Burning Spear performing at the 2023 Sierra Nevada World Music Festival.

June is the busiest time of year for Gretchen Franz Smith. It’s also the most fulfilling as that is when the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival (SNWMF) takes place in Booneville, Northern California.

This year’s event takes place June 21-23 at Mendocino County Fairgrounds. It showcases an eclectic cast of reggae and world beat acts her husband and festival founder, Warren Smith, admired.

He died in January 2021 but his wife assumed the role of lead organiser in 2023, when the SNWMF returned after a five-year break. In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, she spoke about the importance of staying true to his concept.

“The Sierra Nevada World Music Festival 2024 continues the legacy of founder Warren Smith, by presenting conscious roots-reggae and world music with a message of unity. Warren was internationally-known for curating unique artiste lineups that included, ‘something for everyone’. SNWMF is a family-friendly event and we present music for all ages and demographics,” she said.

Pioneer acts such as The Tennors, Leroy Sibbles and Eric “Monty” Morris are on the show. So too old school toaster Ranking Joe and Terry Linen who represent different eras of dancehall.

Beres Hammond, Barrington Levy and Half Pint carry the lovers rock/roots-reggae banner, while Koffee, Stonebwoy and Blvk H3RO attract fans from Generation Y. There are also acts from the United States Virgin Islands, Europe and India as well as British sound system legend David Rodigan.

“The lineup is carefully curated every year to build up the genre of roots-reggae and give Jamaica’s legendary acts the esteem they deserve on the international stage, alongside African, Latin and eclectic World Music acts. We choose quality music of well-known artistes that the audience loves… and little-known artistes that they will love after they see them perform at SNWMF,” said Smith.

Born in Sacramento, California, Warren Smith discovered Jamaican pop culture during the 1970s through the music of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, and The Harder They Come, director Perry Henzell’s gritty 1972 movie.

He promoted his first reggae show at San Francisco’s famed Winterland Auditorium in July 1975. That event featured Inner Circle, Dennis Brown and Toots and The Maytals.

Smith also operated Epiphany Records which had a strong roots-reggae catalogue.



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