With a festival of the size and scope of Rototom Sunsplash, it’s impossible to see and hear everything. But here are a few musical highlights of the last 9 days.
The night of Friday 11th August treated campers to a roots selection by Barcelona’s Green Light Sound System. When they dropped the needle on Sam Carty and the Upsetters’ Bird In Hand, the mystical magic of the festival was in the air.
Saturday 12th August was the chance to witness the pan-African Biblical music of the Twinkle Brothers. As a bonus, both siblings, Norman and Ralston, appeared together on the Main Stage.
Stand-out headliners of Sunday 13th August were the soulful harmonies of rocksteady and reggae trio Silvertones and the furious Afrobeat of Seun Kuti. Later, UK selector/emcee Oxman spun choice ska-to-early reggae platters in the Caribbean Uptempo area.
The haunting voice of Rasta veteran Don Carlos remained faultless on the Main Stage on Monday 14th August. Once again, the after party was in Caribbean Uptempo, with a vinyl masterclass from the Rocksteady Daddy, Asher G.
The sounds of the sixties and seventies continued at the Main Stage on Tuesday 15th August thanks to Toots and the Maytals. It felt hard to decide which was more remarkable – the number of hits or how far Toots holds the mic from his mouth while maintaining his vocal power.
By Wednesday August 16th it was time for modern voices to shine. The Main Stage saw a stunning set by hardworking Jamaican band Raging Fyah – featuring their friend, Dubtonic Kru’s Jubba White, on drums. At the Lion Stage, Scotland’s Mungo’s HiFi brought pure festive vibes and a bevy of vocal guests – Eva Lazarus, Charlie P, YT and Solo Banton.
It was tough picking a highlight during Thursday 17th. The Main Stage hosted competitive bursts from the Wailers, the ever-dependable Black Roots, and Hempress Sativa (who opened with her father, Albert Malawi’s, Children of the Emperor and engaged with the day’s tragic events in Barcelona). Northern Spain’s Roberto Sanchez played his roots productions in the Dub Academy while the Caribbean Uptempo heard rocksteady rarities from the UK’s Tighten Up Crew plus live trumpet from Patrick Tenyue. But the best moment – perhaps of the whole festival – was an uninhibited performance by Tuareg guitarist Bombino on the Lion Stage.
The penultimate day, Friday 18th August, was all about Chronixx and his Zinc Fence Redemption Band. It was a joy to hear songs from latest album Chronology performed in person. Skanking Sweet was particularly moving.
The festival theme was Celebrating Africa. And the finale invited a procession of JA and UK pioneers – with strong connections to the continent: Luciano, backed by Mafia & Fluxy, as well as U Roy, Big Youth, and the all-singing-all-dancing Nadine Sutherland – engineered by Mad Professor. For each of them, reggae and Africa are one.