Main acts that were announced to perform on Reggae Geel 2004 were veteran Robert Lee and band, sound system selector and MC Tony Matterhorn, Belgium's premier reggae band Panache Culture, Marcia Griffiths, Sanchez with special guest Lloyd Brown, Beres Hammond with Ginjah & Harmony House singers, Ward 21, Kings Of Kings Family with Iley Dread, Genie Slick & Chrisinti and Cocoa Tea.
With such an excellent line-up - one of the best in Reggae Geel's history - it's obvious that the 26th edition of this annual festival that took place on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th August 2004 had been waited for with great anticipation by the European Reggae posse. Even the fact that Marcia Griffiths' performance was cancelled (she was replaced by veteran singer Willie Williams) didn't affect that feeling.

Souljah was present at the festival's kick off on Friday, mainly because this year's edition of Reggae Geel featured one of the selector's he had been wanting to see for a long time. Here's his impression.
"The Friday evening started with several sounds from Belgium warming up the audience in fine style. They played a nice mix of current hype-tunes, foundation and dubplates, althought it seemed most sounds didn't hear the earlier sounds' sets fully, because a lot of tracks (strong as they may have been) were spun several times that evening. After that it was time for a fine live-performance by Jamaican Robert Lee, who was also featured in an article on his album "In Fine Style" and his view on reggae music in the news section early 2003. He is a very fine singer and did a nice show. But the real star of the night was former Addies selector Tony Matterhorn. No matter how low I may rate him as a clash selector (despite him being a former World Clash champion), he is without a doubt the best juggling selector in the world. Playing strictly hardcore dancehall tunes and newer foundation, he went on about how the other sounds e.g. Jaro, Rodigan, Stone Love all talk raeraerae about true foundation, and explained how he was spinning for the true party, and so he did. Virtually every riddim recently featured on Greensleeves Rhythm Albums, VP's Riddims Driven albums and all other one-riddim-albums came along, with a truly impressive amount of dubplates (never was attending where someone rinsed so many Bounty Killer dubs), of which of course a large number was on his first self-produced riddim, the superb 'Scoobay'-riddim. For me his was the true star of Reggae Geel 2004, although I certainly enjoyed Ward 21's performance, and especially Chrisinti's part in the Kings of Kings Family Showcase on Saturday."

On Saturday Belgium's premier reggae band Panache Culture was scheduled to perform on the main stage from 1.30 - 2.30pm, followed by Willie Williams from 3.15 - 4.15pm. A bit to early for us to attend their performances, but people who were there told us that Panache Culture did an energetic set in front of a very small but enthusiastic reacting crowd, whilst Willie Williams on the other hand didn't make a serious impression. We entered the festival ground - a new location very close to the old one - when Lloyd Brown took the stage. With a performance of about 25 minutes in which he delivered some of his best known tunes including a rendition of Hopeton Lewis' "Groovin' Out On Life", "Satisfy My Soul" and the wonderful "Bless Me", Lloyd Brown made a good impression. He fully showed that he's a great singer with a deep, sultry voice and a decent stage presence who can entertain the audience. We ran across Lloyd Brown when he came off stage.

RV : Again a short performance at Reggae Geel (didn't know he was going to do some songs with Sanchez later on / RV), just like three years ago when you replaced Little Roy. Would like to see you doing a full show.

Lloyd Brown : Yes, that's what I hope will happen in the future. Would be great to do a Lloyd Brown show in Europe, but right now I'm touring Europe with Sanchez, so that's another concept in which I play just a small part.

RV : How were you linked to Sanchez?

Lloyd Brown : Well, I wanted to perform in Europe, but to set up an extensive tour ain't that easy. So when my manager, Mikey Koos of ARM Promotions, who also handles Sanchez's affairs in the U.K., was told that Sanchez wanted to tour Europe we decided that I would join Sanchez on his tour. You could say it's a tour of the master and his apprentice.

RV : After Reggae Geel you're going back to London to do a show tomorrow?

Lloyd Brown : Yes, we have a sold out show with The Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra at the Hammersmith Carling Appollo in London.

RV : Then it won't last that long before we can see the show on dvd, just like happened before with John Holt.

Lloyd Brown : (laughs)...maybe after one and a half year.

RV : You're doing very well in the U.S. lately...

Lloyd Brown : Yes, in some parts of the U.S. .. New York for example. My version of Prince Lincoln's "Humanity" was well received, but it was "Bless Me" that really introduced me to the U.S. audience.

RV : Also other British reggae artists like Peter Hunnigale and Don Campbell are gaining more and more attention over there.

Lloyd Brown : Yeah.. that's really good, because they are real good artists who deserve that their music is also heard and appreciated outside the U.K. Don Ricardo is another singer with great potential. He's very, very talented and I really like what he's doing.

The next artist on stage needed no introduction, as just the sound of his angelic voice was enough to send the crowd into a frenzy. The one and only Sanchez, backed by his own Chronic band consisting of Oswald "IG" Gordon on bass, Courtney "Bubbla" Edwards, keyboards, Fitz Livermore on guitar and Joslyn "King Speckle" McKenzie on drums, spent some quality time endearing himself to his ever growing legion of fans. Truly a sight to behold in three piece suit with bowler hat, he commanded respect from the start of his performance. His reinterpretation of Simply Red's "Lady in Red" in 1987 propelled him to the forefront of the international reggae scene and was the start of a string of hit songs, many of them included on the setlist. Backed by a solid playing band Sanchez fully lived up to expectations. Starting off with "Here I Am" he then could do no wrong as he treated his audience to a great selection of catchy tunes, including "I Believe I Can Fly", "Love Won't Leave Me Alone", "I Can't Wait", "Missing You", "Loneliness", "Eternal Flame", "Hit Song", "Baby Can I Hold You", "Chronic", and of course, "Frenzy". He truly had his audience eating out of his hands. With "Love Mi Girl Bad" Sanchez showed that he's also able to deliver a tune inna wicked and wild dancehall stylee. It caused nuff excitement and was received with great approval from the crowd in front of the stage.

In between Lloyd Brown had come back on stage to do some tunes in combination with Sanchez. They started off with an awesome interpretation of Dennis Brown's "Love's Got A Hold of Me", followed by "Make It Easy On Yourself" and "No Man Is An Island", and ended with Bob Marley's inevitable "One Love". Sanchez closed his well received and exciting set, in which he delivered hit after hit after hit after hit, with a powerful rendition of "Amazing Grace".

After the change over of equipment it was the Harmony House Band that blazed the trail for the artists to come. First to appear on stage was Ginjah who sang "Responsibilities", "War Inna Di City" and a wicked rendition of the Mighty Diamonds' "I Need A Roof". As usual everyone got a turn to shine including backup vocalists Nikki Tucker, Dorette Wisdom and Melissa Simpson. The latter performed "Tears On My Pillow", Dorette sang "Tiger Claw", whilst Nikki delivered a song written by Beres Hammond, "You Gave Me Love" and also performed "One Life To Live". Together they ended their part of the show with a rendition of Dawn Penn's "No, No, No".

After this warm-up it was time for Beres Hammond to take the stage. Over the course of a 30-year career, Beres has poured his smoky-sweet voice ó an instrument of subtlety and power reminiscent of an Otis Redding or a Teddy Pendergrass ó over every kind of riddim track, from the funked-up reggae jams of the 1970s fusion band Zap Pow to the lush instrumentation of his 1976 album "Soul Reggae" to the spare digital beat of his 1985 dancehall breakthrough "What One Dance Can Do". In 1990, his album "A Love Affair" for Donovan Germain's Penthouse label raised his popularity to new heights. Cuts like "Tempted To Touch" and "Who Say" with Buju Banton are still as effective in the dancehall today as they were as pre-releases. The 1990s proved to be Hammondís decade, during which he blazed a trail of modern classics for a variety of producers. Also in the new millennium Beres Hammond appeared to be unstoppable, delivering hit after hit.

When the man with the playful smile, the unassuming demeanor, the beard, the cap and the spectacles started to sing "Step Aside", he instantly grabbed the attention of his adoring fans and the rest of the audience to never let loose again. Next he performed "She Loves Me Now", "Can't Stop A Man", and "I'm Falling In Love Again". Then he moved onto "Come Back Home" and asked the crowd if they remembered Garnett Silk before he covered "Hello Mama Africa", which was followed by "Tempted To Touch". Backed by a very tight playing band Beres delivered each song with absolute confidence and freshness, his little wiry frame soaring with the melody and story lines. It was obvious that the people loved it as they cheered and sang along with every tune. He continued to unleash hit after hit including "Putting Up A Resistance", "Can You Play Some More", "My Wish", "Full Attention", "They Gonna Talk", "Rock Away" and "Ainít It Good To Know". All in all a great performance from Jamaicaís greatest practicing singer/songwriter and definitely one of the highlights of Reggae Geel 2004.

Between Beres Hammond's set and the next act to come on stage, Ward 21, the crowd was treated to a nice and entertaining performance of Jamstyle - a Jamaican style dancing group from Belgium - who showed the hottest dances straight outta Jamaica.

Then, after an inexplicable delay, it was time for Ward 21's Andre, Kunley, Randaldo and Mark (or Suku, Kunley, Rumblood & Mean Dog as they are more affectionately known) and their European/Jamaican backing band to bring the massive some real hardcore dancehall vibes. Enthousiastic reactions and the excitement of the crowd made clear that many people enjoyed Ward 21's (unfortunately too short and halfway strangely paused) performance. All in all their set, mainly a mixture of popular favourites including "Coochie Zone" on Don Corleon's "Good To Go" riddim, "Rhyme", "Style" and "Ganja Smoke" across the revitalized "Shank I Sheck" riddim, was energetic and fairly good. Like Kunley afterwards said.. "Ward 21 always gives alot of energy on stage, but gets it back from the crowd. That's why we like playing on festivals, because there we perform in front of a huge crowd."

Next came the Kings of Kings Family Showcase with Colin Levy aka Iley Dread, Genie Slick & Chrisinti. Backed by the Gumption Band it was especially Chrisinti's part that made a serious impression. He showed that he's definitely going to take his place in the forefront of reggae music. Besides delivering some tunes from his debut cd, Chrisinti also performed a brand new combination tune - doing both his own part and that of Gentleman - that will be featured on his second album. Then the Kings Of Kings Family paid tribute to Garnett Silk, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, which was done in fine style.

With regards to the main acts the festival was rounded off by Cocoa Tea, who performed in Belgium for the first time. The veteran singer gave a very fine performance, going hit after hit style with tunes such as "Rikers Island", "Love Me Truly", "She Loves Me Now", "Good Life", "Israel's King", "Holy Mount Zion", "Stand Up Straight" and "Tune In", in the meanwhile introducing a couple of tunes from his newest album "Tek Weh Yuh Gal", and seemingly unstoppable although the thunder & lightning accompanied by the rain at one moment seemed to have swayed three-quarters of his audience into the dancehall-tent. He certainly deserves - although he was talking about Jah blessing him and us with this weather - to be seen in Europe again next year in a warm summer setting.

It was an excellent Reggae Geel 2004. Year after year this festival proves that it is the best place to be when you want to catch a vibe, reggae- or otherwise. Add it's extremely cheap entrance fee of 20 Euro for two days and it's obvious that those who have never been there should try to check it out next year.

Text : Souljah & Mr. T   Photos : Teacher

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