We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of Jamaican music, it can be hard to maintain a career. But the five acts appearing at the 2K3 Annual Outdoor Reggae Fest have managed to reach roots, lovers’-rock, and dancehall partisans, surviving occasional artistic slips and generally retaining relevancy. Headliner Beres Hammond (pictured) hasn’t had any American crossover hits, but he has been his island’s pre-eminent soulful crooner since the early ’90s, offering romantic, melancholy melodies over a mix of programmed and live dancehall rhythms. Fond of collaborations, Hammond has done several with fellow fest participant Buju Banton. Once known in America only for his homophobic 1992 single “Boom Bye Bye,” this ragga rapper altered perceptions of himself with 1995’s ‘Til Shiloh, a masterful album tinged with sociopolitical observations and occasional Wailers-style singsong melodies. His latest, Friends for Life, is not as evenhanded. Though much of the 19-song opus works, it’s sometimes formulaic beatwise, and it’s hurt by raunchy, sexist numbers that seem odd standing alongside such powerful cuts as “Up Ye Mighty Race.” Kingston-based superstar Luciano sometimes delivers tasteful ladies’-man swooners à la Hammond, but he’s more fond of using his smooth vocal touch on odes to Jah. Onetime I-Three Marcia Griffiths and harmony ensemble Wailing Souls open the show when the 2K3 Annual Outdoor Reggae Fest starts at noon Sunday, Sept. 7, at Crossroads, 4103 Baltimore Ave., Bladensburg. $40. (301) 927-1056. (Steve Kiviat)