Rastafest 2008 brings the beat to the community

Rastafest 2008, a festival showcasing various aspects of Rastafarian culture, music and dance, is bound to get hundreds of bodies grooving to the likes of Admiral Tibett, Horace Martin and Orthodox Issachar on Saturday, July 19.

This year’s Rastafest features over 20 different artists, including Organs, Empress Divine, Nicrumah, Empress Lyrics, Barbarda Dan, Natty Posse, Courtney Stone, Debra Allison, Makoumbe and Emmanuel I. DJ. TonyBarnes of CKLN and DJ Boxer Joe of York’s campus community radio station CHRY 105.5 FM will be on hand for the day, along with King David of CHRY who will be the event’s MC.

New for Rastafest 2008 is Simba’s Village for kids. “We have a huge children’s component this year,” said York’s Upfront Theatre Foundation artistic director Masani Montague ( BA Hons. ’98, MES ’00). “We are really happy about that. We always wanted to do something with the children. Last year, the children were running around feeling bored. So this year, we’re proud to say we have a huge children’s component.”

Presented by Upfront Theatre Foundation and Masani Productions, Rastafest 2008 has moved this year from its usual location at York University to the parking lot of the Jane and Finch Mall. It runs from 10am to 6pm.

Montague, who is working on her second master’s degree at York, says she hopes to bring Rastafest back to the University next year for York’s 50th anniversary celebrations. The idea, Montague said, is to promote York to the community and make the University more accessible. Montague, who is active in the Rastafarian and black communities, has written, directed and produced several plays and radio plays. She is also on Stage-to-Air every Tuesday at 1pm on CHRY, presenting radio dramas. Montague hopes to make a documentary of the festival in the future.

The festival, held at York the previous three years and at Harbourfront before that, draws from the rich and diverse Rastafarian lifestyle and history. It is a festival that has been in existence in one form or another for over 15 years.

Upfront Theatre started in September 2000 as a student-based drama club at York, but grew into a service learning non-profit organization acting as a bridge between York University and the Jane and Finch community. The foundation has three major projects – The Cycle of Violence project (partially funded through the Government of Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy); the Step Up Project (funded by Toronto Community Housing through the Social Investment Funds) and the Community Experiential Education Project (funded by various Faculties and departments at York University).

For more information about the festival, visit the Rastafest Web site.