Feeling Irie at Montréal International Reggae Festival

Richard Burnett

The world’s best reggae, dancehall and soca performers descend upon Montréal each summer for the city’s renowned Montréal International Reggae Festival. The site for this year’s 14th annual star-studded edition is the Quai Jacques-Cartier in the Old Port, from August 18 to 20.

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United Against Violence

Reggae festivals around the world are helping to keep the genre alive, as mainstream radio plays less reggae since the crossover peak of Bob Marley and the Wailers. These festivals remain important to the continued growth of dancehall and reggae.

The Montréal International Reggae Festival (MIRF) has showcased countless legends over the years, from Jimmy Cliff to Luciano. Dancehall stars such as Sean Paul, Shaggy and Lady Saw have also headlined the festival.

No less than the world’s foremost reggae historian, Roger Steffens, says that MIRF is “one of the best reggae festivals in North America, comparable to the venerable Reggae on The River in California.”

The theme for this year’s 14th annual edition is, once again, “United Against Violence.”

Modern Roots Reggae

The festival opens on August 18 with two major headliners: legendary roots powerhouse Inner Circle formed in 1968, had mega-hits with Bad Boys, Sweat (A La La La La Long) and their 2015 worldwide hit Tenement Yard (News Carrying Dread) featuring Chronixx.

Topping the bill are the sweet soulful stylings of the ever-popular Kingston, Jamaica-born Sanchez who will surely raise the roof with his reggae-gospel.

There are another nine bands also performing on this day. The music begins at 4 p.m.

Saturday Night Fever

Dancehall Saturday (August 19) is hands-down the festival’s most popular day each year. Some 10 acts are booked to perform beginning at 3 p.m., including a soca segment by Ultimate Rejects, winners of the 2017 Road March Competition in Trinidad and Tobago.

Headliner and dancehall superstar Konshens returns for his second appearance at MIRF while Charly Black – the popular sound system DJ-turned-crossover singing sensation – makes his festival debut.

Girl Power!

“Queen of Reggae” Marcia Griffiths headlined MIRF in 2014 and – with Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt in the vocal trio I-Three before they signed on as Bob Marley’s backup singers in 1974 – blazed a trail for all women performers in the world of reggae, such as Lady Saw (who played at MIRF in 2015) and Tanya Stephens, the influential reggae singer who tops the bill on Sunday (August 20).

Joining Stephens on Sunday is chart-topping soulful singer Etana, visiting MIRF for the second time since the release of her acclaimed 2014 album I Rise.

Also of note, Canada’s King of Reggae, Montréal’s very own Jah Cutta, will perform on August 20, as will “dancehall governor” Lieutenant Stitchie from Spanish Town, Jamaica. The music begins at 3 p.m.

Reggae on The River

Located on the St. Lawrence River, the large family-friendly MIRF site on the Quai Jacques-Cartier in the Old Port features a VIP area, bars, a festival souvenir boutique as well as food and beverage kiosks run by Montréal’s finest Caribbean restaurants.

The Montréal International Reggae Festival runs from August 18 to 20. Click here for MIRF’s official Facebook event page and here for their official Old Port of Montréal webpage.

For more information, visit montrealinternationalreggaefestival.com or call 514-482-7921.