Soul City Music Festival: Roots To Reggae In Norlina

Jordan Meadows, Staff Writer

The inaugural Soul City International Roots Music Festival was held on Saturday at Seven Springs Farm & Vineyard in Norlina, NC. Hosted by the Soul City Community Development Corporation, the festival brought together music and culture enthusiasts to celebrate a shared heritage, stemming from the theme of the festival: ‘From Soil to Soul’.

An array of world-renowned artists performed at the festival, each expressing their cultural heritage through music. Sona Jobarteh, the mesmerizing kora virtuoso from Gambia in West Africa, enchanted the audience with her melodies and powerful vocals.

Drea D’Nur, from Buffalo, NY, captivated listeners with her soul-stirring lyrics and genre-bending blend of R&B and soul. She performed renditions of cultural classics by James Brown, Sam Cooke, and Bob Marley.

Jasme Kelly, known as the “Daughter of Soul” from Durham, NC, brought her sultry tones and bluesy roots to the stage, creating an atmosphere of intimacy and connection.

“The event embodies the spirit of music as a universal language that roots us to the earth and each other,” Kelly said. “This is about connectedness. This is an international festival. We’re bringing artists from the other part of the diaspora. This is not just Soul City; this is North Carolina art reaching out to the world.”

Renowned film composer, songwriter, and performer Sam Waymon, sibling to the legendary Nina Simone, mesmerized the audience with his exceptional musical prowess. His performance was a seamless blend of classic R&B, rock, soul, and funk, infused with elements of blues and jazz, showcasing his eclectic talent.

“This is such an artistic endeavor meant to bring about the mobilization of our spirits, our souls, our minds, and the historical context of Black history. It’s very important that people walk away from this festival with a sense of hope, a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment, and put a finger on the pulse of their soul, evolution of history, who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. The crux of this whole thing is to wake people up,” Waymon said.

Closing the festival was Dezarie, the Root Reggae Empress from St. Croix, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, whose soulful voice and dynamic stage presence left a lasting impression on attendees. Her unique blend of Roots, R&B, jazz, and Reggae resonated deeply with the crowd as they clapped and danced to the classic sounds.

The Soul City International Roots Music Festival transcended mere entertainment, offering attendees a profound cultural experience. Food lovers savored diverse cuisines from food trucks like Stuffyman’s Vegan Stuff from the Triangle, Biscuit and Brew from Forest City, and King Southern Style Cooking from Henderson, enhancing the festival’s cultural diversity.

In addition to the culinary delights, the festival featured table booths showcasing African cultural artifacts, hair and body care products, as well as homemade jewelry. Among them was BlackGold Works, a five-year-old small business based out of Raleigh, offering preservative-free, natural products and providing tips for product maintenance and skin benefits, including relief for psoriasis.

Another booth was the ‘Da Loc Doc Shop,’ a Sustainable Community Market & Sustainable Hair hub from Beaufort County, SC, which promoted holistic transformation, emphasizing self-love, spiritual alignment, and economic empowerment through natural products and workshops.

The event also welcomed the North Carolina Rastafari Union (NCRU), a Durham-based organization dedicated to fostering connections between African organizations and communities in the West. Through negotiations with African countries, they aim to bridge cultural gaps and promote unity and understanding.

Soul City, a planned community in Norlina, was from the late Floyd McKissick Sr., civil rights leader, director of the Congress of Racial Equality, and Durham lawyer who envisioned a town where Black Americans had economic freedom and ownership.

Proceeds of the event went to benefit the nonprofit Soul City Community Development Corporation, which is attempting to revitalize the community by developing farming, economic opportunity, the arts, and a community center.

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