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Sardinia Reggae Festival 2013

Sardinia Reggae Festival 2013

Sardinia Reggae Festival 2013

By on - Photos by Serena Saieva - Comment

Sardinia is good for the soul.

The sixth edition of the Sardinia Reggae Festival took place from 1st to 4th August 2013. Over the preceding five years the organisers have been bringing a showcase of mainly Jamaican, UK and Italian artists of quality to the island – while giving expression to the extremely dedicated and growing Sardinian reggae scene.

Sardinia Reggae Festival 2014

This year the event took a blow when the Sunday’s act Don Carlos cancelled at short notice. Even so, it was impossible not to enjoy hearing live reggae at this ultra-relaxed and friendly party on this beautiful isle - a place that is truly good for the soul.

Sardinia, like Jamaica, has a spectacularly diverse terrain for its size. For 2013 the festival moved villages from the white sandy beaches of previous location Platamona to the breath-taking mountain enclosure of Commune de Cargeghe.

This is a very different type of experience to the big well-oiled machines such as Summerjam and Rototom. Tents were pitched in the village square, the roots corner featuring Sardinian sound systems including Shakalaka Canapa and Filufferroots was free to enter during the day. The performance times at the main arena and offsite dancehall area were vague and approximate but in such a natural environment with no curfew you just went with the flow. Led by King Caio Textone, the organisers are musicians and selectors themselves and the remaining staff are volunteers. This meant visiting artists on tight schedules could find the pace that things happened a bit cumbersome. Any visitor who stayed for the whole four days, however, would see this event has a tone and fervour for reggae that many other countries have lost.

Sardinia Reggae Festival 2014Billed for Thursday night Israel Vibration hit the stage at past 2am backed by longtime associates the Roots Radics. Though Skelly and Wiss are now without Apple Gabriel they proved that live they are still a powerful unit. Likewise Radics bassist and bandleader Flabba Holt has parted ways with drummer Style Scott yet his basslines – through the arena’s impeccable rig - remain as formidable as ever. At 4am at the dancehall space Mad Professor and his son Joe Ariwa went Back To Africa via their back catalogue in a concrete compound under a roof of stars that recalled their own festival in Gambia.

On the Friday headliner Capleton and his Prophecy band gave a thunderous statement at the main enclosure. Capleton's setlists in recent years haven’t changed a great deal but for the first time viewer they invariably dazzle. During the afternoon there was speculation that gay rights groups had asked him to renounce homophobia on stage (owing to his past controversies over songs he no longer tours, Buggering and Bun Out the Chi Chi). Instead he made a brief statement against incest and paedophilia which was ambiguous enough to be interpreted by both sides of the argument as having meaning.

Sardinia Reggae Festival 2014

On the Sunday the village showed the revellers some of their hospitality by cooking a local dish in the square (although sadly for Rasta and non-meat eaters it was wild boar!). By dinner time news reached that Don Carlos had missed his flight with Ryanair due to his musicians exceeding the airline’s draconian luggage restrictions. Ryanair were in many ways the villains of the weekend - the night before in the dancehall area, Devon, mc for Pow Pow, cussed them on the mic saying he thanked Jah he had landed still alive. Carlos was one of the weekend’s most anticipated artists but the organisers handled it well, reducing the door price by a third. It was left to England’s YT and then Sardinia's own Arawak band to close the stage. After their set Arawak co-singer and general compere Alfredo Forelock gave a moving speech where he apologised for Don Carlos not being there and asked his people if they would like his group to play some more. The answer was a resounding yes.

Up in the hills the irrepressible Ricky Trooper led the audience through his extensive collection of specials from reggaes greats. He uses serrato these days but his skill in travelling between eras and sub categories of reggae, jumping from the 60s to 2000s based entirely on mood and tempo, was a lesson to musically ghettoised selectors everywhere. However, Italy’s The Toughest sound deserve a mention for dropping Tony Tuff’s Rumours of Wars just before Trooper came on – showing an underplayed rare tune is the equal of any special.

The final day in the main arena was dedicated to Italian and Sardinian reggae. Of great historical importance was pioneering deejay Bustianu Piras AKA Dr Boost – the man who put his region’s reggae on the map. Pordenone’s Mellow Mood demonstrated why they are one of the only Italian reggae outfits to get mainstream radio play with a supertight performance. The closing dance was hosted by the UK’s hefty Iration Steppers – who upgraded from buildings to making mountains shake.

With the loss of Don Carlos this may not have been the greatest ever edition of the Sardinia Reggae Festival. That is for those who have attended previous editions to decide. Holistically it was still a wonderful experience. It was impossible not to be captivated by the relaxed pace of life, friendly hospitality of the locals and their sheer level of enthusiasm for reggae and the desire to see the event continue. It all seems far away from the slickness of continental Europe or the spoilt cynicism of the party scene in London.

Sardinia Reggae Festival 2014YT who has appeared every year from the beginning said, “It’s just the warm loving vibe of the people. They’re grateful to have something like this happening here. It’s not like us who have lost that gratitude and got a bad attitude about it. It’s young as well. Since I’ve been coming here I keep coming back and there are more Sardinian bands, singers, deejays. The scene is growing so it’s quite exciting for them to part of that”.

Four days stay felt like a week yet with the nagging feeling that the island hasn't been explored enough. Somehow the Sardinia festival feels closer in spirit than most to what reggae music is all about.

Since this article was written Sardinia has been hit by Cyclone Cleopatra. We offer our heartfelt condolences to everyone on the island.


Reproduction without permission of United Reggae and Serena Saieva is prohibited.

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