We already had the feeling that Rototom’s 2016 edition would have been extraordinary, and we were right because as soon as we got here that sensation became awareness. Rototom Sunsplash will offer not only a super lineup for the 23rd year in a row, but will also spread the message of peace and unity that reaches thousands of people all over the world every year. In the Festival’s area we find a happy community that shares from a very long time a passion, a belief in a world united by the best vibes of Reggae Music
We will witness legends like Michael Rose, Israel Vibration, Inner Circle, Morgan Heritage. The Main Stage will be hit by great stars as Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Manu Chao and Beres Hammond, just to mention a few. As usual the festival’s area is well organised and massive enough to contain four stages in total, each one provided with a powerful sound system. Here we will discover new promises of reggae music too, as Rototom keeps its doors open to all the new talents inviting them to perform on the always amazing Showcase Stage, this year enhanced by a promising Ska groups selection!
We started the day at the Reggae University. Despite its program started officially in 2007, this institution celebrates today its tenth birthday as the place that offers a better knowledge about Reggae to Rototom’s guests, debating about its culture and philosophy together with Carolyn Cooper from the University of West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica.
Just outside of the Reggae University we met Combe Capelle, the percussion group that every year drag the audience to Main Stage. The show was finally about to start.
The honour to open this 2016 edition is given to Marcia Griffiths, former member of the legendary I-Threes. She welcomed us at sunset time elegantly dressed, singing Closer to You and I Wanna Get High. The bright voice and the charismatic figure of this woman dancing in white, together with the long-standing experience gained near legends of music, immediately conquered the audience. She became one voice with them as the concert became quite a tribute: Could You Be Loved, Buffalo Soldiers, then a medley dedicated to other unforgettable stars like Desmond Dekker and the Skatalites. She was helped by her son, the chorister, reaching the highlight of the show. Towards the conclusion, while Buffalo Soldiers was still going on, she shouted “can you feel it? It’s the spirit of positive vibrations. This is what reggae music is for!”. We felt properly warmed up.
The flow of the night rose high as Assassin, for his first time at Rototom, brought in his explosive sound. Jumping from one side of the stage to the other, he started with Mix Up, a hit from his latest album Theory of Reggaetivity, released in February 2016, his third album after Infiltration (2005) and Gully Sit’n (2007), which he considers the essence of his interpretation of Reggae. Songs like J-O-B and Feel Highrie inflamed the dance floor. Reckoning again the concept of hype we heard about just two hours earlier, we eventually had the opportunity to witness the hype lively. The musicians dropped the Wipeout riddim and Assassin seemed to be never tired of dancing before the crowd. He shouted “It was wonderful to be here” to conclude his outstanding performance. As he will tell us during an interview, he will surely come at Rototom again.
Macaco needed no introduction, as a huge area in front of the stage was already taken by the enthusiasm of the Spanish people professing love for the national stars. The band performed a show well mixed with popular music and social commitment, focusing on themes as the necessity of public health care worldwide and the sadly known migrant crisis, getting the immediate approval and empathy of the crowd. Their songs Historias Tatuadas, Hijos de un Mismo Dios claimed and received again the positive reaction of the public. All of a sudden the singer Dani “el Mono Loco” Carbonell jumped off the stage to be closer to the fans and they embraced him while standing on the barriers. The hit from the 2012 album El Murmullo del Fuego, Love is the Only Way, was the soundtrack of such moment, representing very well the affection between an artist and its audience here at Rototom Sunsplash.
The presenters called the legendary Michael Rose asking for his most famous hit Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The first of many other legends to come was on the stage to make us dance until late. Reggae Party Next Door, Solidarity, Sponji Reggae, Shine Eye Gal were the pillars of the performance that sustained the energy of the show. Towards the conclusion the call “free Buju Banton” while performing General Penitentiary had the total attention from the audience. The legendary former leader of Black Uluru then walked us gently towards the end of this truly exciting first Rototom’s day.
Also, we would like to mention some artists from the Showcase Stage and the Dub Academy: Sattas, a rare and effectively unique turkish band playing roots reggae with balcanic contaminations; the Italian Imperial Sound Army featuring Ras Biblical and Dub String, that surprised us with the unusual combination or flute and violin improvising on the best bass lines.