The California Roots and Arts Festival has teamed up with Ineffable Music Group and SiriusXM Radio to create a new program on the satellite radio giant’s reggae channel, The Joint. Like its festival namesake, Cali Roots Radio will highlight the music of American reggae artists while underscoring reggae’s Jamaican roots and its international branches.
The weekly show will be hosted by Eric Rachmany of the California reggae band Rebelution. A superstar within the American reggae movement, Rachmany has long championed Jamaican reggae’s pivotal role in the band’s development. Ineffable Music Group is an Oakland, California, -based company that includes a management company, record label, recording studio and a live music division. One of the largest reggae festivals held in the U.S., the California Roots and Arts Festival (Cali Roots) celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and will take place May 24-26 at the Monterey County Fair and Event Center in Monterey, California. In 2018, 11,000 people per day attended the festival.
“Cali Roots Radio is a great way to present bands and showcase the American reggae scene,” says Dan Sheehan, co-owner and producer of the festival. He also heads up Ineffable Live, which handles the company’s nationwide venue booking and talent buying.
“This year several Jamaican acts -- including Kabaka Pyramid, Protoje, Jesse Royal and teenage sensation Koffee -- will perform at the festival and Cali Roots Radio will include their music too,” he adds. “We want to showcase the reggae-band vibe so the program will encompass bands from New Zealand, Europe -- anywhere great reggae is made. On our first show, and in the weeks leading up to the festival’s 10th anniversary, Cali Roots Radio will highlight artists who are playing the festival this year.”
Besides Rebelution, the festival’s 2019 lineup includes SOJA, Slightly Stoopid, The Green, Common Kings, Matisyahu, Ineffable-managed acts Collie Buddz, Stick Figure, Citizen Cope and The Movement, Sicily-born Jamaica-based sing-jay Alborosie, and stalwart English-Caribbean reggae legends Steel Pulse, who will release their first album in 15 years through Ineffable’s non-profit arm, Rootfire Cooperative, on May 17.
Pat McKay, SiriusXM’s director of music programming/The Joint, first attended Cali Roots in 2016. Born in New York to Jamaican parents, McKay -- who attended high school in Kingston, Jamaica -- has been at the forefront of New York City’s reggae radio landscape for decades. She hosted programs on WBLS FM, WLIB AM, WRKS (KISS) FM and IRIE JAM Radio prior to joining Sirius in June 2000 as The Joint’s format manager.
McKay describes Cali Roots as “the best possible ‘live’ reggae experience: It is three indescribable days. The audience is the definition of diverse, and completely beyond a beautiful rainbow of humanity. The venue, Monterey Fairgrounds, is a similarly divinely-appointed acoustic set up -- like the original Reggae Sunsplash [the prototypical reggae festival, established in 1978 in Jarrett Park, Montego Bay, Jamaica] offered many years ago -- on a sprawling lawn nestled in lush hills. I love that the festival I was immediately impressed with years ago will be represented weekly with a new show on The Joint.”
McKay’s visit to Cali Roots forged a relationship between the two parties, which brought about the idea of Cali Roots Radio on The Joint. Determined to transform a strong concept into an innovative radio program, Adam Gross, who runs Ineffable’s Label Services and PR department approached Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer SiriusXM. Gross explained that the thriving live circuit for American reggae bands across the U.S. offered an opportunity for a digital music provider to reach a sizeable, largely untapped audience. “From there, we got passed on to Steve Blatter, senior vp/GM music programming and digital music and Jon Maxwell, senior manager, music programming operations, who we worked with for several months on formatting the program. We came to the conclusion that having Eric Rachmany as host made the most sense,” says Gross. Ineffable co-founder Igor Katz was the contact person for Rachmany, who, from the outset, was receptive to the hosting gig.
Cali Roots Radio will be recorded at Rachmany’s home studio in San Francisco and produced at SiriusXM’s Manhattan studios. The weekly playlists will be collectively determined by Ineffable principals with significant input by Rachmany. "Eric Rachmany has been a fixture on the American reggae scene for years, he knows what is happening currently in the music but understands the older stuff, which is really important for the program’s host,” Sheehan says. “Hopefully we can turn some of the younger demographic onto the older artists, reggae’s foundation, which the Cali Roots Festival has always tried to do."
Following the development of ska and rock steady in the early to mid 1960s, reggae was birthed in 1968, in the recording studios of Kingston through the experimentation of the island’s musicians, singers and producers. Set to thunderous drum and bass rhythms, with lyrics inspired by Jamaica’s indigenous Afro-centric Rastafarian teachings, roots reggae provided a voice for the island’s struggling black population. Yet, the majority of American supporters of the first wave of Rasta reggae artists that toured the U.S. in the 1970s (including Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Third World and Peter Tosh) were white. Today’s flourishing American Reggae scene, dominated by white bands and their primarily white fan bases, however far removed from the experiences of the music’s origins, would not exist without the seeds planted by pioneering Jamaican artists over 40 years ago.
For Thomas Cussins, president and co-founder of Ineffable Music Group, Cali Roots Radio will play a significant role in bridging the gap between traditional Jamaican and American reggae and building a stronger U.S. reggae market overall. “We can only be viable in an independent space within a niche genre by eliminating barriers: Ineffable operate venues, so the artists we represent can play at those venues. We own a studio so recording expenses are eliminated and now we have a radio show so our music can be played on radio. Cali Roots Radio will help us achieve our goals in making reggae as well-known as possible in America,” Cussins says. “The music will be presented in an inclusive way for all of reggae’s iterations and subgenres, legacy artists and new garage bands."
Cali Roots Radio will premiere Friday at 8 p.m. EST and will repeat at 11 p.m. EST that night, Saturday at 12 p.m. EST and Sunday at 7 p.m. EST.