There’s a ripple of reggae that runs through Southern California culture, a feel-good jam soundtrack to backyard pool parties, chill sessions at the beach, and vibing under the stars on warm nights. This year Santa Barbara welcomes the Reggae on the Mountain music festival to its lineup of fall events — three days of roots reggae, art, food, drink, and holistic wellness are taking over the Live Oak Campground November 18-20. Come for a day and bask in the positivity of the reggae family, or come for the weekend, and connect with nature by camping (or glamping). Whatever your pleasure, it’s time to feel IRIE!
Festival originators and organizers Amit Gilad and Brooks Ellis started the Reggae on the Mountain music festival in 2009 as teenagers. “We grew up together in Topanga Canyon,” say Gilead and Ellis. “We started this out as two 19-year-old kids just wanting to bring communities together…. It got bigger and bigger.” This will be the 11th annual festival (with a several-year COVID gap), with a capacity of 4,000 people a day. “The inspiration behind the festival is to bring people together to share in our diversity. We wanted to bring something that is Southern California … a little diverse, a little different…. That was our purpose back when we were 19, and it’s still our purpose today.”
The festival features a musical lineup ranging from up-and-comers to big names. Returning acts include Steel Pulse, Pato Banton, Ky-Mani Marley, Don Carlos, and Barrington Levy. New to the festival this year are artists like Nattali Rize, Vana Liya, and Ziggy Marley. “They’re flying the flag of conscious music,” says Rize. “And not just the music, but reminding people of their individual power and their collective power, and our ability to live life in harmonious, peaceful ways. And to share and spread love, and also to be love.”
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There will be various food and beverage vendors, including craft cocktails, local beer and wine, and Jamaican food (Gilad and Ellis recommend the jerked chicken). Beyond the music, there is a focus on art and holistic wellness, rounding out the experience with yoga sessions, speakers, and nutritionists, as well as live painters and muralists.
Any child under 10 gets free admission. Gilad and Ellis are fostering a healthy, inclusive community of reggae enthusiasts that includes families. “It’s a safe type of event, not a raging festival party,” they say. “It’s a great place to bring your kids and show them arts and culture in a positive environment.”
And yes, cannabis is a big part of Rastafarian and Reggae culture, and there’s no policy against it at the festival, but the organizers are careful to ask that people smoke in the designated smoking areas: “We don’t want kids exposed to smoke, and we don’t want the fire marshal upset, so we’re cannabis-friendly but with respect to the community and the families.” They also note that Live Oak Campground is a high fire area, so smoke responsibly.
Reggae on the Mountain seeks to bring something with more gravitas than just “fun in the sun” to the community. Says Rize: “What we love about festivals is that these spaces are created to foster a gathering and a sense of unity among people in the arms of music, in this case reggae music, which is known for being a great connector of consciousness, the heart, the mind. When we create spaces as Reggae on the Mountain is doing … it sets the scene for some really positive vibrations that will surely have a lasting effect.”
For more information about the festival, as well as the complete line-up and schedule, visit reggaeonthemountain.com.