Carter Van Pelt

Coney Island Reggae On The Boardwalk
Artistic Discipline: Music
Category: Brooklyn Arts Fund
Grant Year: 2020
Location: Coney Island

Carter Van Pelt started this event in 2010 out of his passion for Jamaican music and the hope of bringing a taste of the old time Jamaican soundsystem culture to Coney Island's iconic boardwalk. The primary goal is to serve Jamaicans who don't have this experience as frequently as they once did, but also to offer an authentic opportunity for outsiders to experience Jamaican music's unique aesthetic, illustrating its relationship to the soundsystem. It's been a joyfor Van Pelt to share this event with as many people as possible and see the extent to which the Jamaican community has endorsed it.

Founded in 2010, Coney Island Reggae On The Boardwalk (CIRB) is a series of four free outdoor events, held from Memorial Day to Labor Day, featuring DJs and emcees performing on a Jamaican-style soundsystem; a large configuration of speaker boxes designed to amplify music with volume and clarity.

Jamaican music, through the first 50 years of its recording industry, was recorded to be heard at public dances on this type of large audio system. Regardless of the original context, this is highly unusual in New York City outside a limited number of basement, club, or warehouse events in the outer boroughs that are not easily accessible to the public or readily marketed to outsiders. Few of these are devoted to vintage sounds.

When an audience gathers for a soundsystem event, a cultural space forms that includes fashion, dancing, food, and improvised moments on the microphone.These elements are familiar to all Jamaicans. At CIRB, the outdoor environment and classic reggae is welcoming to anyone, as the event’s broadly diverse, multi-generational audiences continue to demonstrate. The event has been compared favorably to the UK's Rock Against Racism concerts in the 70s.