Reggae is almost synonymous with Jamaica. What jerk is to Jamaica’s belly, reggae is to Jamaica’s soul. Bob Marley may have turned reggae into a global phenomenon, but there are so many awesome local acts to check out while you visit the white sand beaches of hot spots like Negril or Montego Bay. From festivals to clubs to beachfront bars, here are the best places to see live reggae in Jamaica! Just make sure you grab some rum punch and get into the “one love” spirit.
This weekend long reggae festival happens every summer in Montego Bay featuring local and international acts like Damian Marley, Koffee, Popcaan, and Chronixx. Along with main concert nights, you can enjoy a week’s worth of partying at their events like Beach Party and All White Blitz Party. Sumfest is live streamed and is actually one of the most viewed festivals in the world. It also includes tons of awesome food courts where you can try Jamaican delights like goat soup and jerk everything. Ticket prices vary but start at around $100.
Looking to dance on white sand, drink in hand, and stargaze as you listen to the one love sounds of local reggae? You’re going to want to check out Bourbon Beach, located on the popular Seven Mile Beach in Negril. A great beachfront music venue, restaurant, and hotel, Bourbon Beach hosts nightly events, themed parties, and local reggae acts (like Beenie Man and Duane Stephenson, for example), from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Rooms start at around US$90 and all food is under US$10!
Bob Marley Birthday Bash
Visit Jamaica in early February (usually Feb. 1-6) and celebrate the King of Reggae, Bob Marley at the Bob Marley Birthday Bash held at MXIII in Negril. The event brings together Jamaican culture, Junkanoo Dancers, competitions, food, art, and, of course, tons of live reggae to commemorate the “one love” icon who expanded reggae globally. Previous ticket prices have been set at US$25 for general admission and US$55 for VIP entry.
Held every year in mid-January, Rebel Salute is a strictly reggae and dancehall music festival for reggae and conscious music lovers around the world. It’s a two-day event in the Grizzly’s Plantation Cove in Saint Ann Parish, featuring top reggae stars like The Wailers, Agent Sasco, Yellow Man, Capleton, and Queen Ifrica, to name a few. It’s worth mentioning that no alcohol or meat is allowed at the festival and there is some censorship around profanity. The 2020 Rebel Salute will take place on Jan. 17 and 18, starting at 7 p.m. and will go all night. Tickets start at around US$40. Many people choose to camp, but there are also several hotels nearby that offer deals for festival attendees.
Tuesdays at Sankofa Sessions
Sankofa Sessions is a music and art show paying homage to “Jamaica’s great ancestors,” bridging the past and present with an appreciation for generations who laid the foundation for great Jamaican music. The venue (The Cheffing Don's catering branch) mainly hosts DJ sets featuring dub, Afro-Brazilian music, Soukous, and other local musical flavors. Tuesdays, however, you can experience live shows and live drumming where crowd participation is often encouraged. Sankofa Sessions is a great opportunity to mix in with the locals, hear some unfamiliar sounds, and get a taste of the many cultural influences that make up the beautiful Jamaican culture. Sometimes there are long breaks between shows schedule, so be sure to check their Facebook page to see who's performing, when.
While Jamnesia is actually a surf school, it hosts live jam sessions every other Saturday night “where music meets the ocean.” Located at Eight Miles Bull Bay (about 20 minutes from Kingston), admission to the jam sessions and events is usually free and features up-and-comers from the local area. This is a great live reggae opportunity if you’re looking for a family-friendly vibe, so get your surf lesson on and then head to the party!
Montego Bay’s Pier One is a favorite for locals and tourists alike. Delicious, premium seafood, strong drinks, waterfront views, and Friday reggae nights—you can’t go wrong here. Ladies get in for free before 11 p.m., but the cover charge is only around US$5. They also hold concerts with major artists and the party often lasts until the wee hours of the morning. If you’re looking for something a bit more elevated while you bop your head to reggae hits, this is your spot.
Roots Bamboo is a hotel, bar, and restaurant with free Wi-Fi and a wide assortment of drinks. Every Wednesday night you can enjoy live reggae, original songs, and covers of your favorite tunes by local bands and singers. Roots Bamboo is perfect for a relaxing evening where you can just sit, chill, and take it easy while indulging in your favorite cocktails, nodding your head to the music, and enjoying the beautiful Jamaican sunset.
Reggae with a side of fries? It's possible at Brewery Sunset. By day, this Montego Bay restaurant and pub is a great place to munch on delicious Jamaican eats and intercontinental favorites likes burgers and salads. But Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, Brewery Sunset is a live entertainment haven for local reggae acts, and Tuesday and Friday you can enjoy reggae karaoke. Grab your Red Stripe Beer and head on stage so you can show the world that you’re the next reggae star.
Calling all hippies, this culture festival is the dream event for the yoga and Rastafarian loving, vegan eating, reggae obsessed. Located in party city Negril, Tmrw.Tday offers transformation workshops, tours, sound healing, farm to table cooking shows, fire ceremonies, talks on plant medicine and natural living, more than 30 yoga on the beach sessions, weed gardens, and a huge reggae music concert. It’s really a unique reggae festival experience that feels totally immersive and educational while maintaining a super fun vibe. 2020’s fest will be held April 28-May 3, and there are a few packages to choose from so check out their website to find the right one for you.