Interviews, Music

【Festival Guru Talk】Endless Summer Hong Kong International Reggae Ska Festival

Reggae and Ska seems to be a niche genre in Hong Kong, we all know and love Bob Marley the OG of Reggae, locally we have yet to see it expand through the horizons such as pop or EDM. So we talked to the organisers ( Stephane Wong, Doris Lo, Paul Thompson and Abe Lau) to discuss the development of the growing interest in this Reggae and Ska music scene. Together they created a festival that celebrates the modern bands that pays homage to the Jamaican anthem, with bands coming from all over the world — including the UK, Japan, Korea and of course some of the best local acts — all gathering together to celebrate the 3rd annual Reggae and Ska festival.

This is the third year that you have hosted this event, was it difficult to find new materials or ideas to strike up the interest in crowds?

I think that in Hong Kong there is always interest in music and festivals and this interest has grown a lot over the ten years I have been here. With larger festivals like Clockenflap and the new Sonar drawing big crowds it has inspired and fuelled organisers and promoters to create new ideas for line ups. The Reggae scene is actually huge in Japan and Korea, Ska is massive in Indonesia and Malaysia and these are thriving genres that we wanted to bring to a large international city such as Hong Kong. Having a niche or specific genre can single out the vibe from lots of other events that go on throughout the year and grabs peoples attention instantly if they are into that scene.

How would you describe the Reggae / Ska crowds in Hong Kong is it popular?

I think that the crowds are growing here, recently we brought over The Skatalites, one of the originators of the genre and it was well received. Each year the festival has grown in terms of numbers and we are also connecting to brands that associate with the genre such as Fred Perry and Vans who both have long associations with Ska and Reggae. People love the full size sound and vibe of this music and a lot of people who haven’t heard it before have been introduced through bands such as Fat Freddy’s Drop who played at last year’s Clockenflap.

Any highlights in this year’s festival the you’d want to suggest to our readers?

We always aim to bring bands to the city for the first time and this year we have a real coup with Bagdad Cafe the Trenchtown. A Lover’s Rock/ Roots style full size band who been together for over 16 years in Japan and released numerous albums as well as played Fuji Rock and many festivals across the country.

Full size Ska outfit Kingston Rudieska have been performing in Korea for over ten years and again it is the first time they have played in the city. After the festival they are playing in the U.K. and Europe.

The top highlight will be original member of The Specials Neville Staple performing classic songs from the 2 Tone Ska era as well as some classic first wave Ska. It is the first time any of The Specials have performed in the city and we are delighted to be bringing him across from the UK this year.

What drove you to host this festival in the first place was there any special reasons behind setting up this festival?

Stephane and I both perform in Reggae Ska bands and decided to not only bring the genre and style to the city as a stand alone event but also create a network across Asia to open new opportunities for full size bands across Asia and beyond to perform to great crowds. Bands within the genre are really open to collaboration and it has been great to see artists learning from each other and experience new takes on the genre. In particular it has been cool for both Stephane and myself to experience fantastic full size bands that are not common in the Hong Kong music scene and bring that into our own music.

We see that the lineup covers bands from all over the world, was it difficult to gather such a various crowd of bands?

We spent a lot of time listening and chatting to musicians and have a long list of artists wanting to perform and who we would like to bring over to Hong Kong including some top names from Jamaica and beyond. We made sure that all the bands are of great quality and also fit together in terms of style with each band offering a very different approach to the genre.

Which bands are you guys most looking forward to seeing in person?

I think growing up in the 80s UK it would have to be watching Neville Staple perform the classic ‘Ghost Town’. A song which symbolises so much at a pivotal pint in UK history.

What do you think is a must have in a Reggae/ Ska festival?

The main feeling is that all bands have that classic offbeat style and also being the summer context. A musical genre born on the streets and beaches of Jamaica has its roots in positivity and making sure that everyone is together having a great time. We have separate sound systems spinning vinyl and bar areas for people to enjoy the vibes outside of the main band area.

In three words how would you describe this Reggae/ Ska festival?

Top Irie vibes!

Endless Summer Hong Kong International Reggae and Ska Festival 2017 will be held on 26th August, 2017 at PMQ. get your tickets now at ticketflap.com

All photos credits to : hongkong-rocks.com

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