I realised after reading through a recent post on the NiceUp forum how lucky I was to attend the Eurockeennes festival a week ago in Belfort, France. This is one of Frances’ oldest and biggest festivals, and despite the initial focus on rock it now includes a lot of other types of music, ranging from electro to French hip-hop and reggae dancehall.

This year the festival was celebrating its 20th anniversary and the line-up lived up to the occasion. Amongst acts such as Massive Attack, the Offspring and Moby, were Alborosie and Lady Saw.

Alborosie was Saturday’s opening act on the main stage. The gig started with a smaller crowd than I would have thought would come, with people probably still hung-over from the previous night. This allowed us to go quite close from the main stage whilst having enough room to skank, a real luxury in that type of massive outdoor gig.

The Italian reggae don and his Sheng Yen Clan band (including an ex-guitarist for Peter Tosh) gave a blend of his most famous covers and original productions. I realised how quickly he has been able to build up his repertoire in the last two years.  So much that his one hour set wasn’t long enough to include hits like ‘Sound Killa’ or ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’.

We were however well treated with crowd pleasers like  ‘Police-Polizia’, ‘Waan the Thing’ (Mykal Rose, who features on this tune, was actually performing at another festival nearby that same night), ‘Herbalist’, and the huge ‘Kingston Town’ which concluded the set. By then a substantial crowd of around 10,000 had accumulated, attracted like flies by the showman, the good vibe and the cheering from the early comers.

Lady Saw’s performance was quite different. I have to admit I am not a huge fan of Jamaican female dancehall artists. So I went more out of curiosity than anything else. However all the ingredients were there for a good time: the night had fallen, the festival was getting packed and Lady Saw was playing on a smaller stage.

The least I can say is that I was completely overwhelmed by the talent and the energy of that women. The experienced performer had the crowd to her feet, sometimes lecturing (when introducing ‘No Less Than a Woman’, a song about the status of infertile women in Jamaican society), often cocky (when teasing the males in the audience), always in a very personal and assertive way. The German backing band, ‘The Scrucialists’ (check out their recent ‘Cross the Board’ riddim with Ward 21, Buju Banton or Pinchers) was also doing a good job of getting the crowd dancing and jumping. I left the gig understanding why Lady Saw has earned the title of dancehall’s first Lady. Much respect to Mama Saw.