Reggae scene makes comeback in Ann Arbor

DJ booth with three men

Reggae Nights are back. Co-founder and graphic design student Damien Lamberti, 41, of Pittsfield, poses in front of the DJ booth with DJ Brian Alvarez, left, a 30-year-old WCC alumni from Ann Arbor and DJ Maxx Makau, right, a 40-year-old from Ann Arbor. Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice



On Wednesday, Sept. 2, Habana Cellar Lounge located on Main Street held its first Reggae Night in over two years hosted by 41-year-old Washtenaw Community College graphic design student, Damien Lamberti, from Pittsfield. From a young age, Lamberti’s interest in reggae grew rapidly, mostly because of his mother’s love for Bob Marley. Always wanting to live on a boat or island, she moved his family to Florida where they did live on a boat until settling down in Jamaica when Lamberti was nine.

After living in Jamaica for a few years, he found himself moving from place to place, spending most of his time bouncing between Florida, Jamaica and New York before finally settling in Michigan around 2008. Noticing a lack of reggae in the area and having a brother, Benji Lamberti (aka King Jazzy), as a recording artist, they decided to bring reggae music to the Ann Arbor night life.

For a couple years, the group would DJ and perform in night clubs across Ann Arbor and in 2010, their first consistent weekly reggae night was started.

“I’m the only person who has had a weekly reggae party in Ann Arbor since I’ve been here,” Damien said. “So in the last almost 10 years, I’m the weekly person.”

After Damien was in a car accident, the reggae nights came to a temporary end.

Damien has made a name for himself through his promotions, marketing, social media, bookings and passing out flyers on the street. For him, it’s important to promote himself from all angles.

“Nowadays people have lost contact with hands-on street promotion and depend strictly on social media,” Damien said. “You have to pound every aspect because there’s not one thing that’ll save you. It’s brought me to the level that I’m at.”

Not only has his perseverance in promotion gotten him this far, so has his continued passion for learning.

When Damien came to WCC in the winter 2014 semester, he called himself “the 40-year-old freshman.” His plans include getting a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, a skill he also uses in his promotion for Reggae Night. Alongside him at the turntables is 2006 WCC alumni Brian Alvarez from Ann Arbor.

The pair was brought together by a mutual interest in reggae and Alvarez getting a flat tire. They’ve been friends and have worked together for the last six years. Alvarez has been a DJ for almost the last 13 years and because of his working relationship with Habana, Reggae Night was brought back to life. Like Damien, Benji and their mother, Alvarez’s reggae inspiration has always been Bob Marley.

“When I’m in a bad mood he puts me in a better mood,” Alvarez said. “I like music because of the way it makes people feel.”

Although reggae is one of his favorite genres, when he spins he plays a variety because he enjoys bringing different cultures together through music.

Not only does the group get their inspiration from Jamaica they also get it through fellow DJ, Maxx Makau, who is originally from Kenya. Makau met Damien about four and a half years ago and particularly enjoys reggae because of the Rastafarian background and how its main message is to “bring people together.” And that’s what this group hopes to achieve through Reggae Night every Wednesday at Habana.

“Reggae hasn’t always been mainstream (in the area),” Benji said. “But it’s making a comeback.”











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