Reggae Geel 2022
When: August 5 & 6, 2022
Where: Geel, Belgium
Reporter: Mr. T & Teacher
Photos: Teacher & Da Dreamer – Edited by Teacher@ReggaeVibes
Copyright: 2022 – Reggae Vibes
Any use of any photos or artwork contained herein -without prior authorization- is strictly prohibited.
The Return Of Reggae Geel
After a forced hiatus due to Covid-19, Europe’s longest-running reggae festival returned to the, by many fans, well-known grounds in the outskirts of the small Belgian town of Geel – hence the name Reggae Geel – on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 August. For its 42nd edition, the festival promoters have – as usual – managed to put acts on their bill that represent a wide range of genres within reggae music, thus serving the musical taste of almost everyone who attended the festival. Reggae, Dancehall, Dub, Rocksteady, and Lovers Rock could be heard on the various stages – Main stage, 18inch Corner, Bounce Dancehall, and Tallawah – that are located on the festival grounds. And even the currently very popular Afrobeat was represented on the Main stage (Davido & The Compozers) as well as in the Bounce Dancehall.
Besides acts like Beres Hammond, Luciano, Third World, Christopher Ellis, Morgan Heritage, Agent Sasco, Horace Andy, Romain Virgo, Christopher Martin, Samory I, Lila Iké, Winston Francis, and African Head Charge that already performed – one or more times – at Reggae Geel, artists such as Mortimer, Kranium, Misty In Roots, Marcus Gad, D’Yani, and The Chosen Few made their debut at the festival. For obvious (financial?) reasons no real crowd-pullers – like for example in recent times Buju Banton and Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley – as headliners, but with Christopher Martin & Romain Virgo (for the first time sharing the stage in Europe) on Friday and Beres Hammond on Saturday as headliners there’s not much to complain about, is there.
Due to known reasons, no Reggae Geel for a long period of time, gave you the feeling that you first needed some time to get used to entering a festival site again and getting into the mood to catch a vibe. This, however, didn’t last long. It actually was the first artist of the evening, Samory I, who instantly made us feel irie and ‘at home again’. Besides that, it was also good to meet and greet people – Henry ‘Matic Horns’ Tenyue, Winston Francis, Trish of Roots Rockers Promotions, Nicky Ezer of Culture Promotions, Mama Suzie, Jef Luyckx, etc. – we haven’t seen and spoken for such long time.
On Friday, the Main stage happened the place to be with fully satisfying performances by Samory I, Mortimer, Christopher Ellis, Luciano, and Christopher Martin & Romain Virgo. Vibrant Jamaican Roots Reggae artist Samory I made a great impression when he performed with the Black Heart Band at De Warande in Turnhout back in 2018. As opener of this year’s Reggae Geel festival, he once again showed huge potential and managed to impress. Unlike many other Jamaican artists he’s not highly prolific, which means that he’s focused on quality over quantity and thus he hardly delivers a song that disappoints. Backed by a tight-playing band, it was a real joy to see Samory I treating the crowd to some massive tunes – definitely a highlight of the 42nd edition of Reggae Geel.
Samory I was followed by Mortimer, a promising Jamaican singer with an enthralling voice who was performing in Europe for the very first time. After having performed at Paradiso in Amsterdam the day before as support act of Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley, this was his fourth performance on European soil after having graced the stages at the Uppsala Festival in Sweden and Reggae Jam in Germany. It was clear that Mortimer’s performance was much anticipated by many reggae fans in front of the stage. And he surely didn’t let them down as he lived up to expectations.
After a change-over, another young artist going by the name of Christopher Ellis graced the stage. The soulful singer, the youngest son of ‘The King of Rocksteady’ and ‘Godfather of Reggae’, the late Alton Ellis, surely carries the torch of his legendary father. His top-notch vocals can be heard on hits such as English, Here We Are, Still Go A Dance, and [his current hit single] Rub A Dub, which of course were featured on his setlist. And, as usual, he did a medley of his father’s classic hit songs including Get Ready Rock Steady, Let Him Try, Breaking Up, and I’m Still In Love With You.
While Christopher Ellis’ performance was the second highlight of the evening, Luciano’s was the third. The one they call the ‘Messenjah’ hardly ever disappoints and although having seen him perform numerous times it’s still a great experience to watch him perform on stage and hear him bringing upful vibes with timeless songs like He Is My Friend, Your World & Mine and the killer tune Messenger. Although he is known as a gifted songwriter, he surprised the audience (and us too!) with inspired cover versions of Frankie Paul’s Pass The Tu-Sheng-Peng and Dennis Brown’s Deliverance, the latter he recorded years ago for Mad Professor. His strong live renditions of tunes such as Sweep Over My Soul, For The Leaders and Serve Jah confirmed once more that Luciano is still one of Jamaica’s top performers.
Then back to the Main stage, where young guns Christopher Martin & Romain Virgo were mashing up the place with their energetic show to much delight of a predominantly young audience. It was hit after hit that they performed including Mussi Mad, We No Worry ‘Bout Them and Baby I Love You. Their fresh and blazing performance was 100% appreciated by the audience, which in turn had a positive repercussion on their performance. Of course their mega-hit Leave People Business was loudly sung along, but also Romain Virgo’s Soul Provider and Christoper Martin’s Cheaters Prayer were enthusiastically received by the audience. Both singers were outstanding and responsible for the fourth highlight of day 1 at Reggae Geel.
Due to other obligations, it wasn’t until Misty In Roots had entered the Main stage that we arrived. Immediately we were confronted with the rule that in the photo area in front of the main stage one could only take photos during the first three songs – a rule also applicable on the first day but not executed by the people in charge. There have to be rules, no doubt about it, but this particular area is causing problems for many years by now. Why give people with smartphone access to this area to take pics and make videos and ban the ‘professional’ photographers during a long part of an artist’s performance? This simply doesn’t make sense! It would be a good thing if the Reggae Geel organization would think of a way to prevent people from entering the photo area whose only intention is to have photos and video of artists on their smartphones. Fingers crossed it will be much better arranged in the future.
On the second day, there were a few good performances on the Main stage, which included Agent Sasco and – not really surprising – veteran Beres Hammond. And, according to those who attended their performances in the afternoon, also Marcus Gad & Tribe and Lila Iké should be credited as artists who delivered a truly worthwhile performance. While UK roots reggae band Misty In Roots and also Morgan Heritage feat. Laza Morgan delivered a decent set, Kranium – a representative of the new ‘dancehall’ generation – didn’t impress us at all. After a totally boring 15 minutes, we went for a drink that tasted much better than Kranium’s offerings. Agent Sasco then showed his younger musical colleague how to get the crowd in a frenzy with songs such as Stronger, Hand Inna Di Air, Nothing At All, and a short part of Amazing, his wicked collab song with Voltage & Shy Fx. Especially his live performance of Idiot Thing That, his lick of the Steps riddim, and one of his most played hits, managed to bring the audience into ecstasy.
From the Main stage to the Tallawah stage, the since 2019 combined Skaville and Yard stages. It didn’t happen during the first year of Tallawah, but now we actually missed the separate stages. The Skaville was a perfect spot to satisfy our nostalgic feelings with artists like The Silvertones, Dave Barker, The Heptones, and The Pioneers, while the Yard almost always caused nuff excitement by hosting lesser known but very talented acts like No-Maddz, Hempress Sativa, The Hempolics, and Exile Di Brave to name a few. Now, The Chosen Few, Winston Francis, and African Head Charge feat. Adrian Sherwood were the artists to check at the Tallawah stage.
The Chosen Few with lead vocalist Franklin Spence joined by two harmony singers are around in reggae business for many many years. Their music is a treat for Ska and Rocksteady fans which the soulful trio underlined with their performance after an almost 45 minutes lasting soundcheck. Many songs familiar to the ears of the crowd in front of the stage came along including Don’t Stay Out Late, Ebony Eyes, and In The Rain. Nuff niceness with the Chosen Few’s trip down memory lane.
Next stop the 18inch Corner to see Horace Andy perform on Sound with Adrian Sherwood playing the riddims of the singer’s latest album Midnight Rocker and manipulating the knobs. Physically looking as the old man he is, but vocally he’s still in good shape. Given the cartload of self-written top-notch songs, he had no trouble enthralling the fanatic public with true Jamaican classics like Mr. Bassie, Skylarking, and Fever. Songs such as Zion Gate , Every Tongue Shall Tell, and Guiding Star were received and applauded with equal, if not more, enthusiasm. Without a doubt, Horace Andy and Adrian Sherwood’s performance in the 18inch Corner was one of the second day’s highlights.
It is certainly worth mentioning that the Reggae Geel organisation strives to deal with the environment in an appropriate manner, through the use of the ‘ecoin’ and targeted information. The result was that the festival site was only minimally polluted. Thumbs up for Reggae Geel!