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Uppsala Reggae Festival 2011

Uppsala Reggae Festival 2011

Uppsala Reggae Festival 2011

By on - Photos by Anna Thunander - Comment

A musical feast at Uppsala Reggae Festival.

Uppsalla Reggae Festival 2011

The biggest reggae festival in the Nordics took place in Uppsala – an hour north of Stockholm – on August 4-6. The eleventh consecutive festival had more domestic artists than ever, but also boasted huge international acts such as Gyptian, Mr. Vegas and The Heptones.

In 2010 Uppsala Reggae Festival celebrated its tenth anniversary and had a best of the best line up. This year the festival’s management had followed the same path as the years before – some of the biggest Jamaican dancehall and roots artists, both newcomers and veterans.

This year also had a separate scene for dance, called Dance4Life, where there were workshops and dance shows. The management described it as “a giant step into the new decade with a focus on street dance, dance performances and dance parties.” And it was obviously a good idea since the younger audience showed up in the tent to learn new steps and styles.

Each year between 15,000 and 20,000 people attend the festival. And it’s no surprise that so many people show up. It’s easy to reach, it’s clean, it’s safe and has a mix of both reggae aficionados and people who happen to live in Uppsala or just like festivals and great music.

But the majority of the crowd probably comes with one or more artists mind. Several where therefore vastly disappointed when Toots Hibbert had to cancel his show in the last minute due to a missed flight in London. Yared Tekeste, founder of Uppsala Reggae Festival, was immensely disappointed since he had been trying to get Toots Hibbert to the festival for years.

Thursday: Leroy Sibbles enjoyed the stage

The festival started out in fine style with Romain Virgo on early Thursday evening. He was backed by a DJ, and showed the crowd that it doesn’t take much more than an angel’s voice and Donovan Germain produced songs to make a solid performance.

Three other youngsters took stage just after. Protoje, backed by his cousin and master producer Don Corleon, did a mature set with a nice surprise – Don Corleon took the microphone and sang the hook to the unreleased tune Our Time Come. A wicked song with a hip-hop type of beat.

Uppsalla Reggae Festival 2011Don Corleon and Protoje are touring with Pressure. He took stage just after Protoje. Unfortunately his microphone was set a little low and his singing was also a bit off-key at times. But he did justice for strong tunes such as Ghetto Life, Be Free and Love and Affection.

Legendary vocal trio – nowadays duo – The Heptones rounded off the evening with a 75 minute set that consisted of so many classic tunes that I lost count.

Leroy Sibbles took bass duties for a few riddims and did a hefty version of The Drifter. It’s impressive that he still has such a great voice, and when he danced off stage it seemed like he wanted to return for another set of songs.

Friday: Mr. Vegas is the ultimate energy source

Norris Man was the first out on the second day of the festival. He was backed by Kapten Röd’s band, and the crowd was rather thin. Probably because it was early in the day.

Kapten Röd took stage afterwards. He is one of the biggest Swedish reggae artists and managed to attract a huge crowd that sang along to his political lyrics full of social commentaries.

After his more than one-hour performance, the crowd was waiting for roots veteran Johnny Clarke. He treated the audience a musical feast. Full of his most well-known hits from the 70’s. His band played the festival’s deepest bass lines, so loud and deep they forced me to pick up my ear plugs.

Johnny Clarke has a remarkable strong voice and a set of songs that would make other artists envious. He did classic flying cymbals tunes such as None Shall Escape the Judgment and Enter into His Gates with Praise. The only question is – why did the bass player hide behind the amplifier for most of the show?

The two last acts on Friday – since Toots Hibbert cancelled – were in the contemporary vein.

Richie Spice seemed distant for the first part of his set, but managed to pick it up in future sing a long classic Yap Yap.

Uppsalla Reggae Festival 2011

Mr. Vegas did the festival’s best performance. His hour long set included dancehall classics such as Heads High and Hot Gal Today. He is hugely popular among the ladies, and when he took off his shirt the screaming was almost deafening. Mr. Vegas charisma and energy on stage is so intense that Germany could easily replace their nuclear plants and use him as a power source.

Saturday: Highly impressive from Queen Ifrica

Saturday is at first all about veterans. At least it seemed like it. Ken Boothe, aka Mr. Rocksteady, had the main stage for one hour early in the evening. His gritty singing still sounds like it did in the 60’s and 70’s. At least for the majority of the show. When he did his classic Freedom Street, he didn’t manage to reach the high notes. But his set was nonetheless solid.

Uppsalla Reggae Festival 2011According to the concert schedule Tony Rebel would have been up next. But some familiar Queen Ifrica tones reached my ears. It must have been confusing to many as she and Tony Rebel switched times in the playing schedule without the festival making us aware of it in advance.

Queen Ifrica is such a talented artist. She can sing, and then suddenly switch to deejay mode where she sounds like a more furious Buju Banton or Bounty Killer. Highly impressive.

She is followed by Tony Rebel, who takes us for a musical journey back to the 90’s and then onwards to the present. Tunes such as Jah is by My Side, Fresh Vegetable and Pretenders Paradise get the crowd cheering and singing along, even though the sound quality could have been better. The Garnett Silk tribute Splashing Dashing is also somewhat disappointing. It’s a great song, don’t get me wrong, but I would have preferred the actual Garnett Silk duet Christian Soldiers.

Many of the female part of the audience had been longing for Gyptian. However, he seemed unfocused for a long part of the show and he also invited Nitty Kutchie on stage for a substantial portion of his one hour set. Even if Gyptian seemed to be somewhere else during part of the concert, he had the area in front of the stage boiling when he did his monster hit Hold Yuh.

Elephant Man, the energy God, rounded off the festival with an bouncy performance where he, just as Mr. Vegas, had dancers on stage.

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