16th Annual African Caribbean International Festival of Life

They're planning an explosive, multi-generational weekend of entertainment featuring veteran Reggae icons Gregory Isaacs and Junior Reid and new blood Dancehall superstars Beenie Man and Baby Cham. Each will claim a night over the weekend. Lt. Stitchie, former Reggae Dancehall prince, now a big name in the Gospel arena, will take the stage on Saturday.

These internationally renowned headliners will be joined by over 100 acts on two stages -- the International and the Gospel/Educational stage -- for the best of Reggae, Calypso, Soca, Latin, African, Haitian, Gospel, Jazz, R&B and other world-beat music. Featured performers include Chicken Chest, G.I. Aggregation, Mime, Dub Dis featuring Devon Brown, New Dynamics, Carl Brown, The Chi-Lites, PRism, D-Lux Mizik www.dluxmizik.spaces.live.com, Gypsi Fari, House music's Farley "Jackmaster" Funk, and more.

MC's are Casper and Bern Adette Stanis, 'Thelma' on the 70s TV series "Good Times," who will be signing copies of her relationship book. There will also be tributes to the late Lucky Dube who performed at the 11th International Festival of Life

More than two hundred vendors will replicate the flavors of the Caribbean and Latin America through an international food court, arts & crafts, textiles, jewelry, ceramics and other cultural items from around the world. The children's pavilion will feature the Sprint Racing Experience, a NASCAR racing simulator comprised of four play stations with a movie viewing room. In addition, there will be an Island Hopping Pavilion featuring island representatives and everything that's needed to plan a trip to an exotic locale.

Daily admission is $10 adults before 5:00 pm, $15 after 5:00 pm; $5 all day for children under 12 and seniors 65 and older; free to kids 6 and under. A $30 season pass covering all four days is also available. Tickets are now on sale at www.ticketmaster.com or 312-559-1212 and at Martin's International Culture. For more details, call 312/427-0266 or visit the website at www.festivaloflife.biz or www.martinsinterculture.com.

Baby Cham will kick off the Independence Weekend on Thursday, July 3 with the raw uncut sounds of Kingston's dancehalls delivered in his booming baritone voice. Since the mid 1990s, Baby Cham (born Damian Beckett) has represented the best of cutting-edge dancehall reggae. Drawing inspiration from daily life in his troubled homeland, Cham and The Stranger created a dancehall masterpiece called "Ghetto Story" which hit the streets at the end of 2005.

Blending the vivid street narrative with trenchant political analysis and Cham's emotional delivery, "Ghetto Story" became an instant classic, summing up all the pain and loss. "You can't say we're inciting violence," says Cham. "It's just a memory. If I grow up any different I would have a nicer memory."

A different kind of pyrotechnics will light up Washington Park for the 4th of July celebration when Beenie Man, the undisputed "King of The Dancehall," takes to the stage. The 33-year-old Kingston native, born Moses Davis released his first record, "Too Fancy" at the tender age of 7. Beenie has not only been at the forefront of the genre ever since, but has been largely responsible for growing it into the international phenomenon it is today.

Through out the mid-nineties Beenie had a slew of national hits including "World Dance" and "Slam." But it was in 1997 on the strength of his crossover smash of his Grammy-nominated "Many Moods of Moses" and its single "Who Am I?" that Beenie exploded as an international superstar. And in so doing, he opened ears and doors for everyone in his genre around the world. His latest U.S. release "Undisputed" is vintage Beenie at his best with infectious choruses and unforgettable melodies.

Veteran Reggae superstar Gregory Isaacs commands the stage on Saturday, the 5th of July. One of the best loved and most durable Reggae entertainers, his career spans three decades and legions of loyal fans worldwide. Highly prolific, (he writes nearly all his material) and business savvy (he owns his own Jamaican label, African Museum), Isaacs' delivery is marked by a combination of fire and ice rare even among soul singers – an urgent longing tempered with cool control.

Although comparable to a Jamaican Al Green or Marvin Gaye, Isaacs is a completely unique stylist. His repertoire is equal parts lovers' rock and Rasta protest. Anointed "Cool Ruler" by critics and fans after the title of one of his albums and his cool, relaxed singing style and ease with songs about social protest, his 1988 landmark album, "Red Rose for Gregory" and the single "Rumors" brought him to worldwide prominence. His latest album, "Turn Down the Lights" brings out the essence of this veteran singer.

Junior Reid takes it all the way back to the root when he closes out the Festival on Sunday night, July 6. Recording since the age of 14, his chance of a wider audience came with the offer to replace Michael Rose in Black Uhuru. Always a strong follower of Black Uhuru, and with a similar vocal style, Junior slipped into Rose's shoes with ease. As a solo artist, his vocals have been used in the hip hop scene, first debuting as a sample on the song "One Blood Under W" from The W album by the Wu-tang Clan. In 2006, he collaborated with West Coast hip hop artist The Game on the song "It's okay (One Blood)."

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