Festival Hunt

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

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FOR those in the dark, there is a roots-reggae renaissance taking place in Jamaica, akin to the Rasta boom that erupted during the 1970s.

Some of its leading lights performed at the Bamboo Joint show in St Andrew Saturday. Like similar events in recent months, it drew an enthusiastic, distinctly middle-class crowd. In the audience were booking agents from some of the major European reggae festivals, scouting artistes for their 2015 shows which take place during the summer.

They saw robust performances from the Uprising Roots Band, Exile Di Brave, Dexta Malawi and Keino. Dee-Danielle Pater of Belgium's Reggae Geel Festival, spoke to the Jamaica Observer about the impact some of these acts have in that country. "They like this new movement. A couple of years ago, we had a lot of dancehall with no roots coming through, so this is a good development for the music," she said.

At 37, Geel is the oldest European reggae festival, attracting 55,000 fans last year. Protoje, Raging Fyah, Jesse Royal, NoMaddz and Dre Island performed on the 2014 show. Pater did not disclose any potential artistes for this year’s show, but said Jamaican reggae has hit a nerve in young Belgians.

"It’s part of the sub-culture, especially in Brussels and Antwerp." Geel may be the oldest, but the eight-day Rototom Sunsplash in Benicassim, Spain is the biggest reggae festival in Europe. Sabrina Provant approved most of the acts at Bamboo Joint. "About three years ago, we start to see this new movement and we are excited," she said.

In 2014, Rototom had several of the leading roots renaissance players on their bill, including Jah9, Chronixx, Micah Shamaiah and Exile Di Brave. It was the first time many fans in Europe were seeing some of these artistes. "Reggae is an underground music in Europe, but these artistes are still getting a lot of attention," she said. "At the same time, we try not to have the same artistes every year."

European festivals have been a happy hunting ground for reggae artistes for over 30 years. Bob Marley and Burning Spear were trailblazers in the 1970s; Toots and The Maytals, The Wailers, Culture, The Gladiators, The Mighty Diamonds, Pablo Moses and Israel Vibration are some of the prominent reggae acts in Europe over the last 20 years.

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