Summer season in the western region of Europe stands for a period of capricious weather conditions as once again has been experienced by promoters, artists and reggae fans of the annual reggae festival at the Belse Bossen in Geel, Belgium. After a couple of days of tropical weather conditions in the week that preceded the two festival days the weather forecast indicated local cloudbursts on Saturday, the main festival day. And indeed, a massive thunderstorm started during the set of Taffari & The Revolution Band, which thus had to be stopped halfway. The people had to run off to find some shelter and in no time the festival grounds were changed into a giant puddle. Although the rain finally stopped and even some sunbeams turned up, the conditions at the festival grounds became more and more terrible during the following hours. The camping sites were flooded and many people had to be transported to a sports hall in town. Especially in front of the main stage, but in fact all over the place, the mud was really awesome. But anyway, despite all these problems - the promoters were also confronted with visa problems and cancelled shows in Germany and England - the Reggae Geel Festival was really irie and included some strong performances, which pleased a fairly enthousiastic, but above all courageous crowd.

After Rude Rich & The High Notes from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and the German/Jamaican roots reggae band Movements had done their sets, it was time for one of the upcoming artists in the new roots style, Taffari, to take the main stage. Earlier this year he toured Europe and performed alongside sound systems in order to get some exposure over here. Reggae Geel was one of the dates for his second European tour for which he teamed up with the German-based Revolution Band. Taffari performed songs such as "Take I Away (Eastern Side)", "Rough & Tough" and "One Love (Flesh & Blood)", which were all released on singles as well as brandnew tunes such as "Step On Board", "Far Away From Home" and "Terrible Nowadays". Taffari got some good response from the audience. Unfortunately, all of a sudden Taffari's show was ended by a massive thunderstorm which not only chased away the majority of the crowd, except for a handful of diehards, but also nearly damaged the mixingboard and the PA system. Because the time table was completely messed up after the storm was over, Taffari could not finish his set.

Young urban warriors from London, The Rasites, started their set after the rain had stopped. They already performed at Geel's Reggae Festival in 1998, then scheduled as the first act. At that time they mainly performed covers, although the Rasites also delivered some own material including "Africa" and "Love Jah And Live". Two months before their appearance at Geel 1998 they had performed at renown Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica, actually due to winning the first prize of a talent competition held at Hackney Empire in East London. Under the guidance of reggae veterans Danny "Playboy" Ray and Fitzroy "Wizard" Blake they recorded their debut album "Urban Regeneration", which was released in the summer of 2001. The album made a serious impression and their talent was recognised by reggae followers in the U.K. and abroad. Since then they have been doing shows and festivals in the U.K. and Europe. Their performance started with a 3-5 minute prayer from a woman out of the Rasites camp. After that the Rasites, plus an additional keyboard player, started their show. They where already on stage for about 15 minutes, because they had to do a soundcheck, which is kinda long for a festival. They performed nearly all the songs from their debut album, including the classic "Picture On The Wall". Their mixture of roots reggae inna U.K. skanking style reminds a lot of Steel Pulse or the not so well known group Capital Letters. Sometimes they sound like the young Israel Vibration, but other times they are "just" the Rasites. A very strong performance, which pleased the audience.


photos Rasites on stage provided courtesy of REGGAEPHOTOS.de

After their performance we had a chat with keyboard player Cyrus. Asked after the group's philosophy he expressed that Rasites comes with a clean message of love and life, based on respect for every nation no matter what colour or greed. With their lyrics and music they intend to push the love back into the community all over the world. Through the music they can be the voice of the people who have no voice to talk, i.e. people who are supressed and deprimed! In the near future Rasites are going to write and record new material for their second album release. Although most of the songs will be recorded at Jet Star's Cave Studio, it might as well be possible that some recordings will be done in Jamaica.

As already indicated the weather conditions were far from perfect for a reggae happening. It was wet, cold and most of the visitors had to defy the mud. The Admiral delivered his string of hits in a relaxed style. It was obvious that he missed the warmth of the sun and the atmosphere of a crowded dancehall, because his show missed the energy reflected in his songs. Due to Admiral Bailey's band being confronted with insoluble visa problems, he was accompanied by a selector, who provided the riddims from cd while the veteran deejay rode them in his well known style. The crowd immediately recognised hit songs such as "Punanny", "Big Belly Man" and "Jump Up" and reacted with enthousiasm. For whatever reason Admiral Bailey's performance took no longer than 45 minutes, thus delivering his fans a set that was definitely much too short.

After the break, with Belgium's reggae ambassador Crucial P spinning a nice selection of tunes, Bushman's Grass Roots Band and his two female backing vocalists - one of them being a gifted young songstress by the name of Nikki Burt - entered the stage. It was Nikki Burt who took the lead as a sort of opening act for Bushman. Nikki is blessed with a tremendous voice and she did some appealing songs including her cut across Steven Ventura's "Latino" riddim", relating to the public very professionally. Next a deejay came on, did one short tune but, in contrast to Nikky Burt, failed to make a serious impression. Meanwhile backstage, Bushman was preparing himself for his performance. The way he behaved it was obvious that he was nervous, tense and that showed in the first half of his performance. Although he did some of his biggest hits, and the crowd responded very well, he didn't (want to) make contact with his audience. After a while he took off his sunglasses, began to smile at the people in front of the stage and shook hands with some of them. From that time on his show ran smoother and it was clear to see he enjoyed his own show. Bushman sang praises of Rastafari, chanted down Babylon and exalted the healing power of marijuana during his very enjoyable and entertaining set. A tight playing Grass Roots Band kicked out majestic riddims for Bushman who powerfully delivered great songs including the title track of his 1997 debut album "Nyah Man Chant", "Worries And Problems", "Yadd Away Home", "Robbery Aggrovation", "Remember The Days", "Cannabis" and "Fire Pon A Deadas", to name a few. The undisputed highlight of his set was "Fire Bun a Weak Heart", a truly wicked delivery across the Wailers' classic "Hypocrites" riddim. All in all Bushman delivered a very strong performance, thus fully living up to expectations.

The "Original Fireman" Anthony B has returned to the Reggae Geel Festival. In 1997 he was backed by the Jahpostles Band and performed before Everton Blender came on stage to round off the festival. Now, five years further on the musical road, Anthony B deservedly heads the bill as he's a great performer who instantly grabs you and takes you on a ride along his music as was experienced by all those who had stayed in the pool of mud in front of the stage to wait for Anthony B and the Star Trail Band. The latter featured guitarist/singer Junior Jazz who warmed up the crowd with some of his own tunes. Then is was time for Anthony B to make his much anticipated entrance on stage. The energy and drive was there from the beginning. Backed by a superb playing Star Trail band he treated the reggae massive to 'musical fire' and with an energetic and captivating performance he succeeded to ignite the audience. With Star Trail producer Richard "Bello" Bell on stage, giving directions to some members of the backing band, Anthony B delved into his extensive catalog and fired his best tunes into the audience amongst them "Storm Winds", "Fire Pon Rome", "Good Life", "Universal Struggle", "Swarm Me", "Cut Out That", "Waan Back" and "Prophecy A Reveal". Anthony B, and also the musicians who provided the flawless backing, fully showcased their talent and created positive vibes and irie feelings throughout the night.

The 24th edition of Reggae Geel was mainly wet and muddy, but some real strong performances, a devoted and enthousiastic reggae audience made up for the inconvenience. Already looking forward to next year's edition, which has to be a special one as this unique festival celebrates its silver jubilee.


Text: Teacher & Mr. T. ~ Photos: Teacher
Many thanks to Julian of www.REGGAEPHOTOS.de for his contribution.


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