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Rototom Sunsplash 2017 #celebratingafrica – Review part 1

Review of the 2017 Rototom Sunsplash’s 24th edition #celebratingafrica

Like every year, since 2010, the Rototom Sunsplash was held in Benicassim, Spain. This year, for their 24th edition, the festival’s main theme revolved around the motherland Africa. Therefore, various artists, and performers of all genres, from all corners of Africa came to share their music, and culture with the Reggae fans who attended the festival. As usual, a myriad of artists from the caribbean was featured in the line-up.

Day 1 – Saturday 12th, August 2017

On the first night of the festival, The Twinkle Brothers had the honour to be the first to perform on the Main Stage. They were followed by Nkulee Dube, the daughter of the late South African Reggae artist Lucky Dube. As a novice in African Reggae/Dancehall music, I didn’t really know what to expect from Nkulee Dube.

Benicassim, 2017-08-12. Nkulee Dube (Main Stage). Photo by: Dominique Pozzo © Rototom Sunsplash 2017.

She performed some sweet Reggae tracks like “Feelin’ Irie,and “Love The Way,” as well as some Dancehall tracks like “Give It To Me.” She also covered a few tracks original performed by her father such as “Back To My Roots,” and Ding Ding Licky Licky Bong.” Meanwhile, French Reggae artist of Guinean descent Lyricson was performing on the Lion Stage. Then, the UK-based Reggae band Steel Pulse wrapped up the first night after the performance of a local Spanish band.

Day 2 – Sunday 13th, August 2017

The second started slowly but surely. On the Main Stage, the early fans have had the chance to see pillars of Rocksteady music The Heptones, and The Silvertones. Then, after about 2 hours of Rocksteady and soft Reggae music, the crowd was shaken by the tremendous rhythm of afro beat. Nigerian artist Seun Kuti —son of afro beat pioneer Fela Kuti — accompanied by Egypt 80, rocked the house with uptempo afro beat music.

Benicassim, 2017-08-13. Shaggy (Main Stage). Photo by: Lorenzo Scaldaferro © Rototom Sunsplash 2017.

Then came Dancehall sensation Shaggy. I’m not gonna lie, I must say I expected better from Shaggy. He started on point with two of his biggest classics “Boombastic,” and “Oh Carolina.” But then the show quickly became inconsistent. He displayed a lot of energy but at times I wasn’t sure to understand where he was going. For a little while, the DJ was playing some hip hop, and Shaggy was trying to hype up the crowd as if we were at a sound system.

Then, he performs “That Love,” followed by the big tune “My Angel.Right after that, he turned up the pressure with a hardcore rendition of “Church Heathen.” After that, you could only expect another big bad tune but instead he sung an insipid love song. By the end, he mostly performed recent Pop-flavoured songs, like “Seasons” (featuring OMI), “I Need Your Love (featuring Mohombi, Faydee, and Costi Ionita) and “Fly High” (feat Gary Nesta Pine).

At some point, towards the end, even the drummer looked bored. And Shaggy often paused between tracks and consulted his band as if they were planning what to play next on the fly. Besides, when he performed tracks like “Sexy Lady,” it would have been so much better if there were singjay on stage with him.

Day 3 – Monday 14th, August 2017

On the third night, Inna De Yard, represented by Kiddus I, Cedric Myron, Winston McAnuff, Derajah & Black Kush, was the first band to perform on the Main Stage. Their performance was alright. But it would have been so much better if Ken Boothe had blessed us with his presence. Moreover, Cedric Myton‘s characteristic voice is so divisive, you either completely love it or totally hate it.

Nevertheless, the musicians were very good. And, they performed some great tracks like “Black To I Roots” (Kush McAnuff), “Let The Water Run Dry” (Ken Boothe), “Malcolm X” (Winston McAnuff) and the classic “Rivers of Babylon.” Besides, at the end of their show, Winston McAnuff paid tribute to his son Matthew, who was gone to soon, by covering his tune “Be Careful.

Benicassim, 2017-08-14. Inna de Yard (Main Stage). Photo by: Patrick Albertini © Rototom Sunsplash 2017.

Don Carlos‘s show was pretty good. He was surrounded by top notch musicians. I must say, the brass section made the show even better. There’s no such thing as the warm and majestic sound of a trumpet to sublime the “Satta Massangana Riddim.” 

Day 4 – Tuesday 15th, August 2017

Toots and The Maytals got the crowd rocking and skanking to the frantic tempo of Ska music. Unfortunately, his band didn’t feature a brass section. So, instead of enjoying to the fullest the vibrant sound of a trumpet, we had to settle for a dull synth lead.

Nevertheless, their performance was pleasant. They played many of their 60’s classics such as “You Really Got Me,” Sweet and Dandy,” “What a Bam Bam.  Things also got groovy when Toots grabbed his guitar to play “Funky Kingston.” After an hour of concert, they left the stage, only to come back a couple minutes later for an encore. They started back slowly with “Love Is Gonna Let Me Down.”

Then, while performing “54-46 Was My Number,” Toots had fun with the audience with a call and answer game. He tried to trick us, going from 2 straight to 10. But the crowd was very attentive and played the game. He admitted it was the first time the audience actually does it 10 times in a row.

Around half past midnight, Ky-mani Marley and Gentleman, who have been touring for about a year to promote their album “Conversations,” came on the Main Stage. At the same time on the Lion Stage, Joseph Cotton was performing alongside Manu Digital.

Benicassim, 2017-08-15. Toots & The Maytals (Main Stage). Photo by: Carlo Crippa © Rototom Sunsplash 2017.