19 August 2016
After many years of insistence, Manu Chao accepted the invitation to play at Rototom Sunsplash and without doubt were anticipating a memorable evening of the highest calibre. Some hours before the concert started, the crowd had grown so big that the decision had to be made to close access, hanging the first “sold out” sign in 23 years in the history of the festival, in an area that had never before been limited, even with some of the most popular reggae artists in the world.
Facing the panorama of crowd full of energy that even tested the structures of the festival, Manu got on stage with his band just after midnight. Breezes marked the beginning of full lungs and distorted guitars introduced rock & roll to a place it had not been before. The generous two-hour show was truly explosive: Manu was having lots of fun on stage and the energy he gave the crowd resulted in some of the most intense dancing and applauses that have ever been heard at the festival. The bands that played before on the stage also played with much more energy than usual. Sr. Wilson appeared for the first song to break the ice, giving a bit more of a reggae vibe to the musical mix originating from Galicia. Later on, Nandu Popu from Sud Sound System also joined in, emphasising the show even further. Jamaican music has always been an influence for Manu Chao and a testament to this was the masterful rendition of Clandestino, along with the rest of his repertoire. As usual, there were many references to the early part of Manu’s early career in the forms of songs from Mano Negra, such as King Kong Five.
The night’s festivities, that will always be remembered for its huge crowd, started with an impeccable concert from Tarrus Riley , accompanied by the marvellous saxaphone of Dean Fraser and preceded by the soul and reggae stylings of the talented Alaine. This fascinating singer demonstrated that the Jamaican tradition of singers who display unusual vocal abilities is still very much alive. Meanwhile, Dean Fraser lead the band, playing sensational sax lines and, last but not least, added his voice to the chorus. Tarrus also showed showed his class and positivity with more of a focus on pop than usual. Rebel kicked off his repertoire under the banner of classic reggae and continued to flow through Love contagious, his version of Human nature by Michael Jackson. He then did a moving version of Lion Paw, until the inevitable conclusion of She’s royal and the song Good girl gone bad, which had fans of the genre in front of the stage dancing.
Just before Manu Chao’s show, we were witness to the Sunsplash debut of the French toaster Biga Ranx, a little more than a year after the release of his new album; Nightbird. Biga kept up the high energy pace of this special night with his instinctive vocal style and his music inspired by dub, electronic music and above all, by 90’s Jamaican digital dancehall, which is again booming thanks to the efforts of several young European producers. After the evening last night, which will be fondly remembered, there are very high expectations for the weekend that awaits us and will bring and end to this 23rd edition.