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Garance Reggae Festival 2011

Garance Reggae Festival 2011

Garance Reggae Festival 2011

By on - Photos by Jennyfer Papin - Comment

"We wanted to pay tribute to original reggae, conscious reggae and to this generation of artists who created it"


Garance Reggae Festival 2011

Burning Spear, Horace Andy, Johnny Clarke, Max Romeo, Ken Boothe, Twinkle Brothers, Third World… From July 27th to 30th, reggae veterans gathered at Bagnols-sur-Cèze, France, for the 20th edition of Garance Reggae Festival. On the menu : "strictly reggae" and, most of all, "strictly roots".

"It’s the heart of this music", says Jérome Levasseur, local coordinator of the festival. "We wanted to pay tribute to original reggae, conscious reggae. And to this generation of artists who created it".

Garance Reggae Festival 2011 / Burning SpearOn opening night, Burning Spear gave a powerful concert lasting more than 2 hours. Also on the bill was Studio One Revue, a tribute to the mythical label of the 60’s and 70’s. "We thought to build this Studio One Revue from long time. We did it thanks to Fatta of French Soul Stereo sound system who works with artists like Lone Ranger and Carlton Livingston for several years".

The festival-goers, most of them not born during the golden age of Studio One – discovered some of the deejays and singers that contributed to the label's success: King Stitt, Prince Jazzbo, Dillinger, Willi Williams, Dawn Penn, Jim Brown and also Alpheus, last signing of Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, in the late 90’s.

But roots doesnt necessarily mean old. The new generation was also present at Bagnols-sur-Cèze with artists such as Gyptian, Queen Ifrica, Protoje, Midnite, Junior Kelly and Lutan Fyah. There was also the "Dub Station Corner", dedicated to UK dub and fat bass fans. Powered by the two  heaviest French soundsystems, Blackboard Jungle and OBF, it featured Jah Shaka – UK scene icon – and King Jammy – renowned producer who launched digital reggae with his famous Sleng Teng in 1985 – that made the audience vibrate with their serious selections.

French artists and dancehall artists were absent from the Festival (except one French band, Danakil). "It’s only the second edition in Bagnols. We wanted to strike hard. The heart of our artistic choice, it’s the Jamaican reggae. It’s the reason why French people come to the festival".

Indeed, the French are well-known even in Kingston to be serious roots reggae conaisseurs. "The movement grew up year after year. At the beginning of the 80’s, there was only 1% of White people and 99% of Africans or West Indians in reggae concerts in Paris. I saw the audience mix up progressively. Nowadays, youths of 17 years know the roots music I listened to 30 years ago !".

Garance Reggae Festival 2011

Regardless, this music is ignored by big labels and media. The reason? a lot of clichés associated with reggae. "In first position, the cliché of weed. People prefer reduce the thing and only see Rastas smoking spliffs and being stoned… We never talk about the real thing : a militant music, politically and socially engaged".

48.000 people came to Garance Reggae Festival this year. It’s enough to be sanguine for the future, according to Jérome Levasseur. "In the 80’s, no French reggae group could play Reggae. Several variety singers tried, but it sounded bad. Only Serge Gainsbourg succeeded because he worked with Sly & Robbie. Since the early 90’s, bands began playing reggae rhythms and developed them. Hundreds of groups and sound systems exist today in France. Today Jamaican artists appreciate working with some French backing bands like Dub Akom (that backed Protoje, Pressure, Lutan Fyah and Gyptian on July 30th) or No More Babylon who play with Ken Boothe".


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