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Cramer's Park Beach



Jah Rubal

Ancient King


Sistah Joyce

Ronnie Benjamin, Sr.



Dean Pond


Photos by Mark Siebert


The first annual Winter Reggae in Paradise festival was held at Cramer’s Park on January 8, 2006.  Located on the eastern end of St. Croix, the sandy shores of Cottengarden Bay gives way to the park’s lush green field to create an ideal location for a roots reggae festival.  For days before the concert, this normally sleepy island was abuzz with activities celebrating ‘Cruzian Christmas’.  Music could be heard everywhere, and the streets were packed as locals lined King Street to see both a children's parade as well as an adult parade the following day. 

St. Croix is more peaceful than the other Caribbean islands I have visited, with ‘hustling’ being virtually non-existent. As I walked along the streets of St. Croix, I was overcome by a sense of familiarity.  Cruzians are very warm people, greeting everyone they meet, often with a friendly look and a smile.  I felt a certain closeness to people I had never experienced before. 

As the sun was setting over the horizon, festival engineer supreme Dean Pond was putting the final touches on what proved to be an amazing sound system.  By 6:30, several thousand people were on hand to have MC Bogle introduce the first artist of WRIP: Asher.  This young chanter controlled the mic for some 15 minutes, being accompanied for a brief period by OCMassiah came forward next with a short set filled to the brim with piercing lyrics including a big tune “Bun Dem”:

“Military forces, micro-chip and computer devices
Dem seh, dem a de secret society
But all I see is Illuminati looking for workers
Under the order of animosity, whoa
Under the order of brutality, brutality
Holding black people inna slavery
Look how dem live, no taste of the cake
You want to tell me say mi living free, you crazy
Look what is up with the Taliban
You gone an mash up Iraq
I said you find no nuclear weapon
So bun, bun, bun, bun, bun, bun, bun, bun, bun, bun, bun, bun, bun, bun, bun dem”

Volcano was the next artist to take the stage, spewing forth his fire-brand lyrics like hot molten lava.  As Jah Rubal (aka Daddy Locks) closed out the first hour, it was evident that this was not going to be a reggae festival.  It was not going to be a roots festival. This was a Rasta festival, with the message of H.I.M. resonating through the voice of each singer. 

In the summer of 2005, I Grade Records released a trilogy of records representing fire, earth and wind; these elements were in full effect during the next portion of the program.  Ancient King brought forth some blazing “Conquering Sounds” followed by NiyoRah from the Star Lion Family.  Niyo blessed the audience with earthy songs from his debut CD “A Different Age”, as well as from the forthcoming “Purification Session” album.  The roots man Abja was up next, pleasing the people with his ‘red-eye blues’.  The sweet sound of Army’s voice permeating the air had the crowd swaying with the breeze.   He sang selections from all his albums including the omnipotent “Rasta Awake”, with Larocque adding some excellent background vocals.  Bogle then announced the first of several ‘guest artists’ – Mada Nile.  Though small in stature, this lady belts out some massive lyrics.  Sistah Joyce closed out the first segment of the festival singing “Blasphemus” from her “New Dae” album. In all, the Red-I Band, which consisted of Kenyatta on bass, T-Rock on drums, Tippy on keyboards, Whealan Masicott on guitar and Harry Mo on percussions, played for more than 3 hours, pounding out rootical riddims for a dozen singers.  

A brief set change allowed me some time to stroll along the beach and bask in the glory of the moon shining over Buck Island Channel.  Throughout the crowd, I saw many of the faces (mostly middle-aged women) who had previously told me they were looking forward to seeing Ronnie Benjamin, Sr. sing in St. Croix for the first time in 16 years.  He was to have been the headline artist, but because many of those coming to see him sing had to be at work the next morning, and because of the time, it was decided that Ronnie Benjamin would be the first Afrikan Roots Lab artist to appear.

Songs like “Don’t Change”, “I Wanna Wake Up With You”, and “You're Still In My Head” made it apparent why Ronnie Benjamin was so popular with the ladies, though I prefer the more militant songs such as “Enough Is Never Enough” and “Broken System”.  Ron (Jr.) and Vaughn Benjamin added their vocals to this hour-long set, and it was obviously a very special moment for the whole family.

Ikahba was the next artist to grace the stage.  He seemed to project a much stronger stage presence than he had demonstrated the year before, singing several songs like “Jah Make Us” and “Truths and Rights” from his forthcoming album.  At one point Mash came up to join in on the combination “Skylarkin”.

It was just about midnight when Dezarie was introduced to the people of St. Croix for the first time in nearly three years.  She wailed a rousing rendition of “Hail Jah” and then welcomed the masses with “Greetings in the name of the feminine aspect of the godhead, and His Imperial Majesty I Haile Selassie the First”.  Though the crowd was not very animated, they were certainly open and receptive to the message that Dezarie brings with songs such as “Sing Out”, “Strengthen Your Mind” and “Poverty”.  Her final selection, “We Need”, came over an hour later:

"We need, we need, we need, we need
We want government
Loyal specimen
We want hospital
With herb medicine
We want doctrine
Preserve tradition
We want discipline
With self governance
We want the old thing
Bring back the old thing
The touch the sole thing
The ancient riddim
For the people
By the people
We need….." 

Dean Pond demonstrated his outstanding drumming skills backing the first 3 Afrikan Roots Lab artists.  Shortly after 1:00, he turned the reins over to Sly and the full Midnite vibes were brought into “Zion Pavilion”.  As the moon was setting behind Buck Island someone asked me what I thought of the music.  My answer was simply “It's Midnite”.  Each musical communion is a totally new and unique experience.  Being along the Caribbean beach under a nearly full moon, amongst loving people who are open to the message that Midnite brings, takes the event to the highest of levels.

Reggae music emanating from the Virgin Islands has developed a large following within the United States.  Ronnie Benjamin Jr. said the goal of Winter Reggae In Paradise is to expose that talent to the people of St. Croix, where the popularity of roots reggae is just beginning to catch on with residents. And the thousands of locals who attended definitely got a full cup, with nine hours of word, sound and power.

At around 3:00, Vaughn called Xkaliba out and he sang “United States of Ethiopia”.  Most of the Cruzians had departed by this time, but the hundreds of long-distance travellers remained as Jah Rubal came on stage for one more selection.  Midnite finished a blessed night off with "Wricta Scale" followed by Vaughn coming forward with an accapela version of "Stand Up".  He also thanked all those distant voyagers, noted the love within the audience, the conscious rasta message coming from all the Virgin Island artists taking the stage, and the fact that there was not a single incident during the entire festival. Respect was given to the VIPD, who lived up to their motto “Working With You”, and the first annual Winter Reggae In Paradise festival was history.  And what a blessed historic event it was!!!

Reflections on the 1st annual Winter Reggae In Paradise
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Stage being built

OC and Asher



Jah Rubal



Mada Nile

Ronnie Benjamin & Sons

Mash & Ikahba




Photos by Mark Siebert

For more information on Winter Reggae In Paradise, go to    



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