Reggae ‘Pon The Mountain Grows Up

Reggae on the Mountain turns 10 this year. The popular music festival has outgrown its original home at the Topanga Community Center and is moving to King Gillette Ranch, but it hasn’t lost its Topanga Community spirit. 

The event’s co-founder, Brooks Ellis, sat down with the Messenger Mountain News to discuss the changes and lineup for this year’s festival. “It all started at a nighttime creek jam where I met Amit Gilad,” The two teenagers became fast friends and started a band called The Chiefs. Together they founded Label 27 and put together the first Reggae on the Mountain festival when they were just 19.

“I will always be grateful to Adrian Wright. She gave us the green light for the first festival. She was so supportive, and we’ve had the support of the whole Topanga community.”

Over the years the festival has grown to become an eclectic, multicultural celebration of reggae and world music that attracts musicians from all over the world and thousands of participants. 

“We would still like to be in Topanga, but we’ve grown too big,” Ellis told the Messenger Mountain News. “King Gillette is one of the most beautiful venues anywhere. It’s flat with oaks, shade, an ocean breeze, and parking. My biggest concern has been parking, and we now have room for 3000.”

The new venue is also big enough to accommodate camping this year, and extras like a light show, music until 11 p.m. and a silent dance hall for campers and a limited number of special ticket holders to party until 3 a.m. It’s going to be really cool,” Ellis said. “This year’s festival has our largest line-up ever. We’re pulling out all the stops.”

Ellis describes it as “two days of music from international stars and heavy-hitting local and regional bands.

Steel Pulse and Julian Marley are headlining on Saturday, August 17. “Steel Pulse has a great SoCal vibe,” Ellis said. “Julian Marley is reggae.” 

The Saturday lineup also includes Pato Banton, Anuhea, Arise Roots, Ital Vibes, Better Chemistry, Dread Kennedy, Strange Brew, the Originators and Irie Nature.

Matisyahu headlines on Sunday, August 18, when the lineup includes Third World, Hirie, Mike Love, and Gondwana, Makua Rothman, Cisco Adler, Quinto Sol, Pachamama, Synergy, Boostive, Prime Livity, Mestizo Beat, and Yesai.

“We are proud to have a lot of strong female artists this year, like Hirie” Ellis said, explaining that the Hawaiin reggae artist brings a world vibe to the festival. She’s amazing,” he said. The festival MC is Junior Francis, with DJs Shinehead & Buttahfly, True Haze, Native Wayne, Selecta 7, Vex, RootsTime Radio Crew.

Ellis promises proud, happy reggae and world music, dancing, and amazing food. “We have 15 different food vendors, dozens of craft and art vendors, things you can’t find anywhere else,” he said. “Our VIP section is a patio courtyard with fountains. We’re having yoga, a travel village and CBD garden with wellness and travel speakers. A festival is only as good as its content.”

Camping is available for Saturday and Sunday night. “Our campsite opens for load-in at 9 am on Saturday morning. Each ticket holder must also have a camping pass to be admitted to the campsite. The camping pass includes our late night Silent Dancehall and special acoustic performances. Campers may leave their cars in the overnight lot for $20 or $15 online.”

There is also an option for renting a luxury airstream for a weekend of luxurious glamping. All event participants who opt to camp onsite will be able to party all night with high-tech headphones that lets the music play without disturbing the neighbors or the ranch’s wildlife.

Ellis told the Messenger that he and Gilad strongly believe in giving back to the community. Ellis explained that a portion of the profits will be donated to support the Malibu Boys and Girls Club for the Woolsey Fire recovery effort and the non-profit surfing organization Life Rolls On, which helps people with disabilities live a more fulfilled life through adaptive surfing and skating.

“It’s bittersweet to have to leave Topanga, but we are still in the Santa Monica Mountains,” Ellis said. “The festival employs Topanga people. My sister takes the tickets. The venue has changed, but not the crew.”

The spirit of the event also remains the same. “We want everyone to dance, feel good, learn about other cultures, and go home excited and happy in their life,” Ellis said.

For more information on the festival, and to order tickets, visit:


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at

1 Comment
  1. Such an amazing experience I have been glad to be a part of it for many of its years as a DJ and promoter the silent dancehall was an excellent idea and the venue was incredible unfortunately due to Corona virus it was canceled for 2020 but count on it being back in 2021 and I hope to back as often as they will allow me I can’t thank Brooks and Amit enough for the hard work they do to provide the best experience possible for everyone and thank you Suzanne for the wonderful article and even mentioning the DJs and festival MC we are often overlooked in festivals and rarely mentioned I look forward to seeing more of your articles


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