Things looking up for Uppsala festival
Yared “Yaredurf” Tekeste (left), founder and chief organiser of Uppsala ReggaeFestival in Sweden, and his wife Adiam Kubrom (second right), pose with singersHorace Andy (second left) and Johnny Osbourne in 2019.

THE lifeblood for many Jamaican artistes, the European summer reggae festival circuit, has taken a hit since the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020.

One of that region's prominent events is the Uppsala Reggae Festival in Sweden. Because of the pandemic, it has not been held in traditional form since 2019.

That may change this year, according to founder and chief organiser Yared “Yaredurf” Tekeste.

“Yes, one way or another there will be an Uppsala Reggae Festival this year,” he told the Jamaica Observer. “The last 'real' festival was held 2019 — meaning, with full audience capacity. [In] 2020 we and Reggae Jam from Germany joined forces and produced a last-minute, eight-hour virtual festival from Harry J Studio [in Kingston]. [In] 2021 we decided to have a combination of a real festival with limited patrons in Uppsala and strictly streamed the show from Harry J again. We alternated streaming in real time from both stages.”

Even though Sweden has some of the least-stringent COVID-19 restrictions, the music scene there and in other Scandinavian countries has taken a hit.

Like their counterparts in Germany (Summer Jam), Spain (Rototom Sunsplash) and Geel in Belgium, Yaredurf and his team have had to put their multi-artiste outdoor festivals on hold for the past two years.

Held in August, the Uppsala event has officially been a festival since 2001. Prior, it was a regular show headlined by a popular Jamaican artiste, supported by regional acts.

The turning point came in 1998.

“I had booked a young Anthony B for a show [and] he said, 'Uncle, how long are you going to book us for venue shows? You should start a festival.' Right there he planted the seed, and the year after we had our first major outdoor show with Burning Spear that lit the torch for what has now been going on for 20 years,” said Yaredurf.

Uppsala has long outgrown its status as an intimate gathering of reggae fans. The festival's best year was 2007 when 23,500 fans turned out to see acts like Anthony B, Bunny Wailer, Buju Banton, and Capleton.

Yaredurf is originally from Eritrea in East Africa. He started in music during the mid-1970s as a sound system selector, playing funk, soul and reggae.

After attending Bob Marley concerts in Gröna Lund, Sweden, his focus switched entirely to reggae. In 1979 he went on tour with British reggae band Misty In Roots, which indirectly opened the door for his career as a show promoter.

“It was actually 1989 when a promoter wanted to book Misty In Roots in Sweden. The manager asked him to do the booking through me, so that's how I got involved in booking reggae and promotion of shows. Since then I have produced shows in Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America,” said the East African.

Yaredurf operates the Uppsala Reggae Festival with his wife Adiam Kubrom, their daughter Malayka and his brother Saul.

A section of the audience attending a previous staging of Uppsala Reggae Festival in Sweden is pictured here.
BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

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