Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Symphony Orchestra, Mass Choir for Groovin' 2017

Published:Monday | March 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMDave Rodney
Freddie McGregor performing at Negril Reggaefest, held at Wavz Beach on Saturday night.
Ken Boothe
Leroy Sibbles
Lloyd Parkes

In the early '60s, long before there was reggae, a haunting, captivating and blissfully bouncy beat called rocksteady captured the imagination of music lovers on the island of Jamaica. This beat was an offspring of ska, and it first emerged from the belly of the inner city of Kingston.

It spread like wildfire, quickly dominating dance floors, garden parties, sessions, radio play and jukeboxes islandwide, and it was later exported to diaspora hubs in the UK, the United States and in Canada. The dominant instruments in this hypnotic new wave were the bass and the drums. A chorus of 'rude boys' emerged, who chanted their message of protest against harsh policing and the justice system, and the end product was a body of some of Jamaica's most alluring and unforgettable anthems ever - the rocksteady collection.


Celebrating the rocksteady era


This year, Groovin' In The Park, New York City's premier reggae and R&B summer concert, will celebrate the magic of the rocksteady era, but with a twist. A number of iconic proponents of the genre - hit machine Freddie McGregor, chart-topper Ken Boothe and music magician Leroy Sibbles, with Lloyd Parks and We The People Band, will grace the stage of Groovin' In The Park. But this powerful galaxy of Jamaican stars will be supported by a jaw-dropping philharmonic orchestra called GITPRO, (Groovin' In The Park Reggae Symphony Orchestra).

GITPRO will permeate Roy Wilkins Park in Queens, with the sweet sounds of violins, violas, cellos and a harp. The musicians who form GITPRO are all professionals from the New York area. Reggae industry insiders are describing the celestial sounds for Groovin' as a first for outdoor reggae event in New York. The 17-man orchestral ensemble will be directed by Michael 'Ibo' Cooper, former member of the critically acclaimed Third World band and music educator/ lecturer at the Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica. Additionally, to further enhance this extraordinarily bold sonic experience, the troupe will be joined by a mass choir from the Lenox Road Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

"We are tremendously excited about the new energies that this groundbreaking orchestra and choir will bring to an already superlative genre, and we have no doubt that this initiative will raise the bar for reggae concerts in and around New York City," Chris Roberts, founder and executive director of Groovin' In The Park said.

Groovin' In The Park takes place on Sunday, June 25 and the gates open at 12 p.m.