues to influence today’s music scene with Toronto and/or Canadian connections in many of the successful pop/reggae infusions that are charting everywhere. Rolling Stone acknowledged the impact of Toronto-based reggae artists such as Messenjah, Sattalites and Jackie Mittoo on current chart-topping acts such as Magic! (Rude). Celebrating this particular heritage, the 12th Annual IRIE Festival Opening Ceremonies will featurea Who’s Who of Toronto’s reggae elite, performing for the first time ever on stage together at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, August 1, at Nathan Phillips Square. The concert takes place a mere kilometre away from the former location of the BamBoo Club, the city’s central nerve for reggae which attracted some of reggae’s true pioneers who called Toronto home. The opening ceremonies kick off a weekend-long festival featuring some of reggae’s hottest international acts including Richie Spice, Etana, and Alison Hinds.

Bands like Earth, Roots & Water, Ishan People, Truths and Rights, 20th Century Rebels, Messenjah and Sattalites laid the foundations for reggae music in Canada,” says IRIE Festival Artistic Director Phil Vassell, who is also a vital voice for Toronto’s Caribbean community as editor of WordMagazine. “The Toronto melting pot of the 1970s was fertile ground for the mixture of Jamaican-Canadian influences, and what happened in the music scene up until the early 1990s still reverberates within the pop music scene.”

The opening ceremonies lineup includes:

  • Fergus Hambleton, JoJo Bennett and members of the Sattalites, Canada’s longest-standing reggae group, and the first Canadian band ever invited to play atJamaica’s famed Sunsplash music festival.

  • Rupert “Ojiji” Harvey and Carl Harvey of Messenjah, a progressive roots reggae band widely regarded as one of the most successful and popular reggae groups in the history of Canadian music.

  • Tabarruk, led by Dr. Jason Wilson, a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter who was a protégé of Studio One keyboardist Jackie Mittoo

  • Adrian “Sheriff” Miller, lead singer for Earth, Roots & Water, one of the first prominent reggae bands in Toronto in the ’70s and later in the ’80s for 20th Century Rebels, a progressive reggae band comprised of Jamaicans, Canadians and British-born musicians.

  • Michael St. George, one of Canada’s leading dub poets whose uncompromising, syncopated, hard-driving baselines and melodic forms are infused with reggae, ska, rhythm & blues, and jazz influences.

The 12th Annual TD IRIE Music Festival is a FREE multi-day, family-friendly festival that takes place August 1–4, 2014 (Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto) and August 23–24, 2014 (Celebration Square, Mississauga).The lineup includes internationally renowned soca, reggae, and calypso artists such as Alison Hinds, Richie Spice, Etana, Richie Stephens, and David Rudder, along with local talent such as Juno Award-winning Odel, The Arsenals (known for “100% Kick-Ass Ska”), and soca DJ group D’Enforcas, as well as up-and-coming artists. The Nathan Phillips Square weekend concludes with a traditional island-style “blocko” featuring some of Toronto’s best DJs including Toronto’s legendary DJ Carl Allen spinning a mix of reggae, calypso and soca. In addition to showcasing some of today’s top reggae music acts, the festival offers dance, spoken word/literature, visual arts, tropical food, and more. For more information visit: or call 905-799-1630.

Victoria Lord, VLPR INC., T: 416-484-9047, E:



Picking up where the legendary BamBoo club left off when it closed in 2002, the IRIE Music Festival has been an important venue for supporting and promoting reggae music artists. IRIE Artistic Director Phil Vassell has also been a vital voice for the Caribbean community in his position as Publisher/Editor/Artistic Director atWordMagazine.

Two-time Juno Award winners were formed in Toronto in 1980 when Jo Jo Bennett and Fergus Hambleton met as a part of Leroy Sibbles tour band. Sattalites are topped the charts with their unique blend of 60s pop music and reggae. A BamBoo mainstay, the Sattalites performed at the club’s final night on Halloween 2002. One of the most influential reggae bands, Sattalites are hailed as Canada’s UB40. A greatest hits compilation, Sattalites: Best Of Canadian Reggae, was issued by Linus Entertainment in September 2013.


Messenjah is notably the first Canadian reggae band to be signed by a major record label. Rock You High was re-released on the WEA label in 1983 and for the first time reggae was played on the mainstream radio.In June 2013, Warner Music Canada re-releasedMessenjah’sSessionalbum in digital format and, later this year will re-release Rock You High, timing it perfectly with a reunion tour that includes upcoming performances in Barrie, Elora, Whistler, Ottawa and Toronto’s Beaches Jazz Festival. Messenjah is currently recording new material for a comeback album to be released in 2015.


Dr. Jason Wilson, a protégé of Studio One keyboardist Jackie Mittoo and the cousin of UB40’s Michael Virtue. Known for incorporating jazz and Scottish and English folk influences atop a reggae foundation, Wilson is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter who has performed and recorded with Alanis Morissette, Sly & Robbie, Ernest Ranglin, Pee Wee Ellis, Ron Sexsmith, The Mighty Sparrow, and Percy Sledge, to name a few. A winner of a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, Dr. Wilson’s research explores how reggae music facilitated a cultural dialogue between Jamaican immigrants and their Canadian hosts. His latest musical offering sees him working with legendary English fiddler Dave Swarbrick (Fairport Convention) on a breathtaking mixture of folk and reggae entitled Lion Rampant (2014) which the pair will tour in Canada later this year.


Michael St. George, one of Canada’s leading dub poets whose uncompromising, syncopated, hard-driving baselines and melodic forms are infused with reggae, ska, rhythm & blues, and jazz influences. Michael has shared stages and studios across the globe with icons such as Burning Spear, Brinsley Ford, Luciano, Thomas Mapfumo, and Toots and the Maytals. In addition to his performance in the opening ceremonies, Michael will be hosting a CD launch coinciding with his performance on Sunday, August 3. A powerful new 12-track release Fight Your Fears or Die speaks to challenges, personal and professional—family, friends, foes, engagements, passions and lessons learned.


The 20th Century Rebels’s were the first in Canada to seriously work the ska groove. Fronted by Adrian “Sheriff” Miller the band also included luminaries Devon Martin and Roscoe Christie. The influential multi-racial 10-piece band released their only recording: Rebelution in 1984. Miller is also a founding member of Earth, Roots & Water had whose sonic and visual found them performing in and around the Toronto area, opening up for The Police and The Stranglers while extending the UK-born punk/reggae love affair to North America.

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