Who’s performing at the 2018 Simmer Down Festival in Handsworth Park?
The biggest free reggae festival in the UK is back in Birmingham this weekend, for some awesome laid-back music, amazing food and a chilled out vibe.
The Simmer Down Festival returns to the beautiful setting of Handsworth Park on Sunday, for a day of live music, art activities and the food experiences of multi-cultural Handsworth; but who’s performing on stage?
Celebrating Birmingham’s rich cultural diversity and the city’s unique reggae legacy, the festival offers fun for all the family including an impressive line-up of international, national and local artists.
While the Simmer Down main stage has many acts still to be announced, here’s some amazing artists performing on the day:
Crucial Stage (main stage) line-up for 2018:
- Inner Circle
- Iqulah Rastafari
- Misty in Roots
- JB – Capital Letters
- Pulse Beat
- Rhythms Del Toro
- Hyper Hype
- Lekan Babalola’s Sacred Funk Project (featuring Rtkal and Handsworth Community Choir)
- Tony Roots
Who’s Who at Simmer Down Festival?
This year, legendary reggae band Inner Circle celebrate their 50th anniversary. Dubbed the “Bad boys of reggae”, this Jamaican, Grammy Award winning quintet is one of the world’s most respected reggae bands with a string of hits going back to the mid 1970’s.
Their special blended style of pop-oriented Jamaican beats and energy that have made them leading stars of their movement. Led by founding members, brothers Roger & Ian Lewis, Inner Circle has stood the test of time by continuing to innovate and connect with rising stars. This iconic group known for such hits as Bad Boys and Sweat are releasing a documentary, book and album titled ‘A Long Road to Success’. It’s a momentous year for Inner Circle so it’s fitting that they are our headlining act.
Iqulah’s musical style carries a global feel underpinned by a strong roots reggae foundation. Neatly orchestrated and enhanced by full strings, horns and percussion, played over solid reggae basslines.
In 1989, Iqulah released his debut album, Rasta Philosophy, followed by a second album, The Mission in 1993. Three more albums were later released, the most recent being Rastafari 4Eva, in 1994. Touring extensively throughout Europe, Iqulah quickly established himself as a legendary performer, taking his audiences to higher spiritual heights.
Hailed by the press as the “High Priest of Reggae” and the “Rasta Ambassador”, Iqulah is known first for his authentic presentation, supported by high calibre musicians, and second for his unique charisma, having touched thousands of audiences across the world, from the Far East through Russia, Europe and Scandinavia to Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Iqulah is also renowned for his philanthropy, working alongside the Africa Union and having established community centres in Rwanda, Uganda and Jamaica, and continues to focus on his charity work. Twice elected as the International Chaplain to the Ethiopian World Federation, Iqulah is a vocal supporter of the EWF. Many of his concerts have aided in raising awareness and funds to support programs in Shashamani, Ethiopia. The reggae star’s Food For Thought album, released 2014 is a true representation of Haille Selassie 1st, “a man that walketh, and not just talketh”.
Misty in Roots
With a career spanning 4 decades, Misty In Roots are one of England’s finest reggae groups. The band was one of the most powerful live reggae acts to emerge from 1970s London and they were a major force in the Rock Against Racism movement.
During the period 1977/78 the political situation in the UK. was at breaking point. Black consciousness was at its peak and racism roamed the streets of London. Unemployment was affecting both black and white youths and through this depression a new musical alliance was born, young white youths totally fed up with the status quo turned to playing punk music, while at the same time identifying strongly with the British reggae acts as Misty In Roots, Steel Pulse and Aswad.
With the coming of the ‘Rock against Racism’ movement, the musical fight-back had begun and for the first time, black and white musicians were playing together on the same platform bringing about a totally new concept in musical awareness. Despite Misty’s huge success as a live act, the band did not release their first album until 1979.
The album Live at the Counter Eurovision, which was recorded live in Belgium during the band’s 1978 tour, is today still proclaimed by many critics as the best live reggae album of all time. The band’s second album Wise and Foolish released in 1982 took on more mellow, jazzy and soulful tone.
By 1982, Misty In Roots was a force to be reckoned with but because of their determination to remain independent the band took a major step into Africa spending nine months in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The period spent in Africa had a major impact on the development of Misty’s following two albums Earth and Musi O Tunya, both of which were directly inspired by the band’s experiences in Africa. Now, we can look back over the works of Misty In Roots and see how immense the combined talents of this co-operative group, producing uplifting righteous music for all to hear.
JB – Capital Letters
Capital Letters were one of the main players in the distinctive homegrown British roots reggae scene that emerged in the late 70’s and were the first group to be signed to the Greensleeves label.
Along with groups like Matumbi, Aswad, Black Roots and Steel Pulse, Capital Letters managed to break down many of the prejudices that reggae music could only be made in Jamaica, when authentic roots music was emerging from all corners of the UK, in this case Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, a stone’s throw from where Steel Pulse’s Handsworth Revolution was taking place.
Their single Smoking My Ganja blew the woofers out of UK soundsystems throughout ’78, and propelled them into the studio to record a full-length. The resulting LP, Headline News, was one of the critically acclaimed reggae records of 1979 with its finely balanced blend of African, Jamaican, and English influences and songs that covered topics ranging from religion to marijuana legalization to the bloody reign of Idi Amin.
Their original album Headline News, also contains the full length 12″ mixes of UK Skanking, Smoking My Ganja and Natty Walk. The band also released the highly sought-after Bread and Water 7″ EP, a ska-flavored quartet of tracks, which was released in 1980 – a nod to the 2-Tone scene that was taking place in the UK at the time.
Capital Letters were big favorites of John Peel and recorded a session which was broadcast in January 1980. Peel championed Capital Letters and for a time played a track from Headline News on every show over a period in 1979. As a result, Smoking My Ganja, Run Run Run and President Amin, were hits in France, Spain and Holland. The band has reformed and plan to tour later this year to promote their new album.
Pulse Beat was formed in 2011 with the aim of bringing Steel Pulse classics and other great Reggae music to the masses near and far.
Pulse Beat are made up of some of the UK’s finest reggae session musicians and – where schedules permit – Pulse Beat are accompanied on stage by Selwyn Brown from Steel Pulse on keyboards and lead/backing vocals. Pulse Beat have performed at many events including Birmingham’s annual Simmer Down Festival, London’s One Love Festival in Victoria Park, Steel Pulse’s Official Simmer Down after-party 2014, London Hootananny’s, Birmingham Food Festival, Jamaica 50th anniversary concert, Jamaica Live, and the St Agnes Music Festival.
Rhythms Del Toro
With a distinctive fusion of popular classics in an explosive Latin style, Rhythms Del Toro are sure to blow your socks off! This lively group of fun-loving musicians bring a vibrant energy to their audiences.
There isn’t a night when Rhythms Del Toro don’t light up the space and spark up the night! You’ll be brought to the floor with Latin style classics from pop icons such as Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. Alongside contemporary hits from the likes of Bruno Mars, Amy Winehouse, Carlos Santa, Adele, Marc Anthony, Kings Of Leon, Carlos Vives, Jennifer Lopez and Rihanna.
Lekan Babalola’s Sacred Funk Project (featuring Rtkal and Handsworth Community Choir)
Awarded his first Grammy in 2006 for performances on the late Ali Farka Touré’s album ‘In the Heart of the Moon’, Lekan Babalola’s Sacred Funk Project was awarded a second at the 49th Grammy awards in 2009 for his work on the American jazz diva Cassandra Wilson’s album ‘Loverly’.
World press has given him rave reviews for his percussive ‘wizardry’ and infectious grooves. He learnt his craft in the Yoruba-Christian church in Nigeria owned by his father, Olayiwola Babalola.
Since then his career has lead him to perform with the likes of Ernest Ranglin, Branford Marsalis, the African Jazz All Stars, Roy Ayers, The Kate Luxmoore Group, Tony Allen, Axelle Red, Pinse Saul, Queen Salawa Abeni, Master Drummers of Africa and Jean Toussaint.
A young veteran of the Birmingham music scene, RTkal has been honing his craft as one of the cities most talented wordsmiths since the early 2000’s.
Inspired by his youth, his generation and his heritage, RTkal has used music to spread positive vibes, unite and entertain audiences across the world. As an independent artist RT has had charted success in various countries with tracks such as Puttin’ In The Work by Ghost Writers and Run Your Mouth by Noisses ft Lady Leshurr and Foreign beggars which also won UK Music Video Awards “Best Urban Music Video” of 2012.
Recognised and endorsed by the likes of Snoop Dogg, BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra, RTkal has performed alongside some of the most iconic musicians worldwide including Wu-Tang Clan, Tyga, Dead Prez, Curtis Blow and as a Mud Family member, the UK’s very own godfather of rap Skinny Man.
Not to mention hyping up some of the biggest audiences in the world including performances at Glastonbury, Isle of White Festival, Lovebox, Outlook Festival and numerous tours with legendary sound systems Valve and Channel One. After the success of his EP “Skunk Rock Volume 1”, RTkal is finally back with the collaboration EP “Herbs & Praise”. Working with producer Gavsborg from Jamaica’s Equiknoxxx Music, the duo have produced a unique body of work which bridges the gap between British and Jamaican culture.
Dennis Lloyd discovered his passion for music as a young boy of 11 and it was around this time that he would begin teaching himself to play the guitar in church.
He also drew inspiration from musical influences such as early Stevie Wonder and Dennis Brown as well as the artistry of Al Campbell, John Holt and the great Robert Nesta Marley.
Dennis would also attribute the foundations of his character to his early gospel influence. Over the years Dennis has developed his own fresh sound of Reggae/Lovers Rock songs which led to him releasing his well received album entitled In Too Deep in 2012. He has featured at the Birmingham Carnival, Jerk Festival, on the Sky TV series ‘Real Talk’ hosted by Apache Indian, Reggae Baby and more.
Jay Alixzander Bigby started singing and playing the guitar at the age of 15 in St Elizabeth, Jamaica.
In those early years, members of the local church saw him take any and every opportunity to sing and every time they heard him they were amazed at the giant steps of progress between performances.
He then decided to form a gospel group call themselves The Songs of Light Gospel Singers performing at gospel concerts. On arrival to England and living in Birmingham, Jay continued to sing and it wasn’t long before he had an audition for the television programme This Is My Moment in 2003. He has been enrolled into the East in the Black Heroes Hall of Fame.
Shelly Lightnin the sweet angelic voice that is currently the newest sensation in the Reggae Music Industry, has worked with artists like Dennis walks, Bencil, Sugar Minott, Tony Tuff.
She has also opened for Sandra Cross, John Mclean & Aswad, ALeighcia Scott. Her recent album Onwards and Upwards has had an overwhelming reception, with four tracks of the album currently under curation. Shelly Lightnin has a very large catalogue of beautiful Reggae Music.
Empress Shelly Lightnin was born in Birmingham, moved to Tamworth at an early aged then migrated to Jamaica with her family, where she grew up. Classically taught under the tutelage of Mrs Bryan and achieving her London Royal Academy Of Music grades, this love took on a new form of passion when she attended Montego Bay High School and further becoming one of the founding members of the Jamaica Orchestra of Youth.
Jamaican born singer/songwriter. Her style of music hasn’t been one consistent sound, however, she’s hugely inspired by gospel, rhythm and blues, soul and reggae.
“Hauntingly beautiful!” “Sounds like her voice has been roaming the Earth for a few hundred years.” Janel Antoneshia’s overall desire is to continue creating music that’s closely connected to the growth of herself and others.
That’s just some of the performers and artists gracing the many stages as this year’s Simmer Down Festival. For regular updates about new acts and a complete list of artists performing on Sunday, check the Simmer Down Festival’s Twitter account @simmerdownfest.
Simmer Down Festival takes place on Sunday 12th August at Handsworth Park in Birmingham.
For more information about the FREE event, visit: www.simmerdownfestival.com, and the event’s Facebook page here.