The 2008 Ragga Muffins festival was an improvement on several fronts from festivals past. The increased presence of “earthy” people combined with the decrease in the poser/wannabe crowd (Matisyahu fans…grrrrr) was refreshing. This trend was reflected in the make-up of the vendors; homogeny and commercialization reigned but there were a few bright spots of individuality.
Speaking of the vendors, there was quite a dichotomy present in their sales approaches and wares. This year real artisans finally returned. A local artist named Jimothy, sold handmade leather purses and cuffs returned for his 3rd consecutive year. New to the mix was a gifted metalworker from Jamaica, whose copper jewelry was intricate, unique and lovely. Though this artisan was reluctant to be interviewed we hope he returns.
In sharp contrast to the artists were several booths featuring scantily dressed booth babes hawking everything from medical marijuana to tawdry and cheap clothing. The medical mary jane babes, dressed as naughty nurses, reminded passersby that “weed is medicine.” Taking the ticky-tacky prize were the women at an undisclosed clothing vendor who were not only dressed as two-bit prostitutes but also acted like them, bending over and licking their lips copiously when men passed. These women seemed intent on selling themselves in order to sell clothes.
Switching gears, the line-up did not disappoint. There are always a few artists whose lack of experience makes for a lackluster set. However as Barbara Barabino co-founder of Ragga Muffins Productions noted, these artists are often hand picked for their potential and should not be discounted. Our highlights this year were Anthony B, Gentleman, Sly & Robbie and Capleton. Aside: While Beanie Man was a headliner, the crowd enjoyed his show with a certain detachment, but more on that later.