REVIEW: Rototom Sunsplash 2014

REVIEW: Rototom Sunsplash 2014

DAY 1: 16.08.2014

This year’s festival summer edition reached its climax with the 21st edition of Rototom Sunsplash, the biggest celebration of Reggae music and Jamaican culture in Europe. From the 16th to 23rd of August, the Reggae massive will join the gathering in the same place since 2010, Benicàssim, Spain to pursue the ideal of unity which is the key message of this edition. Inspired by Martin Luther King’s historic anti-racism speech follows the motto of Rototom Sunsplash 2014: “We have a dream”.

The festival debuted with a welcome free show bringing in town the legendary Skatalites a night before, on August 15, who actually were one of last year’s edition highlights.
First day started really chill with an unusual cool breeze and a cloudy sky for Benicàssim. After everybody set up their stuff, more or less, in the camping site, the festival opened its gates for the 21st time.

Main Stage show was opened inna legendary style by Cornell Campbell, who was accompanied by the Soothsayers from UK. He was followed up by a representative face of the Revival movement, Kabaka Pyramid, who finally received a well-deserved spot on the Main Stage after doing a great figure last year at Showcase Club. Rototom audience enjoyed a heavy performance from the young Reggae militant, who was backed by his band, The Bebble Rockers.

Another guest from Rototom 2013 hit the stage just before midnight: Busy Signal alongside the High Voltage Band. However, my personal feeling is that he could work the massive way better. Wrapping up the night like in a cycle, the veteran Jimmy Cliff offered a majestic performance at Rototom Sunsplash 2014. Long time evergreens like “Many Rivers To Cross”, “The Harder They Come”, “Wonderful World, Beautiful People”, “I Can See Clearly Now” just to name a few, put a big smile on everyone faces, creating a memorable first night of the festival.

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DAY 2: 17.08.2014

The new schedule of the festival with opening gates from 4 pm increased the participation of the people on Rototom Sunsplash‘s Beach activities, keeping them busy with African dance classes, Dancehall workshops , and much more. The weather helps a lot as well, it seems that all the worries regarding an eventual rain have gone with yesterday’s wind.

Reggae University’s first activity filled the room with the Spanish premiere of “Journey To Jah” documentary, directed by Noël Dernesch and Moritz Springer. Freedom, street violence, political issues are some of the topics reached in the movie, which sees Gentleman and Alborosie in their search for a new home: Jamaica.

As a tribute to Jamaican leader Marcus Garvey, prof. Louis Chude-Sokei (from the University of Washington in Seattle), US, dr. Cecil Gutzmore (head of Pan African Social Community Forum in Brixton UK) and Jamaican revivalist, Kabaka Pyramid gathered on the panel of Reggae University to talk about Marcus Garvey’s teachings and his influence in Reggae music.

American popular artist made his debut on the Main Stage of Rototom Sunsplash making waves with his critical acclaimed hits like “Come Around”, “Blind To You”, “Mamacita”, to name a few. Representing the French Reggae movement followed Mo’Kalamity and her band, The Wizards, with the roots African-inspired vibes.

Young Jamaican artist, Romain Virgo, proved his vocal abilities doing an impressive show on the Main Stage. Who said that ballads and love songs can’t be expressed through an energetic show? Romain Virgo took hold of the entire stage with large moves and jumps, winning the appreciation of tens of thousands of people.

Finally the highlight of the night made his appearance like a veritable king! We had Dancehall music at its best with Beenie Man, who livicated this performance to the legendary Buju Banton. The artist pleased the female audience with his sensual moves, but didn’t forget about the men either. A surprise appearance from three sexy girls raised some big ovations among them. After 30 years of career, delivering hit after hit, Beenie Man is still relevant, still in the game and ready to take over the charts with an upcoming album to be released soon.

Beenie Man @ Rototom Sunsplash 2014

Meanwhile at the Dub Academy, Paolo Baldini alongside the Mellow Mood family did a show to be remembered with the Dub Files project. Something that started as an experiment on Youtube, seems to do very well and a full album and promo tour are expected for the near future. Also Sr Wilson, Micah Shemaiah, Infinte, Forelock and Kabaka Pyramid joined them. Riddim Tuffa and El Fata followed them right after on the Dub Station.

The Showcase Club stage guested Glaukoma, Hungarian Reggae representative G Ras and Dubtonic Kru with Shuga. Dubtonic Kru will be performing on the Main Stage tomorrow as backing band for Jesse Royal, and on Thursday, August 21, for Jah9.

Rototom Dancehall lovers partied till the morning with Northern Lights from Italy, Jus Now from UK/Trinidad and Pow Pow Movement outta Germany.

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DAY 3: 18.08.2014

There is no rest for the wicked here at Rototom Sunsplash. Dancehall Arena, Dub Station , Showcase Club, Ska Stage and Roots Yard keep the party up till the morning comes. And by the time the sun hits 10 o’clock you got to get up and embrace another beautiful day of the festival. Whether is going to the beach or get involved in the activities from the camp site such as yoga classes at Vivir la Energia, MagicoMondo for kids or Rototom Circus.

Reggae University @ Rototom Sunsplash 2014

It is only the third day of Rototom, so the energy is still there. The Reggae University hosted the world premiere of “Living In The Waterhouse” documentary by Nice Time Prod which led the discussion to the ghettos of Kingston, in a panel session made of Fernando Garcia-Guereta – the producer of the film, I-Nation and Droop Lion. The following discussion reached another revival movement in Jamaica: the revival of Dub, having Suns Of Dub as special guests: Addis Pablo, son of Melodica King Augustus Pablo, who also celebrated his earthstrong, and Ras Jammy, his manager and the other part of the duo.

In the 3rd night, Main Stage line-up offered Roots Reggae representatives from both classics and new generation talents. Droop Lion recently merged with The Gladiators keeping the place of Albert Griffiths, former lead singer of the group. This association may not be random, as this Rasta youth is the nephew of original Gladiator member, David Webber. In this formula they released “Back On Tracks” in February 2014, and performed on Rototom’s festival Main Stage. Also, another meaningful name for Reggae made his appearance on August 18: Anthony B, accompanied by Austrian band House Of Riddim.

Anthony B @ Rototom Sunsplash 2014

A key moment of the night was Jesse Royal‘s performance, one of the young rising stars of Jamaica. Jesse is currently on the wave right now with a fresh released mixtape made alongside Walshy Fire of Major Lazer. Tunes like “Modern Day Judas”, “Butterfly”, “Greedy Babylon”, “Hotter The Battle” and many more engaged the audience of Rototom, who seems to have been waited long for this show. With a militant attitude and empowering words, Jesse didn’t disappoint his fans. This is an artist you should look for closely because the best is yet to come. He was supported by Dubtonic Kru, who performed for second night at Rototom.

After the memorable performance from last night at Dub Academy, Mellow Mood mashed up the Main Stage on August 18, a well-deserved place for this gifted boys. The Italian group delivered a show to be remembered, and it couldn’t be other way since they have been working for this for almost 10 years now, being present year after year on Rototom’s line-up. The show was part of the “Twinz Tour”, the promotional tour of their third album – “Twinz”.

Jesse Royal @ Rototom Sunsplash 2014

Straight outta United States, King Addies Intl took over the Dancehall Arena right after Main Stage’s curtain was pulled off, while the Dub lovers were already enjoying Dubkasm and Solo Banton in the Dub Academy. As for the live music lovers, Jahcoustix was on the same frequency with Showcase Club public, managing to connect with them and create a good vibration. At the end of the day, it is all about positive mindset and love for the one next to you. Hopefully, next year we will get to see Jahcoustix on the Main stage of the festival.

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DAY 4: 19.08.2014

It is incredible how time flies when you enjoy yourself. We are on the halfway of Rototom’s 21st edition, and the vibes are still up. Just after the festival opened its gates for the public at 4 p.m, the people could find out the story of Rototom during the premiere of “More Than Twenty” documentary at Reggae University.

Representatives from the current Roots movement in Jamaica, Chronixx, Micah Shemaiah and Infinite, followed on the panel for a gathering dedicated to their early deceased bredda, George Nunes aka Likkle Joe. The discussion was so thrilling that Micah Shemaiah even burst into tears while talking about J.O.E (Jah Ova Evil). At the end of the session, Chronixx and Infinite sang a tribute in the memory of their friend.

Reggae University 2 @ Rototom Sunsplash 2014

Easy Star All-Stars took over the Main Stage, driving the audience throughout the “Dub Side Of The Moon” album, the Jamaican flavoured psychedelic twist they gave to Pink Floyd’s legendary album, “Dark Side Of The Moon”. They performed for the first time at Rototom Sunsplash, and will be heading back to US for the Dub Steady Tour, alongside Giant Panda.

Wailing Trees, the winners of the European Reggae Contest, made their debut on the Main Stage right after that, while at the Showcase Club RC (Righteous Child) was delivering some good vibrations alongside Joscha of Silly Walks Discotheque. In the same time, the Dub Academy was hosted by the Suns Of Dub duo, Addis Pablo and Ras Jammy. Micah Shemaiah, Infinite, Exile Di Brave and Kabaka Pyramid came along on the mic for the excitement of the public.

Suns Of Dub @ Rototom Sunsplash 2014

Finally, the big sensation of the fourth night and most probably one of the highlights of this edition jumped on the Main Stage, being supported by the Zincfence Redemption band. Chronixx is on the highest peaks right now and he’s got everyone talking at Rototom. The expectations were big, and he seemed to be feeling the pressure as well. The young revivalist kicked off the show with “Alpha & Omega”, which was followed by “Ain’t No Giving In”, “Smile Jamaica”, and many other hits. His fellow, Kabaka Pyramid joined him on the mic on “Me Alright” for everyone’s delight, and soon after that came Jesse Royal and Jah9 for a smashing medley on “Rootsman Riddim”. It felt that the biggest absent was Protoje to make a historical linkage on Rototom’s stage.

Ivorian artist Alpha Blondy returned at Rototom together with The Solar System band to offer once again a top a top performance, highlighted by a rearranged version of Pink Floyd‘s “Wish You Were Here”. On the Showcase Club it’s worth mentioning Raphael and The Eazy Skankers band, representing the Italian reggae scene, who managed to keep the balance between mindful message and heart-soothing rhythms with tunes from “Mind vs. Heart” LP.

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DAY 5: 20.08.2014

Yes, we are still here celebrating Reggae music, Peace music, Love music. Plenty of renowned artists artists are reserved for the upcoming nights, but let’s see what today day has to offer!

After a brief introduction to St. Croix, a beautiful island from Virgin Islands, through the screening of “Escape To St. Croix” (by. Escape Prod) in the Film Festival session, we had the honour to listen to one of the most representative names in Reggae coming from this place – Vaughn Benjamin of Midnite, alongside Mikey General (who performed later that night in the Dub Academy with Iration Steppas and Kenny Knots), Jah9 and I-Nation -a cultural activist and a well-respected figure in Jamaica who is an important part of the Reggae Revival as well, whose mission is to awaken the minds of the people in Jamaica through revolutionary literature. This session was definitely one of the highlights at Reggae University this year.

While Addis Pablo was doing his third appearance on Rototom’s stage, this time at Showcase Club alongside the British duo Mafia & Fluxy, and Junior Kelly has just jumped on the Main Stage, an unexpected strong rain messed up the vibe causing the interruption of the show and a 30 minutes delay for the whole line-up that night. After this inconvenience, everything went nice with Junior Kelly again on the stage, for everyone’s delight.

Junior Kelly @ Rototom Sunsplash 2014

Nou Vin Lakay, the winners of the Latin Reggae Contest, followed on stage right after Junior Kelly. Luciano is one of the special guests at Rototom, and came back this year again to offer a show worth of a real Messenjah of Roots Reggae music. The vibe turned around 180 degrees with the appearance of Sean Paul with a rain of confetti and two sexy dancers next to him. Tracks like “Got to Love You”, “Gimme The Light” or “Dutty Rock” were a total blast for all the dancehall lovers who, by the way, weren’t a few. Being asked in a press conference later on regarding the mainstream feeling of his music, the superstar confessed that he will keep on doing Pop music, but Reggae music will always find its place in his work.

The dancehall mania continued with Lion D and Bizzari Sound at the Dancehall Arena, Heartical Sound fron Italy who smashed the place after that, and Mr. Rodigan himself crowned a memorable dancehall night. It’s worth mentioning that on Showcase, Rototom people could enjoy Exile di Brave with Silly Walk Discotheque, as well as Micah Shemaiah and Infinte, supported by Dubtonic Kru.

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DAY 6: 21.08.2014

Day 6 is probably the most critical time at Rototom. You’re looking back at the tremendous week you had, you’re tired but then you realize that there are only two more days so you want to get the best of it.

The daylight schedule at Reggae University was mostly dedicate dedicated to the Spanish-speakers, starting with the world premiere of “Poetry and Reggae in Sao Luis” (by Cristoph Janetzko), followed by a discussion on the linkage of Reggae and Hip Hop in Spain with guesting Rapsusklei and Sr Wilson who will be performing later on the Main Stage, Kamikaze of Kiki Sound, and an workshop on riddim-making held by Genis of Reggaeland.

Jah9 @ Rototom Sunsplash 2014

The night kicked off with the veteran duo Winston “Pipe” Matthews and Lloyd “Bread” McDonald of The Wailing Souls who came back on Rototom’s Main Stage in a Rub-a-Dub style. “Jah Jah Give Us Life”, or “Mr Fire Coal Man” are just a few of the classics that gave us a flavour of the golden era.

Representing the Reggae Revival movement, beautiful Jah9 made her debut at Rototom Sunsplash conquering the massive with an intense show, backed by Dubtonic Kru who performed for the last time at this edition. Simplicity and perfectionism. Her performance was sprinkled with constant praises to Jah Rastafari and conscious messages.

Rapid change of the vibe made by representatives of the local reggae scene, Rapsusklei and Sr Wilson supported by The Flow Fanatics. The Hip Hop / Dancehall blend was surely to the majority’s liking. Hailing from the small Island St. Croix, Midnite set a new standard at Rototom Sunsplash. Exquisite and powerful, their performance was a challenge to inner reflection and in-depth meditation – a moment to be remembered.

Robbo Ranx @ Rototom Sunsplash 2014

After the closing of the Main Stage, the party continued with smashing vibes at the Dancehall Arena with Robbo Ranx (UK) and Heavy Hammer (IT). Dub enthusiasts joined O.B.F alongside Brother Culture, M8ckie Banton and Shanti D in the Dub Academy.

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DAY 7: 22.08.2014

We can’t talk about a complete Reggae festival without turning towards the roots of this music. The seventh day of Rototom was focused on the connection between AfricaRastafari and Reggae music, and the influence it obviously has on the festival itself since its beginning.

As mentioned before in this report, the Reggae University Camp offered an exhibition of some of the winners of International Reggae Poster Contest 2013. IRPC is a project launched in 2011 by Michael Thompson and Maria Papaefstathiou consisting of a Reggae-inspired visual art contest in order to support the Alpha Boys School. Both of them held a presentation of the initiative in the first session of Reggae University, making people aware of their work and their goal of opening a reggae museum in Kingston, Jamaica – “Reggae Hall Of Fame”.

It was an absolute pleasure to have the shining stars from Falmouth, the Twinkle Brothers, as special guests in the next gathering at Reggae University. With a lifetime journey in the music industry as background, Ralson Grant and his younger brother Norman Grant shared experiences and exclusive news with Rototom people; Norman Grant confessed that there are still over 50 songs unreleased yet, so there is much more to come in the near future. But even much closer was their performance that night on the Main Stage for the Rototom massive. The program closed with Femi Kuti, son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, and prof. Luis Chude-Sokei Camp from the University of Washington in Seattle, US who held a reasoning on the “Sounding of Africa”.

Yannis Odua @ Rototom Sunsplash 2014

Later that day, at the Main Stage area the people started to get together slowly. We first went in an excursion in the vintage ’60-’70 roots sound with the two legendary Twinkle Brothers. It’s incredible how after 52 years of music the duo managed to keep themselves relevant and authentic in a fast moving environment. True music to the world. Leaving the Jamaican land, we are spiritually reaching the African land through French Reggae artist Yaniss Odua and earlier mentioned, Femi Kuti, both of them with Nigerian origins.

Mistah Bombastic reached out the Main Stage after 1 am for the delight of all the Dancehall lovers in the place. “Long time Rototom me no see you” – this is how Shaggy started the show, followed by many other hits including evergreens like “Oh Carolina”, “It Wasn’t Me” or “Boombastic”. His performance was definitely an eargasmic experience especially for the ladies, cooled down with the unexpected ice-bucket challenge done by Shaggy himself in front of the tens of thousands of people.

The Showcase Club line-up of the night was dedicated to the African sounds, while the Dancehall Arena was fired up by none other then the Downbeat The Ruler, coming from the American territory.

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DAY 8: 23:08.2014

Yes, final day of the festival. All things come to an end at some point, but we must embrace this as another uplifting experience at Rototom Sunsplash. And the best is yet to come, as Jesse Royal would say.

The last session in the Reggae University this year was conducted by Jamaica’s top-ranking producer, Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee, a man who playes an important role in the foundation of Reggae music, alongside Ian and Roger Lewis, Bernard ‘Touter’ Harvey and Lancelot Hall of Inner Circle. The discussion was preceded by the Spanish premiere of “I Am The Gorgon – Bunny Striker Lee & The Roots of Reggae” documentary, directed by Diggory Kenrick.

This majestic last night brought the largest number of people of all days at Rototom Sunsplash, according to inside statistics: 35000 visitors, making a total of 250.000 attendees, even more than last year’s edition with Damian Marley. We started with some real rockers, the mighty Inner Circle. “Bad boys, bad boys what you gonna do.. “ well, what we did is to fully enjoy listening to everlasting tracks from this warriors of Reggae music.

Change of vibe, but still roots reggae with a French flavour from Danakil, a band who has been in this journey for 14 years now. The group made a first great impression, offering an explosive debut at Rototom Sunsplash 2014.

Lauryn Hill @ Rototom Sunsplash 2014

And finally, the 8 days of fun, love and music have been crowned successfully by Ms. Lauryn Hill, the peerless female voice of Hip Hop. This was probably the most awaited moment of this edition in terms of line-up, and the eagerness of the people reached the highest peaks as the lady let her fans waiting for a while. Wearing a simple white dress with a black strap tied around the waist, Ms Lauryn impressed through simplicity, elegance and versatility. Next to tunes from the Fugees era and her solo album, “The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill”, the beautiful artiste paid tribute to King Bob ‘Robert Nesta’ Marley with a handful of cover songs.

At the Ska Club the highlight of the night was Christopher Ellis, son of the great mind of Rocksteady Alton Ellis, supported by the The Kinky Coo Coo‘s from Barcelona. The winners of the Reggae Contest Lation, Nou Vin Lakay, performed again on the Showcase Club stage this time, while the Dub Station closed this year with a last session from Stand High Patrol, Pupajim and Blackboard Jungle. The party stayed up till the sunrise in the Dancehall Arena with Rory Stone Love at the desk, the man who hosted the Main Stage this year at Rototom Sunsplash.

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