Reggae Rotterdam 2019
For the third time in a row, since 2017, Reggae Rotterdam was held at the beautiful setting of the Kralingse Bos with a beach what made the picture perfect. Reggae Rotterdam had a bit of a rough start in 2017 with a poor organization and a poor sound quality. There were also a lot of complaints about the noise. This was the reason that the one day festival was relocated at the Kralingse Bos.
The Festival drew a crowd this year of 18,000 people, who all had a great time. There was a lot of diversity in music and there was even entertainment for the kids. It was a gathering of reggae lovers of all kind of nationalities as are the inhabitants of Rotterdam. It all came together which was also very visible seeing the variety of food trucks (from Dutch Poffertjes to Jamaican Jerk Chicken).
The musical line up was on 3 stages:
Main Stage: The Wailers, Morgan Heritage, Alborosie, Barrington Levy, Wyclef Jean and UB40 (ft. Ali and Astro).
Dancehall Stage: DJ Moortje, Stone Bwoy, Sir David Rodigan (cancelled), Elephant Man and Spice.
Dub Stage: Drunken Lion Soundsystem, Flaav, Lee Scratch Perry (cancelled) and Aba Shanti I.
Because of my personal taste I did not attend the Dancehall Stage. But when walking around the park in between performances I saw some artists. We shortly watched a fantastic energizing performance by Elephant Man, dressed in gold spandex. He was backed by a soundsystem and firmly delivered his message to the waving and jumping crowd. The crowd went crazy and it was sure fun to watch. I was very keen on seeing Sir David Rodigan on this stage but because of travel difficulties he was not able to arrive on time to perform. I have read his biography. For more than 50 years he has been a true ambassador for preserving the reggae and dancehall legacy. As a white man he has become very famous amongst the mostly black soundsystem clash culture.
When we entered the park early in the afternoon, The Wailers were playing. They are now a second generation line-up with Aston Barret Jr. (son of original Wailer bassplayer Familyman Barret) on drums and, if I am informed correctly, a daughter of Judy Mowatt (original Wailers I Threes backing vocalist) on backing vocals. These Wailers play the best Wailers music. All the hits were played and the crowd loved it. “Three Little Birds” and “One Love” gave us all that One Love feeling for sure. Bob Marley is always around on t-shirts and flags. His music remains golden and is the blueprint for many of fans from all ages that were present in Rotterdam.
We then moved from the Main Stage to the Dub Stage. The Dub Stage started with Drunken Lion Soundsystem and was followed by Flaav. Both played a great selection of music. It was not all dub but mostly roots reggae from all ages. It truly became a dub stage when Aba Shanti parked his suitcase with cd’s but that’s later on here.
On the Main Stage Morgan Heritage was doing a slick show. The Morgan Heritage family (it consists mostly of family members) is around musically since 1994. The true leader is Roy “Gramps” Morgan on keyboard and vocals (who looks like Stevie Wonder and sounds like Beres Hammond). Next to him singer Peter Morgan and Mr.Mojo Morgan (percussion) also take lead. It is reggae with a bit of soul and pop influences that got a great response from the crowd. They even filmed their new single from the new album “Loyalty” which will be released next Friday. They ended the show with a great medley of dancehall tracks and their all time reggae anthem “Don’t haffi Dread”. Funny detail: I saw them in the Jamaican Food Corner afterwards enjoying the Jerk Chicken.
Morgan Heritage was followed by Italian/Jamaican Alborosie with dreadlocks so long they touched the ground. Alborosie is very active releasing and producing. He is one of those artists that still believes in the release of dub albums and he sticks to that. During his show he was supported by a fine band with two very entertaining backing vocalists. His chanting, toasting type of singing is something the people liked and when he got into some of his best songs like “Kingston Town” and “Herbalist” all hands went from left to right! At the end Wailers drummer Aston Barret jr. joined the band. He played along with a track of the 2018 released album “Unbreakable” which Alborosie recorded with The Wailers.
At that time the Festival planned 3 artist at the same time which we really wanted to see. On the Main Stage special guest Barrington Levy, at the Dancehall Stage David Rodigan and on the Dub Stage the upsetter himself Lee Scratch Perry. Rodigan and Perry were unable to come due to strikes at the London airport. They were replaced by sounds and artists that were around already and all was fine but I felt sorry for missing them.
So all our attention went to Barrington Levy. This 55-year “young” veteran brought a 4 piece band that laid the foundation firmly for his recognizable voice. He stepped in one classic after the other. I really loved his show. I never saw him perform and hearing classics like “Murder”, “Black Roses in my Garden” and “Prison Oval Rock” was a great joy. He was also enjoying himself by constantly asking the crowd if they were sleepy and if he could go home already. Barrington may have lost a bit of his golden voice but his deliverance was far better vocally than some others we saw perform this day.
The next artist performing on the Main Stage was surprisingly “Fugees” Wyclef Jean. He did a lot of Fugees songs and his solo works. We did not attend this performance but from what I heard it was a bit out of place on a reggae festival, but a reggae crowd is a peaceful crowd so they sang along with all of the songs.
In the meantime we were dubbically brainwashed by the British dub selector Aba Shanti I who, besides JAH Shaka and King Shiloh, has become a first order soldier of JAH operator. His way of playing a tune is unique. He plays one track for more than 20 minutes but in 4 of 5 different types of discoplate. All vintage Aba Shanti I. When he turned that special bass knob you felt the bass entering heavy. Very good dub, very good ending of the Dub Stage. Go see him at his best at the Notting Hill Gate Carnival in London this August. That is his home and that is where he is in the best of mood.
The day ended with UB40 (ft. Ali Campbell and Astro). As you probably know, there are two UB40 bands touring. Because of all sort of issues the brothers Robin and Ali split up a decade ago and so they are doing their UB duties separate. A UB40 show is a greatest hits show. They kicked off with “If it Happens Again” and ended with their greatest hit of all time: “Red Red Wine”. A great amount of people came out to see them and UB40 was the top attraction. The field was full to the back and everyone gave them their big love. Personally I was, like many others I know, introduced into reggae by UB40 music. I bought every record that came out in the early years. Love songs like “Homely Girl” and “Stick by Me” were followed by more conscious tracks like the mighty “One in Ten”. In the last month UB40 had to cancel some shows due to vocal problems of Ali. At this show you could hear his voice was still not 100% but the crowd carried him and sang them all together.
It was a great day. Good to see reggae is still alive and well. The power of this wonderful music is felt by the feeling of One Love. Next year will be there again!