Beljam's Reggae Geel Festival is an annual event comprising two days of shows that pay homage to the roots and culture of Reggae music. Held on the first Friday and Saturday of August it always offers a well varied line up of the hottest reggae artists, reggae veterans, talented up-and-comers, and Sounds from Beljam and abroad, attracting thousands and thousands of spectators annually. Reggae lovers were spoilt for choice with a variety of performances that took place during this 36th edition of Europe's oldest reggae festival.

Friday's performances on the main stage started at 6:30pm with first Beljam's oldest reggae band Panache Culture feat. Henry "Matic Horns" Buttons and Guillaume "Stepper" Briard, followed by Dre Island & Jah Kingdom Band, Chronixx & Zinc Fence Redemption, Beenie Man and Bunny Wailer & Solomonic Reggaestra. Meanwhile on the 4 smaller stages (18" Dub Corner, Bounce Dancehall, Skaville and The Yard), dubheads, dancehall fans, ska & rocksteady addicts and music lovers could enjoy sets from Forward Fever feat. Kenny Knots, Fatman vs. Lloydie Coxsone, Alpha & Omega, RC (Righteous Child) & Silly Walks Discotheque, Civalizee Foundation, Massive B, Asher G, Festus Coxsone, Chris Peckings, Verse iTal, TriXstar, Shuga, and No-Maddz. An almost impossible mission to attend every act, but the timetable (for the first time available in an app for smartphones) provided some help to see at least (parts of) most of the acts.
  • Audience
    Audience
  • Beenie Man
    Beenie Man
  • Sound @ Bounce
    Sound @ Bounce
  • Brina
    Brina
  • Bunny Wailer
    Bunny Wailer
  • Chronixx
    Chronixx
  • Damian Marley
    Damian Marley
  • Dre Island
    Dre Island
  • Jesse Royal
    Jesse Royal
  • No-Maddz
    No-Maddz
  • The Pioneers
    The Pioneers
  • Protoje
    Protoje
  • Sanchez
    Sanchez
  • Shuga & Kenny B
    Shuga & Kenny B
  • Trixstar
    Trixstar
  • U Roy
    U Roy
Dre Island and Cronixx were this evening's exponents of the so-called reggae revival movement. Of course it's Chronixx who internationally attracts the most attention, not least due to the tours he has done in the past two years and his recent appearance in Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show on NBC in the US. Not an easy task for Dre Island to precede one of the most acclaimed current reggae artists, but he did it with gusto. With songs such as "Live Forever", "Uptown Downtown" and a beautiful version of "Reggae Love" he managed to make a truly serious impression, making it hard for Chronixx to outmatch his performance. And Chronixx, as ever backed by the Zinc Fence Redemption, didn't! Despite treating the crowd to better known songs (including a few hits) such as "Alpha & Omega", "Start A Fire", "Never Give Up", "They Don't Know", "Walk With The Saviour", "Access Granted (Don't Take My Love For Granted)", "Smile Jamaica", "Behind Curtain" and "Here Comes Trouble", Chronixx failed to deliver a real convincing performance. Even the fact that the mixing by the sound engineer in charge wasn't that good isn't an excuse for not redeeming your pledge throughout. All in all Chronixx's performance was a bit disappointing.

The event was brought to a climax by the headliners, the King of Dancehall, Beenie Man, and the living legend, Bunny Wailer. Beenie Man was first up and being the experienced showman he is, the dancehall heavyweight gave a decent performance for an excited and enthousiastic reacting dancehall massive. Beenie Man's energy induced performance was boiling hot. He pulled out hits from his extensive catalogue, while the audience often sung along. His over an hour-long performance included crowd favourites such as "Who Am I", "Romie", "Let Him Go", Tell Me", Wickedest Slam", "Dude", and "Rum & Red Bull", which kept the party in full swing. Also Sly & Robbie's "Bam Bam" riddim from 1992 was greeted with much approval with Beenie Man doing "Murder She Wrote" & "Dancehall Queen" over this infectious riddim.
  • Audience
    Audience
  • Sanchez
    Sanchez
  • Sound @ Bounce
    Sound @ Bounce
  • Bunny Wailer
    Bunny Wailer
  • Beenie Man
    Beenie Man
  • Audience
    Audience
  • Band - Chronixx
    Band - Chronixx
  • Damian Marley
    Damian Marley
  • Brina
    Brina
  • Panache Culture
    Panache Culture
  • Festus Coxsone
    Festus Coxsone
  • Band - Jesse Royal
    Band - Jesse Royal
  • No-Maddz
    No-Maddz
  • Band - Protoje
    Band - Protoje
  • Band - U-Roy
    Band - U-Roy
  • Shuga
    Shuga
Then it was time for Bunny Wailer, also known as Bunny Livingston and affectionately as Jah B, to bring the show on the main stage to an epic finale. The founding and only surviving member of trailblazing reggae group The Wailers, who impressed when he performed at Reggae Geel in 2010, was expertly backed by the phenomenal Solomonic Reggaestra feat. Dwight Pinkey on guitar and brass section Unit 3. Backed by a tight playing band, with the Unit 3 horns section blowing up the songs in great style, Bunny Wailer fully lived up to expectations. A royal show with lots of immortal reggae classics such as "Rastaman Chant", "Rastaman", "Dreamland", "Armagideon", "Fighting Against Conviction", "Rock N Groove", "Don Dada", "Trenchtown", "Ballroom Floor", "Rule Dancehall", "Cool Runnings", "I Stand Predominate", "Keep On Moving" and "Simmer Down".

This year we had a special interest in what was happening 'Inna The Yard'. It was instantly clear that this part of the festival benefitted from changes based on last year's experience. The Yard had a more intimate setting, a real stage, a far better sound, and an interesting line-up of artists, which made that significant more people found their way to this stage. Female artists TriXstar from Germany and Shuga from Jamaica treated the small crowd in front of the stage to real nice performances, but it were the members of No-Maddz who impressed most. "Fresher than cool coconut water", a quote from Rigo Verwimp's facebook page, describes No-Maddz's remarkable show perfectly well. For those who have missed the show and/or never heard of the No-Maddz, here's a brief introduction of a group that deserves to be on the main stage next year.
  • Damian Marley
    Damian Marley
  • Audience
    Audience
  • U-Roy
    U-Roy
  • Mama Suzie
    Mama Suzie
  • Beenie Man
    Beenie Man
  • Jesse Royal
    Jesse Royal
  • Brina
    Brina
  • Bunny Wailer
    Bunny Wailer
  • Chronixx
    Chronixx
  • Protoje
    Protoje
  • The Pioneers
    The Pioneers
  • Shuga
    Shuga
  • Audience
    Audience
  • Damian Marley
    Damian Marley
  • No-Maddz
    No-Maddz
  • Sanchez
    Sanchez
No-Maddz, based in Bull Bay, St Andrew JA, was formed at their alma mater Kingston College in 2000. The group comprises of Sheldon Shepherd, Everaldo 'Evie' Creary, Christopher 'Birdheye' Gordon, and O'Neil 'Honey P' Peart. No-Maddz fuses their unique Dub Poetry style with multiple music genres such as Blues, Jazz, Funk, Big band, Pop, Dubstep, Lovers Rock, Soul, R&B, and Hip Hop and carries the spirit of Jamaica's Roots music. They infuse plenty of drama and humor, but also a serious message into their eclectic style of music, which they call 'Bongo Music'. Probably the best known tune from No-Maddz, although you may have overheard it if you havent heard of them before, is "Rise Above Profanity (Poo Puku Poo)" which was featured on the PUMA FAAS global campaign. All members are recipients of the prestigious Jamaican Prime Minster Youth Award for excellence in the field of Arts and Culture (years awarded 2006, 2005,2009, 2007 respectively); the highest state award for youths in Jamaica.

After having taken the stage, No-Maddz instantly captivated the audience with their infectious melodies, smart lyrics, and playful stage presence, and kept them involved till the very end, which led to the crowd screaming for more when they finished their set and left the stage. Unfortunately for all of them eager to hear more Mo-Maddz, they didn't (think couldn't) return for an encore. During their set they performed songs such as "Coming Back", "Heaven On Earth", "Order My Steps", "Lets Dance", "Rise Above Profanity (Poo Puku Poo)" and the very soulful love song "Romance" (aka "Pilot Through The Clouds") with a lead vocal - accompanied by angelic harmonies - that reminded us of Marvin Gaye. This beautiful tune is the lead single off the new EP "Sly & Robbie Presents No-Maddz", to be released by Taxi Records. Furthermore they did a wicked interpretation of Third World's "Now That We Found Love" called "Ganja Stain (Now That We Found Herb)". Without any doubt the one hour-lasting show of No-Maddz was one of the highlights of this year's Reggae Geel festival.
  • Trixstar
    Trixstar
  • Audience
    Audience
  • Protoje
    Protoje
  • Backstage
    Backstage
  • Beenie Man
    Beenie Man
  • Brina
    Brina
  • Damian Marley
    Damian Marley
  • Dre Island
    Dre Island
  • Audience
    Audience
  • U-Roy
    U-Roy
  • Festus Coxsone
    Festus Coxsone
  • Jesse Royal
    Jesse Royal
  • Black Am I
    Black Am I
  • No-Maddz
    No-Maddz
  • Band - Sanchez
    Band - Sanchez
  • Anouncer Damian Marley
    Anouncer Damian Marley
The main stage on Saturday first graced the winner of the BeneluXXL Reggae Contest for bands 2014, Rapha Pico & the Roots Rockers, who was followed by Raging Fyah, Midnite and I-Octane & Riddim Band 2000. We didn't see them perform as we had decided to return to the festival grounds just before the 'Small Axe' Jesse Royal would take the stage. This much promising artist, another exponent of the reggae revival movement, learned the ropes from the late producer Phillip 'Fatis' Burrell of Xterminator fame. In recent times he attracted attention with quite a few noteworthy singles and mixtapes such as "In Comes The Small Axe" and "Major Lazer's Walshy Fire presents Royally Speaking". Jesse Royal, backed by the great Indiggnation Band, began his amazing set with "Hotter The Battle" and continued in royal style with "Greedy Babylon", "Singing The Blues", "Butterflies" (which included a part of Garnet Silk's "Hello Mama Africa") and "Modern Day Judas", before he rounded off with "This Morning". Although Jesse Royal's performance lasted about half an hour, his burgeoning talent and lyrically prowess came to full expression. Another highlight of the festival.

And it didn't stop here because immediately after Jesse Royal it was time for Protoje to join his Indiggnation Band on stage. His set opened with an extended version of "I&I" from his album "The 8-Year Affair", and from there he treated the massive to favourites like "Rub A Dub Soldier", "Dread", "Who Dem A Program", "This Is NOT A Marijuana Song", "Rasta Love", "Hail Rastafari", "JA", "Who Knows", and "Kingston Be Wise". The audience was also in for a treat when Protoje invited Jesse Royal onstage and together they performed their cuts on the "Military" riddim: "Preying On The Weak" and "Resist No Evil". Protoje made fully clear why he is at the fore of the reggae revival movement and left an indelible mark on the crowd. It was for the third consecutive year Protoje performed at Reggae Geel and this was by far his best performance.
  • Lloyd Coxsone
    Lloyd Coxsone
  • Sanchez
    Sanchez
  • Audience
    Audience
  • Beenie Man
    Beenie Man
  • Brina
    Brina
  • Damian Marley
    Damian Marley
  • Band - Protoje
    Band - Protoje
  • Pirates Crew
    Pirates Crew
  • Bunny Wailer
    Bunny Wailer
  • No-Maddz
    No-Maddz
  • Chronixx
    Chronixx
  • Jesse Royal
    Jesse Royal
  • The Pioneers
    The Pioneers
  • U-Roy
    U-Roy
  • Band-  Sanchez
    Band- Sanchez
  • Audience
    Audience
Next up was reggae veteran and DJ originator U.Roy, who returned with a backing band after having made his appearance on the Reggae Geel festival in 2008 together with Brigadier Jerry and Josey Wales on the King Stur-Gav Sound System. Whether he performs with a band or a Sound Systen, U.Roy hardly ever fails to impress and the show he did was no exception. Besides tunes from his last year released album "Pray Fi Di People", he also brought classic reggae songs such as "Runaway Girl", "Natty Rebel", "Dread Inna Babylon" and "OK Fred". Real nice to here those tunes once again.

Also sweet-voiced singer Sanchez returned to Reggae Geel, ten years after he did a well received set in which he brought hit after hit after hit from his extensive catalogue. And again his set was full of hit songs such as "One In A Million", "Here I Am", "Hit Song", "Frenzy", "Missing You", "If I Ever Fall In Love", "Wherever I Lay My Hat", and "Loneliness". Besides that he paid tribute to sorely missed reggae icons Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Bob Marley as he performed songs like "Love & Hate", "Revolution", "Night Nurse", "Three Little Birds" and "One Love". The super reggae crooner with silky smooth vocals did an outstanding show, entertaining the crowd from beginning to end.
  • Damian Marley
    Damian Marley
  • Audience
    Audience
  • Band - U-Roy
    Band - U-Roy
  • Beenie Man
    Beenie Man
  • Sound @ Bounce
    Sound @ Bounce
  • Shuga
    Shuga
  • Chris Peckings
    Chris Peckings
  • Brina
    Brina
  • Bunny Wailer
    Bunny Wailer
  • Band - Dre Island
    Band - Dre Island
  • Jesse Royal
    Jesse Royal
  • Audience
    Audience
  • The Pioneers
    The Pioneers
  • No-Maddz
    No-Maddz
  • Protoje
    Protoje
  • Sanchez
    Sanchez
Before Saturday's eagerly awaited headliner Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley came on stage, it was Black Am I from the Ghetto Youths Crew performing a few songs to warm up the crowd. The culturally inclined reggae singer Black Am I, who has already distinguished himself as a powerful voice, made a good impression. And then it was time for his mentor to take over proceedings. After a theatrical intro Damian 'Jr Gong' started his only show in Europe this summer with "Make It Bun Dem", which was followed by the dancehall hit "Set Up Shop", "More Justice" and "Hey Girl". With his energy, expressive voice and verbal dexterity, and sensitivity to audience desires, Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley delivered the goods and got the audience in a frenzy. They cheered, danced and sang along as he worked his way through his set, which furthermore included songs such as "There For You", "Dispear", "Land Of Promise", "Shoot Out", "Road To Zion", "Welcome To Jamrock" and the impressive song "Gunman World" across the big bad "Rootsman" riddim, created by his keyboard player Winta James. And, as expected, he also did a few songs from his legendary father including "Get Up, Stand Up", "War" and "Could You Be Loved", which in our opinion could have been left out.

Roughly between Sanchez and Damian Marley's performances, the Skaville stage hosted The Pioneers (backed by Phoenix City All-Stars), while in The Yard the talented female vocalist Brina graced the stage. Despite problems with the sound, The Pioneers - consisting of Jackie Robinson and George Dekker - did a lovely performance in front of a mixed audience of young and older fans. They treated them to songs such as "Let Your Yeah Be Yeah", "Starvation", "Feeling High", "Time Hard", a rendition of The Temptations' "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", "Little Soap", "Samfie Man", "Reggae Fever" and "Long Shot Kick The Bucket", which were all greeted with much approval.
  • Damian Marley
    Damian Marley
  • Audience
    Audience
  • Shuga
    Shuga
  • Festus Coxsone
    Festus Coxsone
  • Audience
    Audience
  • Beenie Man
    Beenie Man
  • U-Roy
    U-Roy
  • Sound @ Bounce
    Sound @ Bounce
  • Band - Bunny Wailer
    Band - Bunny Wailer
  • Gideon Drummers
    Gideon Drummers
  • Damian Marley
    Damian Marley
  • Band - Protoje
    Band - Protoje
  • Unit 3
    Unit 3
  • Chronixx
    Chronixx
  • Trixstar
    Trixstar
  • Pirates Crew
    Pirates Crew
  • No-Maddz
    No-Maddz
  • Sanchez
    Sanchez
  • Beenie Man
    Beenie Man
  • U-Roy
    U-Roy
A true revelation was Brina. An empress with a great voice and an appealing stage presence. A real pity not that many people attended her performance in The Yard as the crowd had moved to the main stage to attend Damian Marley's show. Brina is a new voice of World Roots Reggae Music from Jamaica, an artist steeped in the sounds and riddims of her Jamaican culture. Fusing together elements of her rich cultural and musical heritage using Reggae, Nyabinghi and other musical styles from the global African diaspora, Brina brings a positive healing message to the world through her songs, singing of justice, equality, liberation, oneness and love. She did a semi-acoustic set in which she was accompanied by Scottish bass player Kieran C Murray (producer of the "Under One Sun" album), French guitar player Greg Emonet and the Giddeon Drummers. Opening with "Heri Pahali" (a Prayer/Invocation Chant and track from her upcoming Swahili EP "Reggae Sauti Za Kiswahili", she continued with a wonderful cover version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" and "We Are Free" from her album "Under One Sun". These were followed by "Everything Crumbles", "Warmongerers", "The Lords My Shepherd" (Brina's original version Buju Banton tribute), "Feet Don't Fail Me Now", "Sinnerman/ Downpressor Man Medley" (Nina Simone/Peter Tosh cover) and "Listen". Her set was rounded off with "Real Reggae Music", the only song on which she was backed by Sound. Brina showed that she's a truly vibrant and captivating performer, whose lyrics and music touches the heart and soul of her audience.

All in all a great 36th edition of Reggae Geel, although the following comments can be made. There's always been a nice balance in Reggae Geel's line-up for the main stage, but this year having only two foundation artists on the main stage during the entire event disturbed that balance, which - if this indicates a trend - is a real pity. Unnoticable for the festivalgoers, but an issue during the festival days by some of the artists as well as quite a few others was the lack of vibes and atmosphere in the backstage area. Until this year that was always a lively area with a truly unique vibe, but due to the festival's new policy it was almost impossible to 'catch a vibe' there. Last but not least... Big up Mama Suzie for the delicious pumpkin soup and jerk chicken!!



Text : Mr. T   Photos: Teacher & Da Dreamer