Ivory Coast reggae star Alpha Blondy was forced to cut short his U.S. tour after contracting pneumonia. The singer, whose following in his home continent Africa rivals that of Bob Marley, was scheduled to perform in Hawaii, but was instead hospitalized before being flown home for treatment. Blondy was replaced by Gregory Isaacs in the headlining slot for the California tour dates, including the Raggamuffins Festival shows in Long Beach, San Diego, and Northern California.

Soul Rebellion 2008, a series of concerts and service projects, swings back into action this March in Negril, Jamaica, and is for Spring Break students who want a reggae experience and a chance to volunteer for a good cause. Soul Rebellion links students with projects such as the “Build-A-Brick” program, which literally rebuilds local Jamaican schools. Participants will be able to attend events at the Jungle Nightclub in Negril every Tuesday in March, with live performances from Mavado, Tony Matterhorn, Don Corleon, Munga, Pressure, Alaine, and Sean Paul. Students can book reservations at StudentCity.

Elephant Man’s new album, Let’s Get Physical, is slated for release April 8. The album (a joint venture between Diddy’s Bad Boy and VP Records) features stars galore, including Wyclef, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Busta Rhymes, Shaggy, Swizz Beats, Kat Deluna, and Yung Joc. Of the line-up, Ele remarked: “A true entertainer is versatile and makes music for the world.” Elephant Man first stormed on stage in 1998, alongside Bounty Killa and the Scare Dem Crew; Ele’s nickname is “Energy God,” given for his boisterous performances and his shocking bleached and colored hairstyles.

The recently reshuffled Greensleeves is back in the riddim game with the blazing Airwaves rhythm album. The comp features 19 cuts of the Firelinks-produced, Daseca-built riddim, with hits from Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Anthony B, Kiprich, Bling Dawg, and Buju Banton. Airwaves was made famous by Mavado’s tune “Gully Side,” which does not appear on this collection.

Stephen Marley’s Mind Control (Tuff Gong/Ghetto Youths) won Best Reggae Album at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. Not all fans were pleased, with one commenter from the Google Reggae newsgroup grousing, “Do the voters even listen to all the albums? Are there designated reggae voters? The picks always seem predictable and more about the names and reputation than that year’s output.”

A major reggae culture conference opened this week in Kingston, at University of West Indies, Mona Campus. The Global Reggae Conference 2008 features lectures and discussions with noted reggae scholars Professor Carolyn Cooper, Roger Steffens, and Peter Ashbourne.

Busy Church Avenue in Brooklyn will be co-named Bob Marley Boulevard. The three-year push to have the street renamed involved both Jamaican and U.S. government representatives, as well as staunch community activists. The co-naming section will stretch 14-block blocks on Church Avenue, from Albany Avenue to Bedford Avenue.

Pon Di Wire Recommended Live Shows

Sunday, February 24: General Smiley Birthday Bash and CD Release Party with Michigan & Smiley, Shinehead, DJ JFX, La Dee Dread, General Jah Mikey, and Kiddy Ranks (Firgo Digital), 9 p.m. at Club Fais Do Do, 5257 W. Adams Blvd, Los Angeles.

Wednesday, February 27: Ranking Trevor at The Dub Club with resident DJs Tom Chasteen, Roy Corduroy, Dungeonmaster, and Boss Harmony, 9p.m. at The Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles.