Rototom Sunsplash 2014, Benicassim, Spain, 16 – 23 August

Rototom Sound SystemWriting a review on a festival such as Rototom Sunsplash is a daunting challenge. This festival is in its 21th edition, and to give such an experience a fair representation is a hard feat.

Nevertheless I was conscious of this throughout the 8-days and balanced my time writing reviews, conducting interviews, and linking up with artists, activists, charity organisations, promoters, and other reggae enthusiasts (nerds….). And of course the rest of my time was taken trying to absorb all the music. (more…)

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United Nations of Dub Weekender, Prestatyn, Wales, 28 – 30 March

Blackboard Jungle Rack

Blackboard Jungle Rack

The much anticipated and well-attended United Nations of Dub took place from 28 – 30 March. This 3-day indoor sound system festival that is only in its second edition is already a juggernaut of an event.
Set in a fairly quaint northern Welsh town called Prestatyn, in a Pontins self-catering holiday resort, the location is not really like reggae festival spots I am used to! However with its 3 indoor sound system arenas, heated swimming pool, film screenings, and pub all in one close area, it gives a unique community feel to it and served the purpose perfectly. (more…)

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Rototom Sunsplash 2013, Benicassim, Spain, 17 – 25 August

Lester Sterling and The Skatalites, photo by Alan Fairless

Lester Sterling and The Skatalites, photo by Alan Fairless

For many reasons, this eight-day festival is a must for reggae enthusiasts. It showcases the best in emerging and established artists over several stages, has daily reggae universities, a film festival, book launches, great food, and an ‘off’ party on a packed Mediterranean coast.

This all happens under the Spanish mid-summer sun with a fantastic, family-friendly vibe and a lot of extra-curricular activities. It’s neigh on impossible to see even half of what is going on, and hopefully this stage by stage report will show why. (more…)

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A New Zealand Summer with Israel Starr and the NiceUp Crew

Israel Starr and Che FuWith all the good music that took place over the summer months, I thought it best to write a review, sharing all the awesome stuff we have been up to in one of the best summers we have had in a long time.

With so many festivals and gigs happening around the country, it was a hard choice deciding which ones to attend. I start at New Year with the ‘Exodus Festival’, located in one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand, Papamoa beach. With Preston beaches, camping grounds, and a great backpackers and nightlife, it is a first choice for many young adults and foreigners looking for a true New Zealand new years. With classic bands like Katchafire and Herbs and new ones like L40 and Majic on the bill, we were in for a treat. (more…)

Garance Reggae Festival

Set in the south of France on the River Ceze, this four-day event (this year 25 – 28 July 2012) is a marathon of pleasure to the ears. Into its twenty-third year the festival attracts big name roots, rub-a-dub, rocksteady and ska artists to its main stage as well as some of the largest and most respected names in sound system culture to the neigh on perfect seven stack Dub Station.  

Seeing the original I-Threes and especially Rita in the flesh, who is the queen of Reggae in many eyes is a historical sight no doubt, but I quickly became drawn back to the sound system to see King Alpha and the upcoming French duo of OBF sound and Shanti-D taking the superior sound over the historical spectacles of Bob Andy, Derrick Morgan and the Gaylads.    With temperatures in the mid 30s, Ernest Raglan backed by Sly and Robbie kicked off procedures with a guest appearance by the original Lone Ranger. This was followed by Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths and Pam Hall on the main stage, at the same time that Dubkasm featuring Solo Banton were ripping it up on the sound system.


Raggamuffin 2012

Raggamuffin main stageDriving up to Raggamuffin for the second time in the five years that it’s been running, I found myself a little more nervous and excited then the first time. Not only because I was going to interview some of my favorite artists, or because the line-up was better then the line-up I saw the first time when there was the likes of  Lauryn Hill (it was in fact worse), but simply because I was eager to see how reggae heads in Aotearoa would react to a different type of stage show that I knew a lot of them were not accustomed to. (more…)

J Boog, Three Houses Down, Che Fu, Vintage & Aio

VintageOn Friday 11 March 2011, Wellington was treated to a visit from J Boog, a reggae artist making big waves in the international music scene. Of Samoan descent, born in Long Beach and raised in Compton, J Boog (Jerry Afemata) moved to Hawaii in 2006 and released his debut album Hear Me Roar in 2007.

Connecting with mentors and fellow artists like Gramps of Morgan Heritage and Richie Spice have only helped this artist to launch further into an already impressive career, which I think will take him well beyond the Pacific in years to come.


Raggamuffin 2011

Raggamuffin main stageWhen the Raggamuffin line-up was announced a few months back I wasn’t overly impressed. Mary J Blige – talented but not really my taste in music. Jimmy Cliff – a legend but a bit played out for me. Maxi Priest – too much synth-drum-loop-machine 80s style reggae. The Original Wailers – when I hear the term ‘Original Wailers’ I think Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, but that’s another story. Ky-Mani Marley and Sean Paul were the saving grace of the line-up for me. So I was very disappointed to hear prior to the festival the announcement that Sean Paul wouldn’t be performing and even more disappointed that Raggamuffin didn’t give any reason for the cancellation. 


Raggamuffin 2010

Raggamuffin stage I arrived at Raggamugffin about halfway through Katchafire’s set. Being a first-time attendee of the festival, I checked out the stalls and shops then ventured into the crowd for Sean Kingston’s set. I’m still not quite sure how or why but I enjoyed his set even though I don’t really enjoy his ‘hit’ songs which he played. DJ Nasty (Sean Kingston’s official DJ apparently) did a good job and hyped the crowd on the mic.


Katchafire -11 July 2009, Wellington

KatchafireI don’t think I need to give any background info on these guys, everyone knows them and what they are about, and if you don’t then…where have you been?  These guys have been spreading the irie reggae vibes around Aotearoa for the last ten years and also more recently world-wide. 

Walking into a very packed San Francisco Bath House, I was greeted by the Blackseeds track, Cool Me Down, some Sublime, then the classic Bob Marley tune, One Love all played by DJ Ara. (more…)