Reggae Geel 2018 – Hot Red Gold & Green Vibez

by Aug 9, 2018Articles, Report

Reggae Geel 2018


When: August 3-4, 2018

Where:  Geel, Belgium

Reporter: Teacher & Mr. T

Photos: Teacher & DaDreamer

Videos : Teacher & You Tube

Copyright:  2018 – Reggae Vibes

What started as a local Reggae party in the late 1970s has evolved into an internationally known and respected annual two-day Reggae festival that draws people from far and wide. This year Belgium’s Reggae Geel festival celebrated its 40th edition with artists, bands, and sound systems spread across five stages on Friday 3rd and Saturday August 4th 2018. During these two sizzling hot summer days Reggae fans and music lovers of all ages were offered a kaleidoscope of Reggae styles, which all together make up the history of Jamaica’s popular music.

With five stages (Main Stage, 18″ Corner, Bounce Dancehall, Skaville Circus, and The Yard), it’s almost impossible to catch everything this really big festival has to offer, so making choices is simply inevitable.

After having entered the festival grounds on Friday night, our first stop was the main stage, where roots singer Chezidek had made way for Mista Savona’s project Havana Meets Kingston with experienced Jamaican session guitarist Winston ‘Boo Pee’ Bowen (a.o. Roots Radics, Aggrovators, Revolutionaries, We The People) and very gifted singer Randy Valentine in the ranks. Good musicians and good vocalists made their performance a real treat for the eyes and ears. Besides that the infectious (often Salsa-fueled) music also urged people to move their dancing feet. No complaint about the quality of this performance, but one can raise the question if it was a good move to feature this project on the Reggae Geel festival. Pretty sure the opinions about this are divided.

During the period 1981-84 Yellowman was Reggae’s figurehead – the King of the dancehall, but those years are long gone. His Sagitarius Band showed that they are still at the top of the game, which however – sorry for his faithful fans – can’t be said about Yellowman. Yes, physically the 62-year-old is still in good shape and once on stage he made a very energetic impression, but vocally he has reached his all-time low, which was painful to witness. It didn’t hold back the crowd from reacting enthousiastically and from singing along with his hits. Then Shabba Ranks, who became Ragga’s international icon ten years after Yellowman started his kingdom, was far better by voice. Backed by the Ruff Kut band (whose experience includes backing up every single artist at entire music festivals), Friday’s headliner impressed throughout. He gave the people what they wanted – hit after hit: “Love Punany Bad”, “Mr Loverman”, Winey Winey”, “Just Reality”, “Ting A Ling”, “Twice My Age”, etc. – and got the excited crowd in a frenzy.

In between the two dancehall veterans and Barrington Levy, the stage was for Romain Virgo, a representative of the young generation of popular reggae singers. The winner of the 2007 edition of Jamaica’s Digicel Rising Stars competition is blessed with a great voice, which – five years after his last performance at Reggae Geel – he once again fully showcased. Expertly backed by his tight playing band with a great young saxophonist, Romain Virgo delivered a thoroughly engaging set that consisted of almost all his big hits including “Mi Caan Sleep”, “Leave People Business”, “Mussi Mad”, “Rich In Love”, “Love Doctor”, “Taking You Home” and “Another, Day Another Dollar”. Reggae’s Mellow Canary, Barrington Levy started off in a way his long-time fans want him to, but unfortunately he lost it a bit from the moment he started to do an accapella song. Anyway, it was good to hear him perform classic songs like “Murderer”, “Minibus”, “Prison Oval Rock”, “Under Sixteen”, “Black Roses” and “Here I Come”.

Then The Yard stage. Since its start in 2013 this has become the most fascinating and most innovative stage of the festival, especially for Reggae fans who aren’t visiting the festival for its crowd-pleasers alone. With talents such as Micah Shemaiah, Exile Di Brave, No-Maddz, Samory I, Hempress Sativa, and The Hempolics having graced this stage during previous editions, it’s obvious that anyone with an interest in artists unknown to a large audience can’t ignore The Yard. Besides that long-time visitors of Reggae Geel experience a vibe reminiscent of editions that took place in the late ’80s/early ’90s. As expected Chainska Brassika, the Ska-fueled energetic Reggae and Dub band from South East London, made the crowd get up and dance and gave them a real good time.

The band to really look forward to was Royal Sounds from London. This young family based Reggae Roots band created waves in 2017 with their impressive debut album called “Burning Inspiration”. So what a great joy it was to see them perform on the Yard stage and what’s more, Royal Sounds fully lived up to expectations. A real treat for all Reggae aficionados in attendance of their refreshing set. Their performance made clear that they are ready for a place on the main stage of any Reggae festival. Afterwards guitarist Gyasi shared that they are working on a new studio album with Mad Professor, which is due for release on the Ariwa label in January 2019.

Another artist we were eager to see perform in The Yard was Belgium’s premier reggae artist, the international underrated Collieman whose early 2018 released excellent sophomore album “Jungle Code” should be part of any true reggae fan’s collection. Backed by his own band called The Collective, which features the cream of the crop of Belgian musicians and two female backing vocalists, it’s obvious that compared with his days with the Asham Band he comes with a new sound. The seemingly at ease looking singer gave a fully satisfying show with nuff songs to fulljoy. In particular a tune called “Music Farmer” – not included on the “Jungle Code” album – was one of the set’s highlights.

Saturday’s programme started at 1pm with respectively Samory I, Kabaka Pyramid, Stonebwoy, Fyakin and Etana at the main stage. However it wasn’t until Horace Andy had taken the main stage that we arrived (later than expected due to a traffic jam caused by an accident) at the festival grounds. Unfortunately too late to capture Johnny Clarke, who according to what we heard, had done a good show. Luckily we were in time for Horace Andy’s set, which took us down memory lane with classics such as “Zion Gate”, “Don’t Let Problems Get You Down”, “Skylarking”, “Leave Rasta”, “Fever”, Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Every Tongue Shall Tell”. Horace Andy (and also Johnny Clarke) was expertly backed by the Dub Asante band, which next to the omnipresent Henry Buttons aka Matic Horns and guitarist Steven Wright featured Cyrus Richards on keyboards and Jahmel {Talliss} Ellison on bass. Exactly 20 years ago these two musicians played on Reggae Geel’s main stage with their own band, The Rasites.

Protoje can be called a regular as this year it was his fourth appearance at Reggae Geel since 2012. Over the past years the powerful songwriter and fine singer, who recently put out his genre-bending new album “A Matter Of Time”, and his militant band The In.Digg.Nation have gained a lot of live experience, which makes that they hardly ever disappoint and Protoje’s performance at the 40th edition of Reggae Geel was no exception. To the obvious delight of the crowd he gave them songs like the popular “Like This”, “Blood Money”, “Criminal”, “Rasta Love”, “Hail Ras Tafari”, “No Guarantee”, “Who Knows” and the massive “Kingston Be Wise” to name a few.

Talking about Protoje, The Yard stage welcomed uprising artist Lila Iké, the new face of female Reggae who’s part of Protoje’s In.Digg.Nation collective. Surprising, or perhaps not that surprising at all, was Protoje and members of The In.Digg.Nation attending her show with backing of King Horror Sound System. Protoje even joined her on stage to perform their successful collaboration tune “Sudden Flight”. The fragile looking young songstress with the soulful voice left a decent impression and underlined that she’s definitely an artist to watch for in the near future. Also good to see Geel’s own Bong Productions in The Yard, with selector Rootstuff and MC Charlie Bong mainly spinning their dubplate specials from the ’90s.

On the main stage Cocoa Tea followed up Protoje. The veteran singer didn’t let his many fans down as he delivered a fully satisfying 45 minutes lasting set in which he came up with many classic songs from his extensive catalogue including “Tune In”, Waiting In Vain”, “Rastaman” and “Israel’s King”. At the end of the latter he made a kind of statement by asking the people if they wanted more, and then saying they should ask the promotor to give him 45 minutes more so he can bring them more hits.

Anthony B, made his European debut at Reggae Geel in 1997. Twenty-one years later, and meanwhile having performed at the festival several times more, the Original Fireman was back again and greeted with much approval when he entered the stage like a whirlwind. The crowd then was treated to a well varied set of songs which included “Freedom Fighter”, “World A Reggae Music”, “Reggae Soul Sister”, “King In My Castle”, “There’s A Reward For Me”, “My Yes And My No”, “Too Much Guns”, and “Police”.

Why Sly & Robbie’s Taxi Gang with Bitty McLean & Johnny Osbourne were Saturday’s headliners is everyone’s guess. It would have been more appropriate to have them scheduled in the early evening hours. Now they had to follow up Anthony B, an artist who is known for his ability to really mash up the place (as he proved with his performance). This certainly can’t be expected from Bitty MCLean and Johnny Osbourne, although it must be said that they delivered a superb show. After the warm-up part by the Taxi Gang it was Junior Natural who vocally got things going with “Soldiers” from his “Militant” album, before Bitty McLean took over. He’s a great singer and love songs like “In And Out Of Love” and “Walk Away From Love” are simply a great joy to hear. Totally different vocal style, but also good to hear is Johnny Osbourne singing his all-time classics. They included “Reasons”,”Yo Yo”, “Ice Cream Love” and “Truths And Rights”. And then, to top it off, there was also the wicked new version of Johnny Osbourne’s “Jahoviah”, done in combination with Bitty McLean.

We also took some time to check Pat Kelly in the Skaville Circus, where the veteran who sat on a stool could barely be seen in the darkness due to the lack of sufficient spotlights to light up the stage. Physically this singer from the ’60s and ’70s isn’t in good shape anymore. And this also goes for his voice as was witnessed when doing songs like “You Don’t Care” and “Wish It Would Rain”. In the Bounce Dancehall it was King Addies, but in paricular Freddy Krueger who caused nuff excitement and set the place on fire.

All in all this was a real nice and entertaining 40th edition of Reggae Geel. Already looking forward to the next one in 2019.