WHEN: 5-9:30 p.m. June 9WHERE: Hampton Park, 30 Mary Murray Blvd.COST: Free
The pulsating rhythms of reggae music once kicked off the Piccolo Spoleto Festival with the Reggae Block Dance. The event celebrated Charleston’s Caribbean-African roots with dancing, singing and food.
But the Reggae Block Dance disappeared for a few years after the 2008 Piccolo Spoleto, although smaller reggae components cropped up throughout the festival in the following years.
This year, reggae makes a full-fledged return with the popular reggae act The Meditations performing at the Piccolo finale on Saturday.
The Jamaican vocal harmony group has created music together for nearly 40 years, and provided backing vocals on a number of Bob Marley tunes. The Lemira Percussion Ensemble from Sumter will open this free, family-friendly event, and a rousing performance by festival favorite Motown Madness will cap it off.
Osei Terry Chandler, a.k.a. The Voice of Reggae, is emceeing the reggae portion of the finale. Chandler has been broadcasting his Caribbean music program, Roots Karamu, out of the Lowcountry for three decades and has been involved with coordinating world-class reggae acts for the festival since 1980.
The reggae guru often highlights The Meditations as premium artists on his radio show.
“They’re real old-school,” Chandler said. “It’s always important to bring a band that appeals to a wide variety of people, and I think people will embrace these artists.”
Chandler’s role during the performance will be to facilitate an appreciation for the genre by setting the mood of unity that reggae encompasses.
“One of the things I remind people is that reggae music is about peace and love,” he said. “It encourages people to realize the legends appearing on the stage.”
The Lemira Percussion Ensemble will kick things off with a universal appeal of its own. The ensemble consists of students ranging from very young to high-school-aged who enthusiastically perform an array of musical styles from around the world.
“How wonderful to get those kids out there with their families and friends to celebrate their achievements,” said Ellen Dressler Moryl, executive director Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs and producer of the Piccolo Spoleto. “We think that’s a very important part of our format and our mission.”
The second half of the program will feature Motown Madness, a two-hour, high-energy performance that replicates the best Motown acts.
The impersonators might be indistinguishable from Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross. They attracted 16,000 people to the Piccolo finale last year. The Charleston Symphony Orchestra is adding 25 musicians to provide an instrumental backdrop for the singers.
Darrell Edwards, executive director of Orchestra Kentucky, the organization that is sending 16 Motown Madness performers to Charleston, served as the Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s executive director from 1992 to 2002.
Edwards said it’s an honor to return to Charleston for the Piccolo finale, and rewarding to see people crowding around the stage and dancing during the performance.
“In a perfect world, great music like Motown could be heard for free,” Edwards said. “Our payment is the expression of joy on the faces of people from all walks of life enjoying this event.”
Editor’s Note: In Friday’s editions, Orchestra Kentucky Executive Director Darrell Edwards was misidentified. The Post and Courier regrets the error.