23 August 2019
In 2009 Rototom Sunsplash made the emotional decision to relocate to Spain. Ten years later, the festival celebrated this landmark move with a poignant but joyous showcase for the Spanish reggae scene.
One collective who have been a crucial part of this journey is Alavan and Catalonian reggae and dancehall group Green Valley. To close the final day on the Main Stage, genuine-voiced singer Ander Valverde and the band gave a special two hour performance. As well as playing their own music to an appreciative local and international audience, they invited a procession of guests to the stage including Swan Fyahbwoy, Macaco, Morodo, Rapsusklei, Emma Youth, Chalart’58, Belen Natali, Awa Fall, Matah and High Paw. A particularly moving moment was the rendering of Green Valley’s song Donde Iran, about the treatment of African migrants and refugees, after their documentary on the issue was screened at the Social Forum earlier in the week.
Multiple cameos were also in order earlier on the Main Stage for the 40th anniversary showcase for the cast of Ted Bafaloukos’ classic reggae film Rockers. Drummer and lead actor Leroy Horsemouth Wallace (who was celebrating his birthday and asserted his considerable personality at that day’s University discussion) gave his famous speech warning that “Babylon Shall Fall”. Pioneering Rasta deejay Big Youth removed his hat to flash his locks during Hit The Road Jack. Smooth-voiced singer, and supporter of the festival’s environmental theme, Kiddus I sang his mystic Graduation In Zion. The band included Lloyd Parks on bass – who took lead vocals on his own hits Mafia and Officially. Harmonies were supplied by the group Kushart, who had performed on the same stage in 2017 as part of the Silvertones.
Female energy was in evidence on both the Main and Lion stages. Rasta poet and singer Jah9 returned to Rototom, chanting over the sparse dub-scapes of her stripped-down band. She was all poise and confidence for empowering breakout anthems New Name, Avocado, and Steamers A Bubble, as well as more recent material like Love Has Found I and new track, To Each His Own.
On the Lion Stage, Women Soldier, a special show organised by Barcelonan producer Chalart’58, was dedicated four very talented but different female singers: Belen Natali, Awa Fall, Matah and High Paw. Chalart played crisp digital dub productions from his laptop, while the squad of Women Soldiers delivered fierce vocal performances from their 2018 album of the same name.
The Lion Stage completed its journey through some of the most diverse and unmissable moments of the festival. The New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble got people moving their feet with a horn-drenched up-tempo excursion into the close links between Jamaican and American big band music of the 50s and 60s. Of course, a recut of Take Five in reggae was mandatory. Meanwhile, the Dancehall was charmed by the angelic voice and colourful language of New York based Jamaican singer, Kranium.
Special mention should be given to the festival’s smaller areas. The Caribbean Uptempo, the Jumping and the African Village all provided lively entertainment away from the big stages across all seven days.
Emotions were high as the 26th edition of the festival ended its week of strong performances, environmental and social messages, and happy memories. We hope you will join us next year…