20 August 2018
Before the invention of ska Jamaican musicians were in thrall to the sounds of big band jazz. On the Sunday of Rototom’s quarter century, in honour of his own 40th year in the music business, David Rodigan y la Outlook Orchestra brought those fulsome arrangements to the cornerstones of his record collection.
Sunday’s audience contained many families. And the first show of the day was an intergenerational tribute to the militant Wailer Peter Tosh. His son Andrew sang over music by Tosh’s former keyboardist Keith Sterling and the UK’s drum and bass answer to Sly and Robbie – Mafia and Fluxy. Andrew entered the stage on his customary unicycle. “Rasta can’t dead” he said of his departed dad, hailing Sterling as “My father’s musical director”. Clad all in white, he sounded like a mellow version of Peter, reproducing his classics Stepping Razor, African, Equal Rights, Downpresser Man and Legalise it, gradually drawing in more crowd as the set went on.
Next up was Madrid’s hip hop influenced reggae artist Morodo. Very popular in the Spanish speaking world, his Buju-inspired grainy-toned vocals and rock infused band were a wake-up call after the mellow vibes of the Tosh tribute. He too showed respect for the foundation, riding a vintage Studio 1 rhythm for his Tony Rebel combination Jah Is Always Around. Like Tosh, he stood up for smokers – denying they were criminals before Fuma Marhiuana. Later, he thanked the Rototom massive saying they helped Spanish reggae to grow.
Also on a hip hop meets reggae tip – with an extra dose of lyricism – was Jamaican microphone wordsmith Kabaka Pyramid. Touring after the 2018 release of his long-awaited Damian Marley album Kontraband, he and his Bebble Rockers band made an impact as they did when he last appeared in 2016. But this time Kabaka had new material to share: Make Way, Can’t Breathe and the title track – as well as a cover of Tenor Saw’s Ring The Alarm that displayed his increasingly melodic direction.
Sunday ended with the dual anniversary celebration – the 25th year of Rototom and the 40th of legendary radio and clashing selector Rodigan. In honour of both, he curated his favourite ska, rocksteady, reggae and dancehall platters, set to the flowing instrumentation of the Outlook Orchestra. In a charming touch, he saluted the pre Benicassim roots of Rototom by telling them he still knew the Italian for “lighters”. Joining him was an all British cast of vocal guests: Friday’s Main Stage headliner Bitty McLean, last night’s Lion Stage star Hollie Cook, plus dancehall emcee entertainer Tippa Irie and chameleon like singer Kiko Bun.