17 August 2019
Abyssinians celebrate 50 years, Chronixx delivers his greatest Main Stage appearance yet, Lila Iké and Eva Lazarus burn with friendly fire.
The 26th Rototom Sunsplash festival opened its doors to reggae music’s founding fathers, rising daughters and heirs apparent in fine style.
Veteran Jamaican group The Abyssinians gave a fascinating talk in the University about their 50-year history, before bringing their close harmonies and deeply spiritual Amharic lyrics to the Main Stage. Founder member Donald Manning, aided by more recent additions George Henry and the son of Clancy Eccles, Clancy Junior, shared Rasta repatriation and judgement anthems Satta Amassagana, Yim Mas Gan, Declaration of Rights and Abendigo. In keeping with the festival’s theme of Stand Up For Earth, climate change activists gathered at the front of the stage beating drums pre-performance.
Another participant in the university discussions was Protoje-prodigy Lila Iké – who discussed female reggae representation in a packed tent, with fellow Indiggnation-signing Sevana and Sister Maryjane of Madrid’s Emeterians. Dressed all in lime green on the Main Stage, she covered Garnett Silk’s Mama Africa as well as her own Second Chance on the Love Fire/Promised Land rhythm and unreleased track Sweet Motivation (on Gunman). The size and volume of the crowd suggest a Main Stage headliner of the future.
Female energy burned brightly over on the Lion Stage. Bristol singer, rapper and all-things-between, Eva Lazarus, also in green, made her usual big impact. Backed by members of last year’s Lion Stage heroes, Royal Sounds, she summoned hands and lighters to the sky as she showcased recent Mungo’s HiFi album, More Fyah.
Fresh from his UK tour, Chronixx returned to Rototom for a triumphant performance that topped previous Main Stage outings in 2014 and 2017. Starting with one-drop crowd pleasers of his early career, he diversified into the boundary pushing debut album Chronology then raised the tempo for a dancehall finale. “Reggae music!” he cried throughout, showing that it was all one music to him. From Smile Jamaica to Capture Land (which became the Wailers’ Walk The Proud Land) to Ghetto Paradise to Spanish Town Rocking, the multifaceted island of Jamaica was reappraised. From Spanish Town to Spain, Chronixx delivered.
Back on the Lion Stage, things got seriously trippy and pan-Caribbean with the psychedelic effects, soaring vocals and thudding bass of Puerto Rico’s International Dub Ambassadors. Meanwhile fans of British reggae were offered a tough choice for post stage revelry. Dub master Mad Professor mixed Lion Youth’s Rat A Cut Bottle on Jah Tubbys sound at the Dub Academy. Stylo G chanted his chart hit Calle Me A Yardie over Bob Marley’s Could You Be Loved in the dancehall. Asher G spun his treasure chest of rocksteady, ska and early reggae artefacts in the Caribbean Uptempo area – filling the night with joy.