Closing out the unofficial end of summer, Far Rockaway residents were jamming to “Reggae on the Boardwalk” at the Rockaway Beach Amphitheatre at Shore Front Parkway at Beach 94th Street on Sept. 3.
The event was part of the “Queens Live!” free concert series, presented by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and produced in partnership with NYC Parks and the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College, celebrating the popular Jamaican genre.
Ahead of the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn, New York, DJs Sir Tommy, WiFiOG, Jah Earl, Baddamon, Amy Wachtel and Chanter The Timeless Sound with Prezident Carter spun Reggae tunes exclusively on vinyl records as a multicultural crowd enjoyed the famous Jamaican genre.
The sounds were blasting from a massive 10-foot-tall “wall of speakers” — or amplified mobile system — owned and operated by Chanter “The Timeless Sound.”
Chanter, who lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn, said it took him and his son about an hour to assemble the giant system and that the sound system culture originated in Jamaica. Coming from a music family, Chanter was influenced by Reggae from an early age.
“It’s my culture. I grew up in it,” said Jamaican-born Chanter, who plays Reggae sounds on the Coney Island Boardwalk.
Carter van Pelt, founder of Coney Island Reggae, brought Reggae on the Boardwalk to Queens in 2021 in collaboration with Phil Ballman, director of Cultural Affairs & Tourism at the Office of the Queens Borough President and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
The WCKR DJ and curator for Queens-based VP records explained that the sound system was culturally specific to Jamaica and the Caribbean.
“This music was really originally recorded to be heard at big outdoor dances like this, and you don’t get to hear it like this in New York very often,” van Pelt said.
Currently, van Pelt and Charter are at odds with the New York Parks Department because of new rules pertaining to sound systems on the Coney Island boardwalk, as reported by BkMag.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said there was no better place to celebrate Reggae than on the boardwalk of Rockaway Beach “to keep the culture alive.”
For Queen Borough President Donovan Richards, son of Jamaican immigrants, Reggae is synonymous with culture, dance, food, love, camaraderie and Bob Marley.
“Reggae brings everyone together no matter where you’re in the world,” Richards said. “Reggae brings people together.”
Keeling Beckford, one of Jamaica’s Reggae child stars in the 1960s, was selling all vinyl Reggae records. His uncle Theophilus Beckford recorded “Easy Snapping,” so Keeling Beckford grew up in the business.
Beckford explained that he sells Reggae vinyl records worldwide and that vinyl is big in Europe right now.
“[Reggae] is the second popular music in the world,” Keeling Beckford, who had just returned from Europe, said. “Reggae, to me, is life. I don’t do anything else but Reggae.”
DJ Amy Wachtel, “The Night Nurse,” started playing Reggae in the 80s.
“[Reggae] is uplifting, it’s revolution, it’s affirmation,” Wachtel said.
Far Rockaway resident Eddie O.J. heard about Reggae on the Boardwalk through Richards’ office and can see it happening yearly.
[The concert] is bringing out all the cultures. It’s my first time, but it’s really diverse,” Eddie O.J. said.
“Queens Live!” concludes its summer concerts at Springfield Gardens’ Springfield Park at 146th Avenue on Saturday, Sept. 16, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The free concert features homegrown Queens icons Lost Boyz, along with Dennis Kellman & Glaze the MC, Royal Flush and DJ Von. It is open to the public and does not require registration in advance.