Wilmington, the first American city Bob Marley called home during the 1960s and 1970s, will pay tribute to the reggae icon through lots of “Jamming” at the 18th Annual People’s Festival Saturday at Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park.
With two stages for non-stop music anchored by 10 main acts, including the opening act Judah Tribe, led by frontman Biggz General (grandson of Bob Marley), respected People’s Festival band Spokey Speaky and headliner I-Wayne. In between sets, four DJs — DJ Ras Cipher, DJ Ras Mahdy, DJ Champe and DJ Mech — as well as poets and others acts will perform until the main acts are ready to grace the stage.
A longtime staple in Wilmington, drawing an average of 2,000-plus attendees from throughout the state and region each year, the People’s Festival will also feature more eye-watering amounts of entertainment.
Accompanying the music and poetry will be appetizing Caribbean cuisines (both meat and vegetarian, along with smoothies and natural tonics); arts and crafts for kids and the entire family at the Children’s Garden; as well as chair and foot massages by healers and holistic herbs for sale at the Healing Village.
Spotlight on I-Wayne
Born Cliffroy Taylor in the Kingston suburb of Portmore, Jamaica, People’s Festival headliner I-Wayne is a reggae singer who dropped his latest album, “Life Teachings,” in 2011.
I-Wayne officially hit the international scene with his smash hit “Can’t Satisfy Her” in 2004.
The tune then caught on in several markets and spent more than 22 weeks on the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B Hot 100 chart. I-Wayne followed up that firey description of a desperate Jamaican reality comprised of prostitution, poverty and sexually transmitted diseases with “Living in Love” in 2005.
One of Wilmington’s finest reggae bands
Returning to the People’s Festival for at least its third time is Spokey Speaky, of Wilmington, the only prominent band from Wilmington selected for the show.
Spokey Speaky is a roots-reggae band — comprised of three members (frontman and guitarist Jeff Ferrara, bassist Jason Keenan and drummer John Dickinson) — that incorporates musical elements such as of rock, jam, hip-hop, funk and soul.
For the festival, the band will be joined by guitarists Gordon Lippincott and Dustin Frohlic as well as keyboardist Jordan Leitner, all members of the Mad-Sweet Pangs, a Newark-based band, Ferrara said. Spokey will also be joined by singer Natatee Smith, who’ll provide background vocals.
“It’s always an exciting event for us because we come from Wilmington and most of us attended the festival before we started the reggae band,” said Ferrara, 29, of Wilmington. “Knowing the history, of all places, that Delaware is the one state that Bob [Marley] really called his home during the prime of his career — it’s a really cool thing.”
Festival co-founder Genny Pitts says Spokey Speaky has been handpicked for the event because “Spokey Speaky is like our best representative” from Wilmington to play in the show.
The Marley ‘vision’
A longtime friend of the late Marley, Pitts and her husband, Ibis (the other co-founder of the People’s Festival), once lived with the reggae legend and his wife, Rita, at their home on Tatnall Street in Wilmington from 1976 to 1977.
Pitts says it’s a blessing and testament to the impact Marley that the festival will turn 18 Saturday.
“It’s really humbling to see that we’re here 18 years later and that we’re still staying true to the vision of paying tribute to Bob,” Pitts said.
Often wondering how Marley would respond if he had a chance to attend the People’s Festival, Pitts believes he’d simply say “Ire man,” which translates to it’s “cool.”