In its sixth year, the One Love One Heart Reggae Festival has updated its name to One Love One Heart Roots Music Festival. Fans will probably continue to call it the “Reggae Festival” for many years to come just as the Sacramento Music Festival is still often referred to as the Jazz Jubilee. However, the name isn’t ultimately that important other than to allow us to identify it. The music is the focus and, according to festival founder Denise Carter, it’s the “Root” music that the event is aiming to bring forth to the public. This doesn’t necessarily mean the festival is only about “Roots Reggae,” not at all. The One Love festival is focusing on presenting a variety of music that is closely related although often highly differentiated in its genre or classification.
Musical influences travel from region to region and eventually become incorporated into a style that becomes labeled as a certain genre or sub genre. Reggae and Ska as well as the Latin genres of Salsa, Samba, Timba, and many more have been shaped by African beats. At the bottom line, the roots of many styles of music stem from the rhythm and beats of Africa. The One Love music festival is focusing on the type of music that contains strong elements and influences from what greatly shaped Reggae as well as many other sister genres.
The One Love festival is also focusing on music that is primarily positive rather than highly sexualized or angry. Some of the modern day reggae has begun to draw the hot and smoky sexual aspects into their lyrics and style and, while that may be suitable for certain audiences, it isn’t the “One Love” focus. Some of the reggae may also have a great deal of weed smoking orientation which, again, is suitable for certain audiences but it is not what the festival organizers want to permeate their entire billing and atmosphere. A bit of these elements may be acceptable in some “roots” festivals but the One Love priority is to present a program that represents their name. Unity, love, positive and conscious lyrics, fun, joy, cooperation and good vibes are at the core purpose of the One Love One Heart Roots Music Festival in Sacramento.
In the roots focus, One Love brought the Argentine artist Alika to the festival in 2013. She was met with such enthusiasm that the festival organizers have booked her to return in 2014 and then added a touch of Salsa to the Latin flavor by booking Conjunto Liberacion to perform in 2014 as well.
Conjunto Liberacion is a nine piece Salsa band comprised of musicians of many different ethnic backgrounds and nationalities including Panama, Puerto Rico, Mexico, U.S. and Nigeria. The band musicians have been working on this project for about five or six years and originally started as a Folkloric Afro-Cuban drumming ensemble. The ensemble gradually evolved into a full Salsa band heavily influenced by the New York City sound of the ‘70s and ‘80s groups like Fania Allstars, Sonora Ponceña, Gran Combo, and Willie Colon & Ruben Blades. Conjunto Liberacion went this route in order to “fill a void for this style in the Sacramento and surrounding vicinity areas.”
The band members all grew up listening to Salsa in their various hometowns. That experience has led them to also love playing and sharing their passion for Salsa music. The band is led by Hector Conde (timbales) and Marco Valle (congas) with Eddie Vidales, (bass), Aggy Chukuma, (piano), Leo Servin (vocals and percussion) Ness G., (vocals), and backed by the experienced horn section of Mike Breit, (trumpet), Dave Metzger (trumpet), Steve Gonsoulin, (trombone) and David Bowman (trombone).
Marco Valle says the band “will have no problem playing at a Reggae, ska event because [their] music is infectious, contagious, percussive and full of rhythm [which will lead] people to dance sooner or later.” Although the roots relation to Reggae may not be overtly obvious to some, the roots are there. The Conjunto Liberacion rhythm section is composed of piano, bass, congas, timbales, bongos and complemented by hand percussion instruments like maracas, guiros, campana and claves. These are instruments that “may not be found in a typical Reggae or Ska band” but they are bound to energize and please the festival attendees.
Valle further explains that a “typical Salsa tune is an arrangement of the above instruments and a lead singer, backed up by the corista (back up singers) in a constant interaction with each other.” “Salsa is passed from generation to generation in most Latin American countries and here in the States, particularly the cities of heavily Caribbean Latin folks like in New York, Miami, Boston and San Francisco.”
The Conjunto Liberacion band says they can perform at nearly any type of venue but the majority of their appearances are at night clubs. They have also performed at music festivals, private parties including weddings, and local community events. Prior to appearing at the One Love One Heart Roots Music Festival which takes place Aug. 29-31, they will be performing at the Jumbo-Ya Ya Music and Food Festival at the Yolo County Fairgrounds on June 28. Because Conjunto Liberacion’s “main objective is to bring enjoyment through our music and simply make you dance” the One Love crowd is expected to welcome them with enthusiasm and open arms.