Life on and off the waters of the Wood River Valley
World-class reggae comes to Hailey
If you love, like, or even have a mild crush on reggae music and you didn’t go to last Saturday’s Reggae in the Mountains World Jam at the Rodeo Grounds in Hailey, then you owe some serious penance to Jah, Bobby Marley and Danny Walton.
Despite an Idaho sun that was shinning as hot as it does in Jamaica, a hearty but small group of local reggae fans of all ages enjoyed some world-class music (And thanks to the acoustics of the Rodeo Grounds and the surrounding valley, dozens more camped out on lawns and parks from Woodside through Old Hailey to enjoy the tunes).
While all the music during the seven-hour jam was top notch, the star of the show was Etana (here's her Facebook page). The Jamaican singer and rising star has a strong and silky sound that’s a bit unique to traditional reggae music. She also sings with a deep passion and faith and her songs are all positive and uplifting.
As the heat of mid-summer in the high desert baked the Rodeo Grounds—which were, surprisingly, not very dusty—Etana Strongone, as her full name reads, had the assemblage swaying and singing along:
“But I-I am not afraid. No I–I am not afraid.”
Of course, fear of some sort or another is something everyone faces now and again—especially when you’re a kid who’s been bullied. One of the best parts of the Reggae in the Mountain series by Mountain Niceness Productions (which also offers winter shows and an annual Glow-in-the-Dark bocce tournament in Ketchum) is that proceeds from beer sales go to the Idaho Social Learning Center (ISCL).
Last year, thanks to the generosity of the man behind Mountain Niceness Productions, popular local Danny Walton, five local kids received scholarships to the program. Run by Jamie Rivetts, the ISCL helps people from pre-school through adulthood, “connect and make sense of the world,” as she explained.
The program is based on philosophies behind helping kids cope with autism, but many of its tenants can be used to help kids—and adults—overcome any kind of social challenges or stigmas.
“It’s heartbreaking when a parent comes to you and says, ‘My child has no friends, never gets invited to any birthday parties,’” Jamie explained. “Nobody ever teaches you (how to understand social behavior). You’re just supposed to know. And if there’s anything out of the ordinary with you, it’s even harder to learn. There are so many kids who need help in the social world.”
Last year, the program’s first, saw Jamie help 35 local kids. And thanks to local reggae and beer-loving fans, more kids will get some of the support they need this year. “Without Danny’s help it wouldn’t happen,” Jamie said.
Reggae in the Mountains wouldn’t happen without Danny as well, who spent most of the show busily making sure the ship ran smoothly, before finally being brought up on the stage to end the show.
Khari Kill from Trinidad and Tobago ended the show, accompanied by Chicago Afrobeat Project and their impressive brass section, and they did so in style. As the crowd swelled to the largest it had been all-day and swayed to the rhythmic reggae beats, Khari sang out, “God said many are called but chosen are you.”
He then got everyone to sing along for rain to help put out the forest fires in the region (“And when it rains, it rains and rains and rains!”) and finished up by giving thanks to the good people of the Gem State, as he sang, “Idaho people, you know I love you so!”
And it sure seems like there’s plenty of reasons to for those of us in South Central Idaho to love reggae in return. In the last year alone, the Reggae in the Mountain series has offered a stage for Khari Kill, Etana and the legendary Pato Banton. Can’t wait to see who they bring to town next—and if you like reggae, you better not miss that one! Jah, Danny and some local kids who could use some help are counting on you.
Check out more of local photographer Cody Haskell's work here.