Youssou N’DOUR, Alpha Blondy are Seun Kuti are among the names that will sound on Main Stage for the ‘Celebrating África’ edition to submerge Sunsplash festival goers in the global beats of Africa
Reggae is musically, historically and spiritually connected to the continent of Africa. At reggae’s core is the heartbeat of the drum, a means of communication for African peoples in ancient times that was prohibited by colonial slave masters in the Caribbean as an instrument of sedition. Reggae music, created in the 1960s by post-colonial Jamaicans of African descent, always kept its connection back to the motherland. By the seventies they had become explicit – and a new wave of dreadlocked reggae stars began singing openly of Africa and the need to return to their ancestral home. The worldwide success of Bob Marley amplified Rastafari teachings and in turn inspired the African countries that had sown the seeds for reggae to create reggae music of their own.
Therefore it is fitting that Rototom Sunsplash Festival should commemorate its 24th edition with the theme Celebrating Africa. Rototom has curated an exceptional line-up boasting many artists from or with longstanding connections to the continent.
African reggae music is well represented on Rototom’s Main Stage by the Ivory Coast’s Alpha Blondy, ‘The Bob Marley of Africa’, with some 19 albums, singing against social abuses (Aparteid is Nazism) while saluting his own culture with his signature song Cocody Rock, recorded with The Wailers.
The ability of home-grown West African music forms to spread worldwide in parallel to their cousin reggae – will be encapsulated by Main Stage appearances from two of the region’s key artists. On the one hand there is Senegal’s Youssou N’DOUR, pioneer of Senegal’s mbalax music and was honoured by his government by being named Minister of Tourism. He first heard reggae at his uncle’s record store in downtown Dakar and was moved by the power of Bob Marley’s songs. On the other, giving voice to the rebellious spirit of Africa with a very special Felabration performance will be Seun Kuti, son of Nigerian inventor of Afrobeat and self-proclaimed ‘black president’ Fela Kuti. Seun’s band Egypt 80 features musicians who shared endless moments with Fela.
Another child of a legend on the Main Stage is South Africa’s Nkulee Dube– daughter of South African reggae veteran Lucky Dube. Also carrying the torch for African reggae will be Kenyan-born, Germany-based Treesha.
In addition, Rototom Sunsplash will be Celebrating Africa with the help of a variety of reggae artists from all corners of the diaspora, many of whom have a personal connection to the continent. Whether through their spiritual commitment to the pan-African messages of Rastafari or their physical presence in African countries, the 2017 programme will honour this connection across all eight days. The Main Stage will witness the reunion of the core line-up of Bob Marley’s original musicians The Wailers, four decades after Bob sang Africa Unite and received the 1978 UN Peace Medal. The legacy and African roots of Bob Marley will also be remembered during a special appearance by his son Ky-Mani, sharing the stage with Germany’s Gentleman, showcasing music he and Gentleman have created together.
Progressive reggae band Steel Pulse, who formed in Birmingham, have been singing of African consciousness since their inception. Their 2004 song African Holocaust commemorates black people’s resilience in the face of historic oppression.
The unstoppable rise of Jamaica’s new young hope Chronixx is built on his Rastafarian outlook, the unmistakable voice and music of Toots Hibbert from Toots and Maytals draws heavily on the African influenced folk and church music of Jamaica. The heavy stepping rhythms of Falmouth parish’s Twinkle Brothers have repeatedly been used to deliver messages Celebrating Africa. Their 1978 hit Free Africa warned the world “If Africa No Free-Black Man Caan Free”.
Both reggae and its uptempo offspring dancehall remain hugely popular in Africa as evidenced by the career of veteran deejay Beenie Man. ‘The Doctor’ is a frequent visitor to multiple African countries and has examined his heritage verbally in songs like Africans and Africa Unite featuring Luciano, who will also perform on the Main Stage.
Two artists who have been Celebrating Africa for decades U Roy and Big Youth will be joined by Guyana-born UK-based dub experimenter Mad Professor. They will also accompanied by former Jamaican child star, singer and academic Nadine Sutherland. She has dominated recent heavy dub sound system dances with Pan African 2015 Ariwa production Inna Mi Blood.
The music and culture of Africa will also be thriving away from the Main Stage. On the neighbouring Lion Stage, Tuareg guitarist Bombino will unleash his blistering desert rock (and reminding us how much West Africa inspired American blues).
Jamaican sing-jay Lutan Fyah will be spitting Rasta lyrics Guinean-born, and the Barcelona-based singer Nakany Kante will share her distinctive fusion of European and African styles. Also performing on this stage will be the electric Lyricson (Guinea) and Mehdi Nassouli, from Morocco. In the Dub Academy, visitors will receive a lesson in dub’s return to its roots from the South African sound system Kebra Ethiopa. Meanwhile revellers in the Dancehall will be compelled and propelled by Southern Sudan’s Dynamq Sounds International and Kenya’s Shashamane Intl.
Every year Rototom’s African Village area provides an immersive African experience and 2017 is no different. The Village guarantees a banquet for all senses, with a line-up of music, dance, culture and cuisine spanning the length and breadth of the motherland. Performers and contributors include Nambia’s Elemotho, Ghana’s Kwame Afrovibes and Afrikemet, Senegal’s Hermanos Thioune, Madagascar’s Kilema, Ethiopia’s FekatCircus, Cameroon’s Boniface Ofogo and Ecuatorial Guinea’s Edú Gorsy.
The wealth of quality artists across all stages and areas, combined with 2017’s particular African focus, make Rototom a buzzing, enlightening destination to discover the roots of reggae and feel the global heartbeat of Africa in its myriad forms.