Gearing up for its 10th year, the Caribbean-themed Ya Maka My Weekend continues
a tradition of building on its past this Thursday through Saturday in The District of Rock Island.
While last year saw the addition of a Mad Hatter division to the sand-volleyball tournament, the 2001 Ya Maka features comic Ngaio Bealum at the Funny Bone from Thursday through Saturday.
The son of two members of the Black Panther party, San Francisco’s Bealum has been called a “Rasta” comic and is known for his topical humor.
Bealum brings something a little fresh to the festivities, which include all the things Ya Maka has become known for: great Jamaican food, an open-air marketplace, the Caribbean Kid’s Creation Station (noon to 6 p.m. Saturday), a pirate-costume contest (at 2 p.m. on Saturday), lots of reggae music, and the sand-volleyball tournament. The festival starts Thursday at 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at noon, and runs until 12:30 a.m. each day.
While the registration deadline has already passed for the recreational and competitive divisions of the volleyball tournament Friday night and Saturday, you can still participate in the Mad Hatter division on Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. Just show up ready to play and with seven bucks in your fist.
The musical lineup features a lot of acts returning to The District after previous Ya Maka weekends or dates at RIBCO. Aswah Greggori & The Enforcers, The Ark Band, and Yabba Griffiths have all given audiences plenty of reasons to groove over the years. And King Solomon, Immunity, and Carl Malcolm & Positive Vibrations made enough of an impression as first-time acts last year to get invited back. In addition, the half-novelty Reggae Cowboys (about what you’d expect from the name) ride into town after their last gig here in November at RIBCO.
Rising Lion headlines the East Stage on Saturday, performing at 11 p.m. and promoting a brand-new disc, Don’t Lose Yourself. (The Ya Maka show is actually a sneak peak of Orlando-based artist’s national tour, which starts August 15. The album doesn’t hit stores until August 21.)
The record starts in an easy groove with “Just Because I’m Dred,” a warm-up to more interesting things. “Inna de Ghetto” brings reggae rhythm to rap, augmented with soaring background vocals and a jazzy urban guitar and sax. The title track delves even further into an urban sound, with scratches and a rap less grounded in the Caribbean sound.
It’s no accident that the album cover shows Rising Lion standing to the side of big-city hubbub; the CD brings the island sound to the metropolis, and both sets of influences are well-served by the juxtaposition. Don’t Lose Yourself shows Rising Lion to be a versatile artist, experimenting with different styles and then coming back to reggae roots. Just when it seems like he’s abandoned the Jamaican sound completely, he doubles back, only to wander again. “Rising to the Top” is a smart choice as the album’s first single, putting an R&B rap to a reggae beat, making it friendly to both urban and world-music radio formats.
Even when the reggae is played fairly straight, he infuses it with nice sonic touches – from interesting rhythm choices to techno flourishes. “House of Dred” features a nice set of textures underneath the reggae, with horns, guitar, and a reverb keyboard.
Rising Lion takes a similar approach to Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” clearly channeling Hendrix with a smart guitar low and laid-back in the mix while keyboards carry the song. County Joe McDonald’s “Don’t Bogart Me” gets an oddball carnival reggae treatment of intrusive blips and clicks that somehow works; if the Casio-playing, head-butting underground giant Wesley Willis ever tackles reggae, this is about how it would sound.
Those in search of some innovative Caribbean-flavored music won’t do much better than Rising Lion.
Admission to Ya Maka My Weekend is $5 on Thursday and $7 Friday and Saturday.