In the early sixties, long before there was reggae, a haunting, captivating and blissfully bouncy beat called rock steady 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 inner city of Kingston. It spread like wildfire, quickly dominating dance floors, parties, sessions and radio play from coast to coast and it was later exported to the rest of the world. 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 a harsh police and justice system, and the end product was a body of some of Jamaica’s most alluring and unforgettable anthems ever- the Rock Steady collection.
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 hallowed stage of Groovin In The Park. But this powerful galaxy of stars will be supported by a jaw-dropping orchestra called GITPRO, (Groovin’ In The Park Reggae Symphony Orchestra).
GITPRO will saturate Roy Wilkins Park in Queens with the sweet sounds of violins, violas, cellos and a harp, plus a choir. Reggae industry insiders are describing the celestial sounds for Groovin’ as a first for outdoor reggae events. 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.
Another important feature of this year’s Groovin In The Park festival is that the acts that will pay tribute to the Rocksteady era will each get an opportunity to perform a few songs with the Lenox Road Baptist Church Mass Choir from Brooklyn.
“We are tremendously excited about the new energies that this groundbreaking orchestra and Brooklyn mass choir will bring to an already superlative show, 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.
The 2017 installment of Groovin In The Park was officially launched at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Queens, NY. In attendance were Freddie McGregor, who will anchor the Reggae/Rocksteady package, Ibo Cooper, formerly of Third World Band; Leroy Sibbles; Ken Boothe, Lloyd Parks and members of the Lenox Road Baptist Church Mass Choir.