It was back in 1997 when the Youth Musical Project was established in Lotus River, a suburb of Cape Town notorious for Gang related violence. The Rastafari Community in Lotus River together with The Sons of Selassie Band initiated the project in an effort to deal with the crime in the area and idleness of the youth that was beguiling the community. They took a bold stand and decided to get directly and actively involved with effecting changes that they want to see in the community, and the result was Reggae inna Park Festival.
Reggae inna Park is a musical festival which traces its humble beginnings back in 1998 at Lotus Park, then a war zone. The park is situated in Rietbok Avenue, marked as a red zone area by the local police. The park was the place used to settle scores by rival gangs. There were a lot of shootings and killings happening at this park which became a no go area. It was no longer a recreational space but a turf for gangs for drugs dealings and all sorts of social ills imaginable took place there.
It was exactly at this space that the Youth Musical Project decided to stage the Reggae inna Park Music Festival. The objective being to target the youth of the area and the surroundings by providing an alternative to gangs and violence. Using music to reach out to them, because as Bro Manchi, leader of the The Sons of Selassie Band and the project put it: “Music is the healing of the nation, and its ah long time we no have no nice time”. It was also a platform for local reggae artists to showcase their works and the rasta community to ply their trade and promote Rastafari culture. This was welcomed by the community and has become the most anticipated event of the year. The park turned from being a red zone to a Red Gold and Green Zone, and is now called the Rasta Park.
Skeleton da Scientist of Rebelstone Muzik lab has also been instrumental in helping the project to take shape through promotions and publicity. It was important for Bro Manchi to involve the youth in the process, as this is a project designed and targeted specifically for the youth. It is the youth that the Gang members target for recruitment, and therefore if the music reaches them first, then there is hope.
Reggae inna Park recently concluded its 18th year anniversary on January, 4. It is now an annual event which has grown in leaps and bounds which receives a lot of support from the community. Many Western Cape reggae artists have performed at this festival including Black Dillinger, Jah Kongo, Zoro Daddy Spencer, Scorpion Da Stingah, Jah Noah, Jah Levi Bloupakkieman, Jah Link, Fire Flames, Triple Crown Sound System, DJ Dougie [RIP], DJ Gotta [RIP] , Selacity [Nigeria] and many more.
The event and the initiative has brought a lot of positive changes within the community. People look up to Rasta with respect, for what they have done and continue doing. They look to Rasta to help resolve domestic issues, they bring their youth to Rasta for discipline, but more importantly they look forward to Reggae inna Park Festival, where it is all ital and the music is love.
Reggae inna Park is an annual event that takes place in January in Rasta Park at Lotus River, Cape Town. Click here to go to photo gallery.
The Sons of Selassie will be performing at:
The Bob Marley Sports, Arts and Culture Festival in Tabak Baai Holiday Resort 5 – 7 February 2016.
Jamming Reggae Festival, Hillcrest Quarry, Durbanville 20 March 2016
All Photo Credit: Vincent Rhoode.