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Together As One - Summerjam 2012

Together As One - Summerjam 2012

Together As One - Summerjam 2012

By on - Photos by Michael Grein - Comment

Done, dusted and delightful.

The 27th ‘Together As One’ themed SUMMERJAM reggae festival at Fuhlinger Lake in Cologne, Germany took place from July 6th-8th last. Coinciding with the ‘Gay and Lesbian’ pride weekend – serving to swamp the city’s centre - it was regrettable that the music festival was located (an awkward) ~15 km. therefrom. Respectful interaction between these two sometimes antagonistic bedfellows might have been beneficial for all!

Summerjam 2012

Set close to the banks of the Rhine, the Fuhlinger Lake site became the capital city of reggae for the weekend, entertaining almost 28,000 via the best that reggae in the (mainly) sunshine has to offer. Comprising one of 7 interconnected manmade lakes (with one for diving, one for swimming, one for surfing, one as a nature reserve etc.), the Fuhlinger See’s 2 km. regatta track provided apt company for SUMMERJAM’s 17th successive year at this venue. With 2 main stages and a dancehall arena (catering for nearly 50 performances), together with a host of ancillary activities running round the clock, SUMMERJAM 2012 had all the ingredients enabling us to forget our worries and dance, as recommended many moons ago by reggae’s most famous and influential son Bob  Marley.

The festival site itself was a sight to behold, with tents, tepees, gazebos, cars and camper vans in situ under the watchful eye of the (now economically-challenged) FORD manufacturing facility. The borders to the formidable Red and Green stages were adorned with whatever would tickle your fancy. There was coffee, cocktails, crepes, cakes and kebabs to beat the band. And if that didn’t suit you, Asian woks, natural fruits, red bulls, pommes frites, pizzas, fish, lasagne, Mexican tacos, burgers, soft ices and sweet spreads were available to challenge your digestive system! And if your digestive system was deterred by this array, you could always go shopping for buttons, beads, bracelets, bangles, baubles, bags, belts or shoes, sandals, skirts, scarves or lighters, lampshades, hats, glasses, perfumes, incense, earrings, ornaments, crockery or even a dress. In truth, there was more Rasta oriented paraphernalia on offer at SUMMERJAM 2012 than a large tribe could get through in a lifetime!

Summerjam 2012Whilst the more health conscious punters opted for a ‘rabbit spotting’ trek, others chose swimming, whilst the more narcissistic availed of the body piercing or tribal tattoo facilities. From police to plumbers, ‘lost and found’, a ‘chill out’, roots corner, dancehall and children’s play area, there was no shortage of delightful distractions. And if you ran out of money, there was even a ‘geldautomat’ there to top you up! And all the while the queues for the toilets remained orderly and good humoured.

Not too far from the all-important Amnesty International bus, prominently and appropriately located was the cleverly self-styled ‘JUST SAY KNOW’ information centre, catering for those experimenting with drugs beyond the legal limits. According to Ralf Wischnewski, the Centre’s role is to effect a transition on the topic from a bland ‘JUST SAY NO’ to encouraging punters to make a more informed choice. This worthy State and SUMMERJAM funded initiative serves as the source of such important information (www.partypack.de).

Fusing more characteristics of Germanic efficiency than Caribbean ease over the weekend, the festival presented the cream of reggae’s crop across the (main) Red and Green stages. The opening night saw the brass-infused roots-oriented SOJA and Germany’s own Max Herre warm up the audience for the popular Sean Paul to bring up the dancehall dimension with his the ‘tomahawk technique’. A short distance away Tiken Jah Fakoly – who took to the stage after U Roy’s hasty departure on the stroke of sunset - competed with a wonderful ensemble of African influences, despite the sound problems that also afflicted Raging Fyah and Midnite earlier in the evening. On Saturday Amadou and Mariam maintained this African influence, before Protoje was able to lend some lovely easy roots rhythms and fusion to a balmy Saturday evening’s proceedings. This preceded Groundation with their brass and female vocal accompaniments, lending a lovely layer to this popular band’s showing. Around the same time (on the Green stage) the more youthfully oriented Bermudian Collie Budz was receiving a rapturous reception from his adoring fans, before proceeding to show just why such a reception was extended to him. And whilst Burning Spear was doing what Burning Spear does on the main stage, it was evident from the numbers attending Beenie Man’s show on the competing Green Stage just why roots music eventually succumbed to dancehall in the 1980s. Championing the ‘roots’ selection, Spear’s eagerly anticipated seventh SUMMERJAM appearance and third show of 2012 - and his first in Europe this year – was warmly received.

Summerjam 2012

Come Sunday, the talented 5 piece DREADZONE effectively warmed up the Green stage in anticipation of a lively evening’s proceedings. Aptly following hot on the heels of the talented brass-blasting French ensemble Danakil came Alborosie (in shades despite the absence of sun), drawing a large crowd to the main stage. Toying with his audience and waving his lengthy locks windmill style he complained in ‘Herbalist’ that ‘Babylon Dem Thief My Herb’ - with supporting vocals from his perfectly pitched sidekick Sandy Smith. ‘Camilla’ prompted much espousal of marijuana use and preceded an audience eruption for ‘No Cocaine’, whilst the soaring sound of Tony Tarrantino’s trumpet expertly massaged ‘International Drama’ (that is, when he wasn’t aping Pavarotti), sending the audience into yet another fun frenzy. Spanning roots, ragamuffin and dancehall styles Alborosie most certainly confirmed that he’s ‘Still Blazin’. By the time Beenie Man joined him on stage (for Beenie’s ‘Come Again’) the sun had started to set on the wet site, prompting Alborosie, Beenie Man and the Shengen Clan to take off for ‘Kingston Town’.

The festival’s proceedings were brought to a close (on the Sunday night) by the popular, warm and engaging Stephen Marley - fresh from his 2012 Grammy award for best album. Sounding so much like his late father – and that was before he embraced his guitar - the ‘Crazy Baldhead’ rhythm shook the foundations as ‘Break Us Apart’ (from his last album) rolled. Marley then advised that we ‘don’t worry’ via ‘Three Little Birds’, including some more tracks from his last issuance (e.g. ‘No Cigarette Smokin (In My Room)') before again rolling back the years with ‘Buffalo Soldier’, ‘Jammin’, ‘Could You Be Loved’ and ‘One Love’. And it was entirely appropriate that ‘Redemption Song’ was the spark to ignite the SUMMERJAM fireworks display. And at the exact same time as Marley was ‘whuppin it up’ on the main stage, Muppet-aficionado MARSIMOTO was ‘letting rip’ on the Green stage in his SPIDERMAN-type outfit, to the great delight of the massed German rap cum hip-hop devotees.

Overall this was a safe, sound and satisfying festival - with all of the promised performers present - delivering exactly what it said ‘on the tin’. SUMMERJAM 2012 can take (its 27th) bow!

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