The 12th annual Bob Marley Birthday Bashment took place at Cultural Center De Werft in Geel, Belgium, on Saturday February 11, 2012. Besides the usual music and Jamaican food, this edition for the first time had a chill room where you could watch reggae documentaries selected by Jah Rebel and the Dub Pressure room. Especially the latter proved a welcome addition to the event, even though it was almost impossible to stay there for a very long time without earplugs.
The first part of the performances on the main stage started off at 8:30pm and featured a showcase of reggae talent from Belgium backed by the mighty Asham Band. The latter, a tight playing backing band complete with horns section, was the backing band for the legendary Heptones on several occassions throughout Europe. Furthermore they recently released a highly acclaimed album with one of Belgium's greatest reggae talents, Collieman.
The first artist to appear on stage was Dede - The African Touch, winner of 2011's Vi.be's "Catch A Mic" contest. She made a decent impression with her first song, but in the end failed to keep you involved. This was mainly because she didn't have backing singers which would have given her songs an extra dimension. Besides that she also concentrated too much on her stage presence instead of the music.
Johnny den Artiest aka King Johnny, accompanied by L'Etran Jay and two female backing vocalists, was the next artist to take the stage. Regarding the enthousiastic reactions during his performance, it was obvious that he had many fans in the audience. It's a combination of the artist's humor, his singing in his own Antwerp dialect and the reggae beats that makes him an unique character in the Belgian reggae scene. With him on stage it was party time and the crowd liked it to the max when he performed songs like "Wist Ik Maar" and "Ze Willen Allemaal Den Johnny Zijn"!
Then one expected Collieman on stage, but instead it was Jamaican roots singer Rohan Lee who appeared on stage performing two songs -- including "No Easy Way Out" -- of his soon to be released sophomore album "Crush The Rock". Finally Collieman came on stage giving the audience what they wanted to hear, a well performed fine selection of tunes from his debut album "The Same Blood". Thus we were treated to tunes such as "Smile", "Open Your Eyes", "The Same Blood", "Drama Queens" and "Letís Get Funky" plus a brand new tune called "Hustle". Vocally Collieman was in real good shape and also the Asham Band made a great impression. Halfway Collieman's performance, Irieginal Abraham, a former member of the Dutch reggae band Beef, appeared on stage to do a short set which included his hit "Ganja Gun". After more than 3 hours there came an end to the 'Belgians Go Jamaica' showcase, and Bong Productions started to spin a nice selection, while there was a change-over on the main stage.
After about half an hour it was time for the headliners of this event, I-Wayne and Fantan Mojah. Backed by Austria's House Of Riddim, which failed to make a strong impression throughout and thus delivered a disappointing performance, I-Wayne brought a selection of his songs including "Life Seeds", "Lava Ground", "Living In Love", and "Can't Satisfy Her". His three albums already showcased that vocally the singer doesn't have that much to offer, which doesn't help when you have to keep the audience involved during a live performance. And thus it didn't last that long until boredom struck.

Hopefully Fantan Mojah had more to offer and indeed he had. Despite the weak playing backing band he managed to treat the crowd to a satisfying performance, not least because he has a powerful rough voice and energetic stage presence. He mainly brought tunes from his 2005 released debut album, "Hail The King", including "Corruption", "Nuh Build Great Man", "Search", "Hail The King", "Thanks & Praise" and "Hungry", but also "Tell Lie Pon Rasta" from the "Stronger" album.
After Fantan Mojah's performance we went to the Dub Pressure room, where Gussie P and Henry "Buttons" Tenyue aka Matic Horns had taken over the proceedings from Lidj I & Raggasmurf of Black Pearl Sound, who had taken their own custom built sound system with them. One turntable and Gussie P in trance spinning one classic tune in dubplate style after another. Along came deep roots tunes from Johnny Clatke, Junior Delgado, Bob Marley ("Natural Mystic"), Augustus Pablo (Think Twice Dub"), and Yabby You ("Deliver Me From My Enemies"). Then it was time for Matic Horns to blow tunes such as "Freedom Sounds" and "Swing Harder", which are featured on his dbl cd "Musical Storm". All in all a worthy way to end an event that had highlights as well as low points.

Text : Mr. T & Photos : Teacher