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The Ottawa Reggae Festival is a non-profit, volunteer driven music festival held annually at Le Breton Flats Park, Ottawa. Founded in 2008, it is led by Benjamin Williams--Founder and CEO of the festival.
Reggae music originated in Jamaica but it has grown to become a worldwide cultural and musical expression that touches everyone no matter what age, culture, or ethnicity. The lyrics deal with varying subjects such as faith, love, relationships, poverty, injustice, and other broad social issues in our present world today.
The inaugural event of 2008 was the result of a full year of planning and preparation by founder and President Benjamin Williams. Drawing upon his knowledge of the music along with his business experience the festival held at Lebreton Flats Festival Park in downtown Ottawa was a success. Slated as a one-day event, the festival quickly grew due to the response from the local and regional communities.
An added day became the Heineken Dance Party designed to showcase local and regional artists along with Disc Jockeys all from the reggae industry.
The 2008 line-up included Canada's Young Dancehall/Reggae artist Jamilean, UK artist Maxi Priest, Canada's Spanish Reggaeton musician El Neggro, Bermudian Collie Buddz and Toronto's pride Snow.
Some of the regional artists include Mackendy and kompa music from the Island of Haiti currently residing in Montreal, two time Canadian Reggae Music Awards winner Ras Lee whose strong musical roots are direct relate to the origins of reggae music, two time Juno winner Korexion, Trilla U and Tanya P just to name a few.
Since the inaugural year, the festival has received much needed support from the community and the various levels of government through the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Ottawa and Heritage Canada. Ottawa Reggae Festival has become a member of Ottawa Festival's thus being able to use their resources and marketing outreach
In an effort to give back to the community the Ottawa Reggae Festival hosts community events around the nation's capital throughout the year. These events include the 46th Anniversary Celebration of Jamaican Independence with the Ottawa Rapidz, a Canada Day Block Party downtown and Marley Night event celebrating Black History Month.
Coca Cola partnered with the festival's green team, making it possible to recycle over 240 cubic feet (6,800 L) of cardboard, plastic and aluminum.
In its third year, The Ottawa Reggae Festival has come under fire for financial mismanagement, artist no-shows, and cancelled performances. On August 21, 2010, monies and receipts were seized from the festival's beer tent following a court ruling against the festival from A. Raoul Nembhard, the festival's former chief financial officer. Nemhard claimed that he had not been reimbursed for his out-of-pocket expenses incurred during the previous year's festival.
On August 22, 2010, the last day of the festival, the entire day of performances was cancelled with its headlining acts, Sean Paul and Ky-mani Marley, pulling out. Many of the vendors and performers feared that they would not be paid. Sean Paul's representative, Headline Entertainment, cited a lack of confidence in the festival's ability to pay Paul's $50,000 appearance fee after delays in obtaining a deposit from the festival. Sean Paul took to Twitter to blame the promoters for disorganization and to apologize to his Canadian fans.
L3 magazine, sponsor and publicist of the festival, issued a release blaming the President Benjamin Williams for the festival's financial troubles. The festival's board of directors also released a statement criticising the 25-year-old Williams for his "youth and inexperience" and poor financial decisions.