The Fans Go Wild with Non-Stop Music at Groovin in the Park 2015

 The Fans Go Wild with Non-Stop Music at
Groovin’ in the Park  2015

Story by Grace Vanriel  Photography by Empress K (Reggae Reflection)

Barry G Co-host of Groovin in the Park Barry G co-host of Groovin in the Park

QUEENS, N.Y.- – For the fifth consecutive year an endless flow of fans into the thousands streamed uneventfully into Roy Wilkins Park in Queens New York for the day long Groovin’ In The Park Festival 2015.  Although the early part of the day was marked by cloudy skies threatening summer rain, the lineup was so tight that even the threat of rain did not deter fans from coming out in full force. So obvious in the chatter among attendees who filled the park with beaming faces was the feeling of ‘positive vibes’ that possibly prevented the rain from ever materializing as if to say the festival warranted a special blessing. And guess what? Groovin’ in the Park  kicked off precisely as advertised giving ticket holders excellent programming that included epic performances by everyone from currently emerging artists to some of the biggest most established and exciting names in Reggae, Rhythm & Blues and Pop.

Non-stop entertainment started with musical presentations by up and coming artists in a festival segment they are now calling “Groovin’ Idol.” As a long-time advocate for  professional platforms for qualified emerging artists to be seen and heard, along with the commitment of NY area producers to help build the visibility of emerging Reggae artists, I really enjoyed this segment and the incredible talent who merited the opportunity. Most noteworthy is an artist that I’ve long admired, a Roots & Culture singer with strong lyrics and an exceptional presentation style professionally known as Iyata Safari; her rich melodic voice flawlessly belted out three original songs: “Safari” (sung acapella), “Mama Afrika” and “I’m a Black Woman” that were all met by appreciative applause.  Noteworthy praise for stellar performances are also awarded to  Vision, Pres Fyah,  and Taj Manchan who audiences should most-definitely look forward to hearing more from in the future.

Luciano Groovin in the ParkLuciano “Jah Messenjah”

Once the festival’s headliner artists took the stage it was a landslide of hit after hit setting off  an unstoppable momentum right from the start that only grew in excitement with each performance. Clearly returning to his Dancehall roots nary missing a beat, Lieutenant Stichie gave a brilliant uplifting performance that included a sprinkle of  Gospel music and classic energetic Dancehall. Over the years he has proven that whatever type of music he performs it will be a show stopping experience for audiences.  Praiseworthy songs included “Wear You Size” and “Natty Dread” right up to his recent recording “Letter To Dad” backed by the charismatic bassist Derrick Barnett and his  Statement Band.  

As a last minute addition to the lineup, Reggae legend Judy Mowatt returned again this year to grace the stage and perform many of the songs she is loved for such as “I Shall Sing.” Needless to say her confident and commanding stage presence is a powerful draw. Her songs are truly heartfelt and a sheer pleasure to listen and sing along to lyrics that are indelible in my mind and those of countless fans. If she appeared every year that would be just fine with me because Ms Mowatt is an artist who you can never tire of hearing. Next up was Luciano nicknamed “Jah Messenjah” who was up to his usual high-energy antics and even managed to outdo himself at Groovin’ In the Park 2015. At one point he left the stage heading out into the dense crowd all the while singing his heart out. Luciano’s segment went over exceedingly well with fans although appearing to be a nightmare for security forces who he brushed off as he literally jumped off stage to meet the people and ran through the audience. Now imagine Luciano in the midst of a packed field completely swarmed by countless fans giving him hugs and kisses but never missing a beat. Singing many of his hit songs my personal favorites were “Sweep Over My Soul”, “It’s Me Again Jah” and “Give Praise” all of which were tremendous successes with the audience who sang along. Since its inception Reggae has been music for the people and Luciano drove home that reminder with beautiful inspirational lyrics and fearless actions.

Cocoa Tea Groovin in the ParkCocoa Tea

Cocoa Tea who is known for an ability to completely steal a show was brilliant. His performance was so musically pleasing and his act so very engaging that he easily won agreement from the audience that the twenty-five minute allotted performance time slot he received was not nearly enough for an artist with his terrific catalog. As much as the world of Reggae frowns on the hint of self-aggrandizement from Roots & Culture artists, truth be told it’s impossible to quarrel with the truth!  Cocoa Tea left us with a satisfying feeling from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes!  

Known to fans by many names such as The Fireman, King David, The Prophet and King Shango (thought to be his personal favorite), Capleton performed next.  Just as the audience began delving into his presentation the already vocal audience was caught off guard and turned up notches in excitement with the unexpected entrance of multiple Grammy Award winning artist, Stephen Marley.  Together they sang the incredible 2014 release “Rockstone” from Stephen’s upcoming LP “Revelation Part 2: The Fruit of Life” (Stephen  Marley featuring Capleton and Sizzla) as well as  “It Was Written,” a song released in 2001 by Damian “Junior Gong” Marley (featuring Capleton, Stephen and Rapper Drag-On) heating up the stage 350 degrees!  
Capleton jumping at Groovin in the Park

The energy of the Fireman!

Stephen Marley and Capleton

Surprise guest Stephen Marley joins Capleton

Capleton Stephen Marley, Cocoa Tea at Groovin in the ParkCapleton, Stephen Marley and Cocoa Tea

Within moments both Luciano and Cocoa Tea returned to the stage and the four sang the Bob Marley song “Three Little Birds” with each artist adding their own personally styled variation. The next act that took the stage was Morgan Heritage who are currently on tour promoting their latest album, “Strictly Roots.” Their set was characterized as explosions of music and a wonderful treat to their excellent repertoire including a tribute to Buju Banton and Toots Hibbert — they created the perfect ending to the second segment of Groovin’ In The Park!

Gramps Morgan Groovin in the Park

Gramps Morgan

Gramps Morgan and Peetah Morgan Groovin in teh Park

Gramps and Peetah Morgan

Peetah Morgan Groovin in the Park

Peetah Morgan

Mojo Morgan

Mojo Morgan

Una Morgan and Peetah Morgan

Una and Peetah Morgan

Una Morgan Groovin in the Park

Una Morgan

Billy Ocean Groovin in the ParkBilly Ocean

The star that he is, the sleek looking well dressed charismatic Grammy Award winning international star born in Trinidad, Billy Ocean (who I’ve never seen perform in NY) stepped up to  the stage and delivered a rousing performance! It felt like Ocean sang all of his hits including songs I grew up loving like “Suddenly,” “Get Out Of My Dreams,” and “When The Going Gets Tough The Tough Get Going;” by the time he let loose his 1985 Grammy Award winning song for Best Male R& B Vocal Performance called “Caribbean Queen” the audience exploded in song, dance, screams and nonstop applause! I wondered how celebrity Pop/Rock balladeer Michael Bolton, a two-time Grammy Award Winning artist was going to follow Ocean but, my concerns were baseless. 

Michael Bolton Groovin in the Park

Michael Bolton

Michael Bolton Amanda Brown

All eyes on stage

Bolton performed a smart set reminding us why his name is as relative today as it was at the beginning of his career. His set included the type of music he excels in performing such as “Sitting On The Top Of The Bay,” and the song that won him his first Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 1989, the tearjerker “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You.” From there Bolton pleasingly and effortlessly slid into two great makeovers that simply capped off the perfect day,  “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”  and “When A Man Loves A Woman.”

Barry G host of Groovin in the ParkGroovin in the Park Mascot

Groovin’ In The Park organizers, sponsors and event partners should be recognized because they did a great job and without them the festival would not be possible.  Since year one the  “Presenting Sponsor” has been The Door Restaurant owned by the festival’s founder and driving force behind its growing success, CEO of Groovin’ Inc., Christopher Roberts who has obviously invested heavily to bring a high-quality mixed music genre event to NY by putting his money where his mouth is.  A list of “Major Sponsors” includes TC Tropical Products, TD Bank, and the Nestlé drink brand Nutrament so very popular in the Caribbean community. “Event Partners” includes Tower Isle’s, Caribbean Airlines, Jamaica Tourist Board, MetroPCS, LAPARKAN Shipping, Royal Caribbean, Bakery, Groovin Radio, Kingston Korner Shop, Fly Jamaica Airlines, Bullzii Marketing, The Smoke House, Jamaica National Money Transfer, Western Union, Money Graham, SQPA (South Queens Park Association) and CEEN TV.  Several proclamations where awarded throughout the event making it a day not only of music but recognition. And, as far as recognition goes hats off to MC Ras Clem and Barry G, to DJ’s Bobby Konders, Jabba and DJ Inferno for a job well done!

Barry G and Billy Ocean receive Congressional Proclamations

Groovin’ In The Park is staged with family attendance in mind as evidenced by the fact that children under the age of twelve entered free and not one featured act was prohibitive to the ears of children or young adults. The evening faces of exiting attendees reflected happiness and excitement signaling repeat patronage for the 2016 production. 

Young fans enjoying Groovin in the Park

Groovin’ In The Park is a pretty incredible testament to producers finding an unexploited niche for audiences salivating for more star studded festival-type Caribbean mixed genre music event choices in the NYC area, and meeting that need to perfection.

Enjoy the Slide Show of all photos below

After covering Groovin’ In The Park for five consecutive years, the day’s only drawback for our team of media professionals (as well as other teams) were the restrictive media allowances and the difficulties we experienced in working side by side  as a team (as is our custom) while trying to obtain such things as photographs, artist soundbites or interviews needed to complete our coverage.  Although we appreciated receiving media credentialing,  the pass restricted us to areas that were not optimal for producing full-coverage. For example, we had no access to the photo pit and had to shoot from within a crowd of enthusiastic fans; we were disappointed at not being able to obtain even one shot of our signature off stage images to share with our readers. Also hampered by the assigned location, our correspondent had great difficulty viewing the stage  “at all times.” Even with the provision of an official media tent, not all artists stopped by and in any case, if we left to catch up to an artist we were unable to return to the area carved out to get a good photo or view of the concert.  Frankly we do not see the logic of restricting legitimate media coverage so severely, especially when you have such a great event.  However it’s worth pointing out in the hope that their policies will be revised in time for next years staging.

Grace Vanriel is the founder and CEO of the Live Reggae NYC network and co-founder of The Reggaeholics Movement to preserve and promote Reggae music as a traditional Jamaican art form; she is a freelance writer for Where Itz At Magazine, Senior Correspondent for,, and the Assistant Caribbean Editor for (online and print).

Empress K is the Founder, Editor, and Primary Photo-Journalist of  Reggae Reflection has gained international recognition providing quality coverage of premier reggae events in Jamaica, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Barbados, Guyana, and Nigeria as well as numerous completed photography assignments  for notable  Reggae Events in the New England area, NY, Alabama, and Florida region.   Festival coverage has included Groovin In the Park, Six Flags NJ Caribbean Concert Series, IRAWMA, HangOut Festival Alabama, 9Mile Festival Miami, Rebel Salute,  Montreal Reggae Festival, Sunfest FLReggae in the Hills and more. 

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