Saturday 2 February 2008 @ Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua.

First of all I would like to give all the artists a full 21-gun salute – lighter, lighter, lighter. Big up massive for doing such a good job and creating such a loving, peaceful vibe. 

With a line-up including The Wailers, The Black Seeds, Katchafire, The Midnights, House Of Shem, Arrested Development, and best of all, UB40 and  Maxi Priest (with his son Mervin Priest, as a guest), Raggamuffin was destined to be a big show.  And with between 30,000 and 35,000 people in attendance, it did not disappoint.

After hours of being stuck in traffic, I got there just in time for The Black Seeds. I would like to give The Black Seeds a special mention for raising the bar – they played a clean set, full of originality and character, giving the crowd what was due.  The band had the smooth sounds to relax the crowd at the hottest part of the day. Nuff Respect.

Arrested Development as a positive hip-hop group also did a great job – they where the first of the international acts and they got the crowd pumping with hits such as Mr Wendal and Everyday People. ‘Go Baba Go Baba Go Baba’ – the oldest man in Hip-Hop –  it was an honour to see him live and to share the stadium with a real legend! The sisters also danced energetic African dances so well.

Maxi Priest and Mervin Preist got the ladies screaming, giving the crowd some much needed love songs.  You could tell the experience Maxi Priest has in the entertainment industry because of the way he worked the crowd and got the whole stadium involved.  There were also a selected few who got on stage and had a dance with Maxi Priest and his family.

The Wailers did a good job, considering that there was one original member of the group, however I was disappointed – it was like getting a fake Gucci bag and accepting it anyway because it has the name Gucci on it!  The fact remains its not the real thing, so why fly them all this way when Katchafire could have done the same or better job at singing Uncle Bobs’ songs. To some of us devoted fans, that was a big slap in the face. But still the crowd didn’t mind, they sang their lungs out. ‘Chase Dem Crazy’!

UB40 are the ultimate in reggae/pop, and when they finally got up on stage, they did not disappoint. They lit up the crowd as everyone was trying to take pictures, video or whatever could remind them of this great moment.  As UB40’s lead singer is rumoured to be leaving the group with this being his last performance, everyone stood up and they shared the love.

I am not sure if the venue was the best or if this event was meant to be a family event.  It seemed that Vodafone and Andrew McManus were more focused on money than people, growing their popularity/ego and selling phones, so it was a big wake-up call. There were many rules, with people’s water bottles being emptied out at the entrance.

I just couldn’t understand why we weren’t allowed to bring cooler boxes, water, drinks or umbrellas.  In extremely hot weather, the queue for water was nearly two hours long, with people fainting in the heat. When I finally did get some water I was almost robbed by a group of desperate young men! The MC on stage announced to the crowd they should keep hydrated with free water at either side of the stage. Yeah right, try getting to it, there was only one stand selling water that I saw, which took me at least 30 minutes to find. I also went to look for sun screen but there was none and the usher had no idea where to get any! We were not allowed to leave once we got in – 100%  lockdown. The St. Johns medics were unnecessarily over worked.

To top it all off the organisers had their merchandise tent right in the middle of the crowd – they could have at least tried to hide the fact that money was their main objective!

C’mon Mr Mcmanus & Vodafone – we need some improvement on the sound, size of the stage and the screens (because the screens were so small that we could hardly see anything).  With 30,000 to 35,000 keen reggae fans out in force, you showed how much you appreciated us by giving us (not counting taps in the toilets) three water outlets (one sales, two free),  and poured water out at the entrance, no sunscreen free or for sale, and a handful of portaloos.  And as a bonus – lots of rules.

Soundsplash clearly beats Raggamuffin in environment and care. But on a more positive note – all the artists keep it up – great stuff! We hope that next time promoters/hosts will remember the people!  It was a good line up of artists, so keep that up. Just address the above issues and it will be potentially a much greater event.

At the end of the day it was a big event for reggae music. Give it another shot – check it out next year but be wary!


Selectah KB