Reggae '97 Geel held its nineteenth annual open air festival Aug. 1-2 at
their festival grounds located in a woody area between Geel and Mol. For the
first time ever the promoters couldn't hold on to their free entrance policy,
due to the fact they can't guarantee the existence of this event regarding
the present quality level of artists. Praiseworthy they kept the admission
price as low as possible (200 BEF = 6 US dollars all-in).
Teacher & Mr. T.
To set off the vibes Friday night The Amharic (with bassplayer Ronnie Lion,
founder of the Lion Roots label coming from Brixton, London, by many regarded
as one of the best U.K. record labels concerning "new roots" releases) and
the soundsystems Survival Hi Power & Jetstar/Jambo were performing at the
camping special in a large tent called the Marquee. However, for many the
main event took place at Saturday evening and night with a top-notch bill
including Prince Lincoln & Royal Rasses, Axx of Jahpostles, Anthony B. and
Before we entered the festival area we could hear the heavy-sounding bass
lines from way over in the parking lot. Once inside we realized we were just
in time to capture Prince Lincoln (with the latest incarnation of the Royal
Rasses) in the last part of a solid performance. What a joy it was to see
this reggae veteran back on stage presenting classics ("Humanity") and brand
new tunes ("Hear our cry"), which the crowd received with great respect and
Then it was time for Axx of Jahpostles to take the stage in front of 10,000
or so people for what happened to be their first official performance in
Europe. Typical for Axx of Jahpostles are their so-called "country style"
harmonies, well-constructed songs and the energetic and powerful backing of
the musicians. They fully succeeded in bringing forward all these ingredients.
With their enthusiastic demeanor they encouraged the people in the audience
to dance and sing along, entertaining them with songs like "All kinda fight",
"Babylon glass house", "Play reggae", "Ghettos end", "Starlight", "Man with
the hammer", "True lover", "We a nuh loafter", "Mi Gwan" and "Give thanks and
praise". When the vocalists left stage the musicians of Axx of Jahpostles
stayed in order to provide backing for the following two artists.
Young sensation Anthony B. was the first to step on stage. Dressed in a
traditional Afrocentric light yellow robe, his visage topped by a comparing
turban and carrying a black staff in his left hand he made an overwhelming
impression and grabbed everyone's attention as he opened his set with "So
many things". He jumped, pranced, danced across the stage - sometimes
firing karate-like kicks in the air as if in some sort of ritual - on tunes
like "Rumour", "One thing", "Swarm Me" (after telling the crowd that this
song was banned in Jamaica for its lyrics), "Watch what you eat", "Raid di
barn" and "Waan back" (on Gregory Isaacs' "Night nurse"-riddim). With
facial expressions and sometimes wide-open eyes he made sure the audience
was following right along with him. He talked to the crowd about Bob Marley's
great efforts, impact and meaning for Jamaica which should be officially
rewarded by putting his picture on the $ 1000 JA banknote, before he
continued with the tribute song "Marley memories". In songs like "Cold feet",
"Bun down Sodom" and "Fire pon Rome" he seemed so humble, but yet militantly
strong in his messages. With his stunning and appealing performance, intensely
leaning on rastafari teachings, Anthony B. satisfied his fans and certainly
gained a lot of respect from others.
The final artist to take the stage was Everton Blender, by the Jamaican mc "Maestro"
announced as one of the current messengers from Jamaica. So far Everton
Blender put out two Star Trail albums which were well-received, not only by
people involved in reggae business, but also by older roots fans as well as
the youth. He went through favorites like "Piece a di blender", "Lift up your
head", "Bob Marley", "Create a sound", "Family man", World corruption",
"Ghetto people song" (a great song which got a really weak interpretation),
"Blend dem", "Ghetto youths" and the accapella sung "Where do the children
play". For the second time this year we witnessed a disappointing performance
from a singer who delivers such great songs on disc. When his last tune
slipped away into the night we were left behind with mixed feelings.