21 August 2018
Since they started their journeys in reggae 25 years ago, Alborosie and Rototom’s stories have been linked. He won the 1998 reggae contest, has headlined multiple times, and created the anthem Rototom Free to soundtrack the festival’s move from Italy to Spain. Monday night on the Main Stage saw them celebrating each other.
The Monday boasted one of the most heavyweight line-ups of this anniversary Rototom edition. Few festival stages have opened with an artist of the calibre of Jamaican crooner Beres Hammond. Backed by cream musicians from his Harmony House band, the soulful singer garnered an audibly warm response as bats flitted under a waxing moon. This was down to the quality of songs like Feel Good, Tempted To Touch, and Can You Play Some More, and the immortal foundation rhythms on which he writes. Hammond was followed by a consummate set from younger Jamaican star Protoje. Like his friend Kabaka the night before, he has an impressive new album A Matter of Time out this year. The fresh material – Flames and No Guarantee featuring the sampled voice of Chronixx, and an instantly embraced Like This – blended with favourites Who Knows and Kingston Be Wise. “We drove 25 hours from Amsterdam to be here” announced Protoje. The roar of the now massive crowd said it all. Protoje and his Indiggnation band’s shows are always precise – but tonight could be their summer peak. Italian reggae export to Jamaica, Alborosie – whose name is almost synonymous with Rototom – promised something special for his and the festival’s joint 25th year mark. He invited several guest contributors to his latest album Unbreakable. Mid-set he summoned Duane Stephenson – a writer on the project – to sing his own hit August Town. Then he brought out Tyrone Downie, Junior Marvin and Aston Barrett Junior of the Wailers to bolster his Shengen band. There was also a quick cameo from Protoje – who danced while Albo linked studio to stage with a live dub mix. A late surprise was Kabaka Pyramid, who mysteriously hung back from joining Protoje earlier, spitting bars on Kingston Town.