DAY 1 – August 15
Summer is a good time to be in Europe for any reggae enthusiast. Plenty of festivals with tradition are spread across the continent keeping the firm movement, that the old continent is known for, alive. The heartbeat of it is Rototom Sunsplash Festival, that over the past 22 years has played an instrumental role in the development of reggae here.
First day is always highly anticipated; most of the people who come to Rototom are here regularly, each year. It is an annual family gathering musically connected. This one is even special though because later in the night we’ll have the great Don Dada, Super Cat, for the very first time on Rototom‘s Main Stage. After more than 20 years hiatus, he is currently in a short tour across Europe, long enough to get ‘page-one’ in every Reggae outlet and to kick off Rototom 2015.
Gates open at 1pm this year, which is a good look for the festival attendees. Even if there are plenty of activities on Benicassim‘s beaches, it’s great to chill and hang around inside the festival. 6 o’clock officially opens the festival for most of us with Reggae University where the two champions of 80’s Dancehall music Josey Wales and Brigadier Jerry share captivating stories on their career and were followed by the Great Super Cat who was kind enough to open himself to the on growing audience, thirsty for knowledge.
By the end of the session is slowly gathering in front of the Main Stage for the first performance – Junior Marvin and his Wailers. Rototom will be glorifying the 70th anniversary of Bob Marley and the roots of reggae, thus we’ll get in touch with a lot of greats from the early era in the following days – Bunny Wailer, The Pioneers, Aswad, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, and even a Spanish collective effort under the name of Cantando A Marley on August 20.
French artist Naâman lifted up the vibes with his lively stage presence. It’s a pleasure to see him back at Rototom, following up a well-done job at the Showcase Club in 2013. He did it again and he did good. This time backed by a live band and, of course, Fatbabs, Naâman had the crowd jumping and skanking, later joined by Massy the Creator and Triple for a glimpse of their new EP – “Know Yourself”.
Next show – girls go crazy! Young Dancehall superstar Popcaan smashes it up and the atmosphere is getting even hotter. People seem to know every lyrics of Unruly Boss’ catalog which is a clear feedback that Popcaan was on many ‘Rototom lineup wishlists’. From the young generation to the original Dancehall style – none other than the Wild Apache honors the Main Stage. Hits after hits, history happening. Songs like “Don Dada”, “Ghetto Red Hot”, “Dem No Worry We” are a sweet delight for the Cat fans.
His sound, Kilimanjaro will keep the fire blazing till the morning in the Dancehall Arena alongside Sound Trooper while the Dub Academy night wraps up with resident crew Blackboard Jungle and Noel Ellis from France. Worth mentioning is this new place called Jumping stage which seems like a cool spot to be if you’re looking for diversity, musically speaking. Great night first night!
DAY 2 – August 16
“To the rescue, here I am.. Want you to know it, here I stand” Melodies still stick to my mind from last night selections at Dub station. We are here to stand, for sure.
Reggae University program debuted with the Film Festival – a World Premiere of “Watt Town: Holy Songs From Jamaica” and the Rasta Seminars with the Italian people from House of Rastafari. Later on, the panel discussions, led by Pier Tosi, David Katz and Ellen Koehlings and Pete Lilly of Riddim Magazine, welcomed some very special guests, two faces of the 60s era of Reggae – The Pioneers.
One of the greatest parts about Rototom is that it offers not only a venue for dancing and partying but also a space for learning and digging more into the Reggae and Rastafari. The Pioneers were the ones who introduced reggae music in Japan back in the days: “Reggae music speaks for itself, no need to understand English”, they said. There is a mutual characteristic about all this great foundation artists – humbleness. “When we were jamming and Bob was playing football with Peter, in those times we didn’t realize this will be so big. And Bob has taken it to higher heights”.
Main Stage line-up was kind of a mixture of flavors. It started legendary, old-school dancehall with Josey Wales and Brigadier Jerry – two representative figures of the 80s who, initially, were supposed to perform alongside Charlie Chaplin as Three The Hard Way. They were backed by Lloyd Parks and We The People Band who are back again at Rototom. Next we got some UK sweetness from Hollie Cook, daughetr of Paul Cook (Sex Pistols), and Spanish splash from Chambao – meditative type of vibe.
Jah Cure set up the mood right for the lovers out there. He introduced his latest album to the world, “The Cure”, one that he is very proud of as it is the first one fully produced by him and has been #1 in the Billboard chart for the past 3 weeks. He also showed support to Buju Banton with a tribute song in return of Buju’s unconditional help while Jah Cure was behind the bars, as he confessed later that night in a press conference. Ladies could enjoy a half naked Jah Cure by the end of the stage show and some free t-shirts from Cure himself.
Stopped by Dancehall Arena afterwards where a German-Italian linking, Warrior Sound Intl. and I-Shence, was keeping the crowd up and alert while the Dub Academy was hosted by none other than Ariwa-head Mad Professor. We’re still getting warm in here..