22 August 2018
Reggae music’s international appeal was in full force on the Tuesday of Rototom’s 25th anniversary edition. Catalonia, New Zealand and Italy each sent own top exponents of the Jamaican creation.
Barcelona’s Green Valley returned once again to the Main Stage. Singer Ander Valverde (whose surname gives the group their name) has a sweet voice not unlike that of Bitty McLean. It was matched by the sweetness of the flute playing on their track Suspiros – which the crowd knew word for word. Their mixing engineer was Chalart58 of the LaPanchita label – from the same Barça scene. Valverde sang a few a capella lines of a song from their forthcoming new album. The message was one of welcome for refugees (chiming with the aims of Open Arms Project – Rototom’s on-site affiliated charity).
The multi-artist showcase has been a daily feature of 2018’s festival. Tuesday’s extravaganza was a tribute to the reggae of Italy. The Italian Reggae All Stars featured the feminist lyrics of Pordenone’s Michaela Grena; Raiz, hulking Neapolitan lead singer of Almamegretta; silky-voiced classic Wailers and Alton Ellis covers of Piancenzan-born crossover star Nina Zilli; the Lord Creator and The Move covers of Milan’s soulful ska singer Giuliano Palma; and the well-known Italian reggae anthems of long-locked Torino veteran Bunna from Africa Unite. The band tirelessly backing them all was Sardinia’s Train To Roots – whose own Hot Situation and Roadblock were among the best moments of the night. Cameos came from Rome’s Raina and Milan hornsman Mr T Bone. Everyone joined together to sing Rivers of Babylon at the end.
The Italian connection continued with a short but super strong set by Pordenone’s Mellow Mood. The precise harmonies of twins Jacopo and Lorenzo Garzia, the pin-point accuracy of their musicians and the sonic wizardly of producer/engineer Paolo Baldini demonstrated how far the group have come since winning the 2009 Rototom Italian reggae contest. A highlight was the heartfelt Ms Mary, written about Jacopo’s hostile ex-landlady, from latest album Large.
The post-midnight, moonlight slot was given over to the unflappably sunny disposition of New Zealand’s Fat Freddy’s Drop. With cool ease and crisp sound, they started by laying the foundations with slow undulating live mixed dub, and built up with the gradual intensity of techno until they reached their trademark bouncy horn-drenched rap reggae funk. Their propulsive carefree jazzy vibes left the crowd in a joyful state of relaxation