REVIEW: Rototom Sunsplash 2013 – Love Edition

REVIEW: Rototom Sunsplash 2013 – Love Edition

Day 1: 17/08/2013

The 20th anniversary edition of Rototom Sunsplash turned Benicassim into the heartbeating Reggae capital of Europe, gathering tens of thousands of people together in the first day, 17th of August, in the name of Reggae music for this years Love Edition.

Reggae music is the binder who connected people from over 50 countries of the world to celebrate live and breathe in unison.

REVIEW: Rototom Sunsplash 2013 - Love Edition

Coming this year with the slogan entitled “Love Edition”, Rototom Sunsplash 2013 includes not only 7 stages, a massive delight for all the tastes of Reggae, but also plenty of activities, workshops, and exhibits, reaching Reggae and Rastafari movement from many points of view: social, cultural, artistic.

One of the most important locations at the festival is Reggae University Camp, meant to host debates, informal talks, exhibitions, book releases, film screenings, as well as the ACR Meetings and House of Rastafari discussions.

The sessions launched with a photo exhibition entitled “Sunsplash Music, Sunshine People 20th Anniversary”, followed by the 40 years career celebration of Third World, alongside Cat Coore and Richie Daley.

Later on, in the same place, ACR Meeting started its sessions with a debate on Spanish Reggae/Dancehall artist career – Morodo, guesting Morodo himself.

Following this path , Rototom opened its Main Stage with the legendary Jamaican band, Third World, giving the mic to the new generation, Spanish Reggae representative artist, Morodo, backed by Mad Sensi Band.

First night at the Main Stage couln’t ended apotheotic with the notorious Dancehall duo, Chaka Demus and Pliers, who rocked the stage with their greatest hits “Murder She Wrote” or “Tease Me”.

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Day 2: 18/08/2013

2nd day of the festival brought the Reggae Revival phenomenon in the centre of attention.

The highlights of Reggae University session of the day were three of the Reggae Revival warriors: Protoje, Kabaka Pyramid and Iba Mahr, alongside Dutty Bookman – the author of the novel „Tried and True: Revelations of a Rebellious Youth”.

The main subjects of the session were the influences on their personal activity and their work mission, what they want to accomplish through music.

Protoje talked about the stories behind his latest tunes – „Kingston Be Wise” and „I&I”.

He confesses he wrote the lyrics for „Kingston Be Wise” way back, even before his first album release, on the 23rd of May, 2010, on Jah9‘s birthday when he saw Kingston burn.

„Jamaica has no control about anything government does”

Regarding “I&I”‘s video, Protoje has a very nice story about it:

„It was thursday evening, I called everyone I knew to shot the video. It was an one take video. There were eight people shooting, we had people cooking food, artists.. That video is a perfect representation of what Reggae Revival means, I think that video captures that in a good way”.

Also, he mentioned that he really wanted Dutty Bookman in that video, a writer and a truly revolutionist of the Reggae Revival movement.

When the police came there they realized this youths are not trouble makers”, said Protoje.

The situation made that his mother, Lorna Bennett, was also present when somebody asked about the family influence on his work. Protoje confessed that he learnt one big thing from her and that is:

„When you come off the stage, come back to 0, remember you are no better than anyone just because you are performing on stage”

When Dancehall was brought in the discussion, Protoje stated:

My problem with Dancehall is the lyrics. But there are also very good songs of Dancehall artists that are bringing a good comentary. […] The thing is we want positive message.

Iba Mahr confesses that Max Romeo has had the biggest influence on his career, while Kabaka talked about Hip Hop‘s touch on his music such as: Wu-Tang Clan, Jay-Z, Mos Def, and so on.

Talking about his career, Dutty Bookman said:

I love to express, I was always writing. […] I will never leave this path, I wake up in the morning and I give thanks.

The session was a real joy and it could last even longer, the big number of attendees speaks by itself about the Global Reggae Revival take-over.

The whole movement started with two big bands, Rootz Underground and Dubtonic Kru, for whom todays Reggae Univeristy’s guests showed their appreciation.

They are a huuuuge influence on why I decided to have a band”, says Protoje.

To see those bands live is really life changing for the youths who are into Hip Hop, Dancehall and so”, states Dutty.

Luckily, Rototom people will get to see at least one of them, Dubtonic Kru, in the third day of the festival, live at Showcase Club.

The night on the Main Stage started with La Pandilla Voladora, representing for the Spanish Reggae Scene.

One of the most awaited perfomances of the festival was, definitely, Protoje‘s, who pleased the audience with songs from both albums, „The 7 Year Itch” and „The 8 Year Affair”.

REVIEW: Rototom Sunsplash 2013 - Love Edition

A special moment of the show whas when he introduced Kabaka Pyramid on the stage for an European exclusive performance of their latest tune, „Warrior”.

The vibe was absolutely uplifting, proving once again that we are the witnesses of a movement that will make history, and actually that we are a part of it – Reggae Revival.

The last one on the night’s Main Stage line-up was Daddy U-Roy, bringing the Roots and Rub a Dub vibes for the Rototom people. The public showed its appreciation to the fullest as he deserved.

U-Roy left the stage but the night was still young by that time so I moved quiqly to the Showcase Club to avoid missing any single part of Kabaka‘s and Iba Mahr‘s show.

There was a big crowd in front of the stage where Kabaka was performing, backed by Dubby Conquerors from Switzerland.

Rototom massive really enjoyed Kabaka‘s show, and so did Protoje who was supportinghis good friend from the left side of the stage. Personally I thought that he will join Kabaka at some point, just like Kabaka did hours before on the Main Stage, but that never happened.

Kabaka was followed on stage by Iba Mahr, who played alongside the great Dubtonic Kru. An outstanding performance overall which deserved a lot more feedback from the public.

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Day 3: 19/08/2013

Day 3 started at Reggae University with the topic „Musical Weapon: The Meaning Of Sound Clash”, guesting Carolyn Cooper and Sonjah Stanley Niaah from the University of the West Indies in Mona, Kingston, Jamaica, and also Tony Matterhorn alongside Ricky Trooper who were about to face each other in a historic battle from 2.00 am at the Dancehall Arena. Both of them entertained the atmosphere anticipating the soundclash that night.

„Jamaica is poor people culture. They don’t want that image of their country. They are ashamed of it. […] The people from Jamaica have to learn what does it mean to be a Jamaican”, said Miss Cooper in a debate about Jamaican people and culture.

Second part of the session pleased us with the presence of Daddy U-Roy and Flabba Holt, original founder member of Roots Radics Band, who will be the backing band for Israel Vibration on Main Stage that night.

„Music is music. Music has no color. I. Personally am a Rub A Dub person”, states U-Roy.

Also, the veteran artist talked a little bit about his meeting with King Selassie I:

„I was very young youth when HIM came to Jamaica. It was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen. I have no shame to give HIM praises.”

Internationaly acclaimed French Reggae band, Dub Inc., open the Main Stage bringing joy to a very big crowd, probably the largest one until that day at Rototom. The vibes are overwhelming, people are dancing and singing along Hakim “Bouchkour” Meridja and Aurélien “Komlan” Zohou, you could feel a huge connection and the energy all around.

The band ended the show performing „Jump Up” and its very traditional dance.

3rd night of the festival brought us a representative figure of the Spanish Reggae scene – Fermin Muguruza and Kontrakantxa, as part of the tour No More Tour 2013″.

It was almost midnight when Gyptian made his appearance on the Main Stage backed by Royal Roots Band. He surely pleased the female audience with the hottest tunes of his latest “SLR EP” and more, and went smooth to the end, obviously, with „Hold Yuh”, the track that made him famous amoung the Reggae lovers.

Israel Vibration, the legendary band and also the highlight of the night, were very welcomed by the crowd. Wiss and Skelly seemed to be still in a good shape to perform on the big anniversary stage of Sunsplash, and the feedback reached high levels on tunes like „The Same Song”, „Ball Of Fire” or „Cool And Calm”.

Time for the clash? Tony Matterhorn meets Ricky Trooper in the long-awaited Rototom Int´l Soundclash hosted by Rory Stone Love. Matterhorn is the party starter with some heavy names like Burro Banton, Damian Marley or Sizzla, but Trooper didn’t go low at all.

There were plenty of Johnny Osbourne, Shabba Ranks, Dennis Brown, mixed with nowadays Dancehall like Busy Signal, Vybz Kartel, Bounty Killer and more.

In the meantime, hot things were happening at the Showcase Club! Originating from Jamaica, one of the most prolific bands of the moment, Dubtonic Kru were performing their full live show. Winners of „Best New Band In The World” 2010 – 2011 at the Global Battle of the Bands, World Finals in Malaysia, February 2011, Dubtonic Kru is definitely a must see on this years edition of Rototom.

REVIEW: Rototom Sunsplash 2013 - Love Edition

As Duty Bookman said the day before at the Reggae University Session, listening, watching, feeling the Kru performing is uplifting, life changing,

Back in the Dancehall Arena, you could feel the pressure as the sounclash was getting closer and closer to the final decision. After the „tune fi tune” final set, the whole thing became blurry for the audience and for Rory Stone Love who seemed to lose the control.

The conclusion was a little dissapointing, as the clash ended in a tie, but there was some big party over all.

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Day 4: 20/08/2013

Tuesday started in the Reggae University Camp with the book lauch of „Gobal Reggae” by Carolyn Cooper, followed by Sonjah Stanley Niaah from UWI Kingston who introduced the audience to her forthcoming book entitled „A Politics Of Pilgrimage: Reggae Music and the Movement of Jah People”.

The debate gravitated from festivals worldwide, Jamaican music industry and people who should promote it to Jamaica as the originator or Reggae music and also tourism, having as speakers Mark Iration of Iration Steppas, Dan Man, ChaCha – Chinese Reggae singer, and last but not the least Jubba of Dubtonic Kru.

ChaCha mentioned that Reggae music is still an underground genre in China, the knowledge of the people who heard of it begins and ends with Bob Marley. The Asian singjay’s act is another one to look forward to, on Friday night, right on Showcase Club.

Speaking about Showcase, show time began early on Tuesday night on that stage, at 20.00, with the French sensation, Naaman, alongside Fatbabs. Naaman left a good impression on Rototom massive with an energetic and inspirational performance. The sinjay comes with a brand new sound, a mix of Roots Reggae, Raggamuffin and Hip-Hop on his recently released debut album – „Deep Rockers Back A Yard”.

Definitely explosive, the crowd enjoys it to the fullest and the adrenaline hits its maximum level on Naaman‘s hit tune, „Skanking Shoes”!

The Spanish Reggae artists storm the Main Stage featuring Fyahbwoy and Iberica All Stars: Black Gandhi, Hermanol, Benjammin’, Roberto Sanchez, Tosko, Ander Green Valley, Irie Souljah, Sr. Wilson, Kumar, Indee Styla and Khaoula.

Fyahbwoy opens the night properly with a Reggae/Dancehall flavour. It’s the last show of his tour performing the second album, Extremely Flammable, releaseda year ago.

Reggae Againt Intolerance is a project initiated by the Movement Against Intolerance / Movimiento Contra la Intolerancia (MCI), Rototom Sunsplash, and the Spanish Youth Institute (Injuve). Main Stage guested the presentation of the project right after Iberica All Stars.

One of the most rooted artist in nowadays Dancehall scene is taking over the Main Stage right before midnight: Mr. Vegas! Right now he reached one of the highest picks of his career with the successful album „Sweet Jamaica”. The Jamaican artist won the audience with the title track of the album, „Sweet Jamaica”, a beautiful featuring with Shaggy and Josey Wales.

Coming all the way from United States of America, Groundation were there to close the halfway of the festival. There is some magic with this band, that’s a fact! The way Reggae music fuels with Jazz, Funk, Dub and other harmonies is fascinating, and goes straight to the heart of the listener. Each member of the group gets its solo moment, their knowledge and experience are indisputable. A powerful and uplifting moment! Protoje and Dutty Bookman also enjoyed the full act from the right side of the stage.

Dancehall Arena went hot again with the German Soundsystem, Silly Walks Discoteque. But some serious thing was going on at the Showcase Club: Italian rising star, Lion D, alongside his American bredda, Jah Sun, and the night’s surprise, Ras Tewelde hit the stage at 3.45 am. Lion D brought back the vibes just as he’s promising with his latest release and having Dubtonic Kru on stage again, backing this mad combination, was a big deal.

Bizzari Sound, straight outta Italy, mashed up the place after the end of the live act. Meanwhile, Rory Stone Love was dealing with a massive Dancehall crowd at the Dancehall Arena. That’s a hard decision to make!

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Day 5: 21/08/2013

On Wednesday, the fifth day of the festival, it was all about Ska and the origins of Reggae music.

In this spirit, the day opened properly with the world premiere of the movie „Legends Of Ska”, directed by Brad Klein, within the pale of Rototom Film Festival. The movie is focused on the early 60s, the birth era of Ska music: an interesting blend of Jazz, rhythm & blues and Carribean rhythms.

Klein synthesized 12 years for the making of work and 185 hours of material into a 105 minutes length film-documentary.

The premiere was followed by a discussion on it, guesting Lester Sterling (orginial memember of Skatalites), Brand Klein (film-director) and Herbie Miller (director/curator of the Jamaican Music Museum in Kingston) on the panel.

Without Ska there would be no Reggae music!” It’s the powerful message „Legends of Ska” imprinted upon our minds and the best introduction for the big first act of the night on the Main Stage: The Skatalites! Many years have passed since the golden era of Ska, few of the original members are still with us and the audience seemed to enjoy the moment to the fullest. Big hits like „Simmer Down” or „Sugar Sugar” were brought to life by Doreen Shaefer, while the British deejay Natty Bo entertained Rototom massive with some well-done Ska steps.

In the press conference, the originators Lester Sterling, Doreen Shaefer and Vin Gordon talked a lot about the regretted members of the band who passed away, showing that even if they are open to the new wave of music and recruited some promising young musicians, they are still rooted to their early days and keep spreading the message and love.

Right after The Skatalites, straight outta UK, Dubheart, the winners of Reggae Contest Europe 2013, hit Rototom’s Main Stage, the last show of their European Festival Tour.

Bad Gyal Ce’cile changed the vibe with some original Dancehall sound from Jamaica alongside Soul Fire Crew from Germany. The singer shows her respect to each and everyone who support the music, who pay for a show, regardless the sexual orientation or skin colour.

One big highlight of the night was definitely the Italian Alborosie and his Shengen Clan band. The singer is currently promoting his fresh new album, „Sound The System”, and its success could be obviously seen as the people knew already the lyrics. The highest peacks of the show were reached on „Kingston Town” , „No Cocaine” and „Herbalist”. Alborosie is a real entertainer and the crowd approved it!

REVIEW: Rototom Sunsplash 2013 - Love Edition

The night continued with Lloyd Parks and We The People band on the Showcase Club, while the Dancehall Arena went mad with Reggae Rajahs sound system from India and Sentinel from Germany. Dub lovers also enjoyed Channel One‘s roots vibes on the Dub Station.

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Day 6: 22/08/2013

Even if the festival was making steps to its big final day, the party spirit was still on among Rototom people.. oh well, maybe after couple of coffees and energy drinks.

6th day was more of an Italian celebration, a tribute to Rototom’s roots, to its first 16 years in Italy.

The night began with the Jamaican Roots Reggae artist, Richie Spice, on the Main Stage. Well-known for his early hit entitled „Earth A Run Red”, and later on with „Marijuana” and „Blood Again”, Richie Spice did a pretty impressive show.

The Italian massive were quite anxious for their people. Two big representative characters of the Italian Reggae Scene mashed up the Main Stage: Sud Sound System and Africa Unite.

While Sud Sound System were a delight for the Dancehall audience, Africa Unite, pleased our ears with the succesful tune „Babylon and poetry” and many more. This group is an authentic symbol of Rototom Sunsplash as they’ve joined its very first edition, back in 1994. Africa Unite shared the stage with two guests: the Sicilian Jaka and the promising Italian youths, Mellow Mood, anticipating their show, later on, at the Showcase Club.

At 1.00 am, the Jamaican Dancehall superstar Busy Signal hit the stage alongside his High Voltage Band. Definitely one of the most awaited acts of the whole festival! There is a long discussion regarding nowadays Dancehall, about its sexual message or even vulgarity. But, as Protoje said in the Reggae University session, Dancehall music is also music, and music does bring people together, which is the most important thing.

REVIEW: Rototom Sunsplash 2013 - Love Edition

Busy Signal is now on the wave with his latest major tune „Watch Out Fi Dis (Bumaye)”, which recently passed 20.5 million views on Youtube after only months of its release.

The Jamaican sensation mashed up the Main Stage with his Dancehall hits and ballads, reaching each and everyone! For the first time during this edition, the crowd went so crazy as the artist left the stage, they asked for an encore for minutes. Unfortunately the organizers couldn’t do anything and this is how the Main Stage closed until the following day.

In the Showcase Club, the Italian promising group Mellow Mood alongside their producer, Paolo Baldini, made the people forget about the disappointment of Busy Signal’s no come back. They’ve been ranked 3rd in the European Reggae Contest 2009, and they evolved a lot since then. People sang along with the twins big tunes from their latest album „Well Well Well” and their debut album „Move” with the massive „Dance Inna Babylon”, and also their fresh new tune „Dig Dig Dig”. There is a bright future for this band, so you should definitely look forward for them!

Mellow Mood @ Rototom Sunsplash 2013

The night at Showcase continued with Illbilly Hitec featuring Longfingah from Germany and Dactah Chando from Canaris, and later on with the Irishman Cian Finn. Also, Dancehall Yard was on fire Robbo Ranx representing fo BBC 1XTRA and the American Black Chiney. Dub Station hosted a wide variety of sessions from Jahtari alongside British Speng Bond, to OBF featuring Macky Banton and Shanti D.

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Day 7: 23/08/2013

The penultimate day of Rototom’s Love Edition begins at the Reggae University with the Spanish Premiere of the documentary „Rasta: A Soul’s Journey” directed by Stuart Samuels, as part of the Rototom Film Festival. The movie is starring Bob Marley‘s grand-daughter, Donisha Prendergast, presenting her journey in searching for the meaning of Rasta.

The second part of the session drove back to the foundation of Reggae hosting Leroy Sibbles, Horace Andy and Herbie Miller on the panel.

At some point, Damian Marley himself, Wayne Marshall, Black Am I and the whole crew joined the documentary session for the audience’s delight. It was quite interesting to see Damian on the screen talking and in the same time in the room watching the documentary.

REVIEW: Rototom Sunsplash 2013 - Love Edition

A big crowd of people, journalists and photographers followed him on his short walk around the festival. He stopped by at some place with Jamaican food, at the Roots Yard, and at the Mojito Bar to enjoy a Mojito with his Ghetto Youths fellows.

Night number seven was mostly dedicated to the elders, to the veteran Jamaican artists. The golden era of Reggae is represented on the Main Stage by Horace Andy, Leroy Sibbles and John Holt accompanied by the fabulous We The People Band and its leader, Lloyd Parks on bass.

Also, the Nigerian-German singer, Nneka, spiced the atmosphere with some African vibes. Her show comes with a very powerful message, touching sensitive political and social issues. Her music is not purely Reggae, she also admitted that in the press conference hours before, but good music is good music and the people are humbled by her perfomance.

The cancellation of Anthony B‘s live act brought prestigious singer and songwriter, Horace Andy, on the Main Stage. He was followed by the lead singer of The Heptones himself, Leroy Sibbles and after that, the public was the witness of a premiere for Rototom: John Holt! „Police in Helicopter” was highly appreciated by the Rototom massive.

REVIEW: Rototom Sunsplash 2013 - Love Edition

Showcase Club started with an acoustic session held by Elijah from Switzerland, and continued with a fresh voice from China, ChaCha, and the Italian group, Train To Roots.

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Day8: 24/08/2013

Last day of the festival and Damian Marley‘s name is on everyone’s lips. The expectations for this show reached the superlative level! You could feel it everwhere! Everyone is looking forward for the Spanish premiere and the European exclusive show of the summer of Damian Marley and the Ghetto Youths International.

Rototom announced 240.000 visitors over the whole festival, the number is overwhelming! A sense of sadness mixed with adrenaline and sort of anxiety embraced Rototom people. Could be the thought that the next day everything will be over..

Misty In Roots opened the Main Stage, one of the most popular artists of the late 70’s and actually one of the first international Reggae artists that played back in 1992, in Italy, at Rototom Club, even before Rototom Sunsplash festival ever existed.

Another representative name of the Reggae scene, especially in the South America, with 25 years of career, Gondwana from Chile, were welcomed by the Spanish speakers especially, but not only.

Before the big final act, Rototom staff prepared a special moment of thanks. We could see them all on stage waving a banner with the 21st edition’s slogan „We Are One”.

And the highly anticipated moment is on! Firstly it was Black Am I, a talented youth originated from Nine Mile, Jamaica, followed by the Ghetto Youths‘s veteran, Wayne Marshall, who went hard on the Main Stage. Christopher Ellis was also announced but he didn’t show up in the festival.

Rototom Sunsplash exploded when Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley hit the stage! The atmosphere was unbelievable tune after tune, the public got unite in one voice! Around 35.000 people wrote history that night, at the 20th anniversary edition of maybe the biggest Reggae festival in Europe. He also sang his fathers „No More Trouble” and „Exodus” for the exaltation of the audience. This concert was an once in a life time experience and a moment of unification which surely moved something in each and everyone of its attendees.

Damian Marley closed the Love Edition in a proper way: „Road To Zion” and „Welcome To Jamrock” in the encore.

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This is how Rototom Sunsplash celebrated its 20th anniversary. Despite the good music, Rototom is the place where you find your inner kindness, peace, harmony, where “share” is a key word, where you meet a large variety of people and make friends. Once you taste it, you get infected with the Rototom flavour and phenomenon! Rototom, see you next year!