Concert report
Reggae '99 Geel.
Festival Grounds Belse Bossen ~ Geel ~ Belgium.
07 - 08 - 1999

Viewing the poster of Reggae Geel '99 driving forces behind this almost ever appealing and very enjoyable festival, Rigo Verwimp and Kris Eelen, didn't deviate from their policy to bring roots-oriented young up-and-coming talents alongside reggae legends in front of the Reggae Geel audience. Furthermore they didn't overlook the dancehall massive as they had billed a.o. the legendary Jamaican foundation sound Killamanjaro with selector Freddy Kruger alongside Jah Sound International on Friday evening. Besides that Musik Street Twinspin - London's award winning "streetwise" Jamaican crew from the city's northwest area featuring Robbo Ranx, Johnny & Skelly - could spin their records on the mainstage before and after the main show as well as during the breaks between the acts. During this 21st edition of Reggae Geel the mainstage was reserved for Levi Roots, AbaKush, Twinkle Brothers, Harry Chapman, Yabby You and Frankie Paul (who replaced the previously announced Jahmali).

For the second year in succession London-based Levi Roots performed on the festival. During last year's edition Levi Roots was backed by UK's undisputed best riddim section Mafia & Fluxy, but this time he came to deliver a so-called "unplugged" set in which voices played the main role. It's certainly not the most easiest task for an artist to be scheduled as the opening act but in this case Levi Roots did a real good job. Backed by double bass, drums and percussion, horns and the great voices of the reunited vocal harmony group Klearview Harmonix roots singer Levi Roots treated the audience to a mixture of Reggae and African-oriented music. This extraordinary rootical set - which incorporated some nice ballads and an hommage to the Reggae Greats by means of a moving version of Bob Marley's "Small Axe" - gave a good and satisfying impression of this impassionate singer's skills and talent and fully justified the promotors' choice to contract Levi Roots for the second time in a row.


After a short break, with Musik Street Twinspin entertaining the crowd by spinning some fine 45s, it was time for AbaKush from South London to present themselves to the festival audience. Formed in 1981 they were the first predominantly female reggae band in the UK. The present line-up was completed in 1983 just prior to their first recording session. First and foremost AbaKush are a roots band committed to the Rastafarian ideals of Love, Peace and Unity. Their CD ep "Dreaming of Afrika" - at the end of 1998 released by Jove Music - was hailed by the English black music paper Echoes as follows: "It's a fine comeback record, but then so is their recut of "Batta Dem", a mighty inspired rockers of the Warrior Charge persuasion, with trombonist Henry 'Buttons' Tenue blowing up a storm over Mafia & Fluxy's heavy stepping reggae drum and bass. Very impressive..."


AbaKush on stage consisted of Jena, Angela and Jenny (vocals), Zion (drums), Christine (guitar), Mikey (bass), Zeb (keyboards) and Fari (percussion). The musicians were seemingly in good shape and provided a solid backing for the appealing and enjoyable vocal performances of the three singers. In the way these dedicated artists moved and expressed themselves on stage it was obvious that they were giving the people the best they had to offer, thus creating the right vibes which led to a fine interaction with the crowd. With tunes like "Glory Glory", "Sodom & Gormorah", "All The Riches", the dancehall flavoured "It's You", "Youth Dem", "Hiding From The Lord" and "Mommy Don't Cry" AbaKush won the hearts of many reggae fans and especially those belonging to the roots-oriented part of the festival audience. To us "Dreaming Of Afrika", a wicked extended version of "Batta Dem" and their thrilling interpretation of "Payaka" were the most memorable moments of their performance. During their set the band got good response from the crowd and indeed... AbaKush did a very impressive set and were undoubtedly one of the highlights of Reggae Geel '99, an observation we actually shared with the also present Kariang Records' director Michael "Jah Mikey" Lee.

Next on stage were the Twinkle Brothers. Although being in the music business from the early sixties it lasted until 1975 before they released their first album "Rasta Pon Top", which has become a well-desired collectors item. However the Twinkle Brothers acquired international fame when they signed to Virgin's reggae-offshoot "Frontline". They released the highly acclaimed "Love" album, which was followed by "Praise Jah" and the classic "Countrymen" before the Twinkle Brothers were dropped by Virgin. The group more or less ceased to be an entity but founding member Norman Grant - who had settled down in the UK - continued to record and perform as the Twinkle Brothers.

His catalogue now spans over 50 albums not to mention those of the young talent he produced. All of them are still as relevant as his stuff from the original days.
In front of an enthusiastic audience Norman "Twinkle" Grant and his companions on stage delivered a solid roots set. He run through his extensive catalogue bringing songs from past and present. Fortunately well-known classic tunes such as "Never Get Burn", "Jah Kingdom", "Jahoviah" and "Since I Threw The Comb Away" were included as well and got a truly sparkling interpretation. Twinkle Brothers showcased that he's still a very powerful live entertainer, which made it a real joy to see and hear him perform.


MC Robbo Ranx announced Harry Chapman as the former frontman of the S.A.N.E. Band and the one - alongside Merciless - who mashed up the place during Bounty Killer's Birthday Bash earlier this year in Jamaica. Although his movements on stage were very energetic Harry Chapman failed to make a strong impression as a singer. During his set the backing band didn't play some of the riddims that well and hearing Harry Chapman performing his tunes live was less convincing than we had expected considering the quality of his 45s. Even his killer tune across Barry O'Hare's "Heathen" riddim entitled "Herb Fi Bun" couldn't take his performance to a higher level. Meanwhile Ras Messengers performed in the big tent, which turned out to be a cool and subtile Reggae performance. Four bongo's, an accoustic bass, a flute and the beautiful voices of the Ras Angels where enough too fill the hearts of the handfull of people that where so smart to leave Chapman for what he was.

Then it was showtime for Jamaica's legendary singer and producer Yabbi You, who has been responsible for some of the most beautiful and intense Roots reggae of all times. In 1998 Blood & Fire Records, renown for its quality in re-releasing classic roots reggae, released the 2 cd set "Yabby You: Jesus Dread 72-77", regarded as one of the most important reissues of the year. Another reissue from that very same label and a highlight too is "King Tubby’s Prophesy of Dub", music that hits and soothes at the same time, a rare quality. It is considered as a milestone in the history of Dub. Throughout the eighties and nineties Yabby You wasn't that prolific (due to the fact that his health deteriorated), but he nevertheless brought his fans some fine albums including "Fleeing From The City", "Yabby You Presenting : New Roots Reggae", "Yabby You Meets Mad Professor And Black Steel" and "Jah Will Be Done".


After stepping forward on crutches and taking his place behind the microphone almost 50-year old Yabby You started his performance with his all-time classic "Conquering Lion", indeed.. the song with the immortal drawn-out chanting refrain "Be you, yabby yabby you". What followed was an overview of Yabby You's and reggae's finest roots songs delivered in the veteran singer's renown typical singing style. Of course, the crowd did not witness a sensational stage performance, but in this case it was purely the music - reggae of a deep, spiritual nature - that excited and impressed many of those present.

It was through a Channel One 'clash' album - featuring Sugar Minott on the other side - that Frankie Paul first came to the attention of the record-buying public. Billed on the album sleeve as "the up and coming superstar" it was not long before Frankie Paul became the absolute don of the late "Rub-a Dub" and early "Dancehall". In the mid-eighties Frankie "tune a day" Paul delivered hit after hit and reigned supreme. Up till now Frankie has been recording good work with varying success. Dancehall or not he has always steered clear from slackness and violence and his topics, firmly rooted in Jamaican everyday life, have always been uplifting. Frankie Paul is known and loved for his solid live performances.

He's the kind of artist who always tries to bring his very best and hardly disappoints his audience. Frankie Paul fully lived up to expectations and got the crowd really going. Frankie's voice had power and dignity, the musicians of the backing band did a solid job and the singer seemingly effortless performed his greatest hits. Tunes like "Tidal Wave", "Worries In The Dance", "Casanova", "Fire Deh A Mus Mus Tail", "Curfew In The Dance", "Bad Dog" and "Tu Shung Peng" were delivered in his own inimitable style. During the breaks a female fan yelled for "People Of The World" and she was really delighted when Frankie answered her plea by performing this wonderful song.

Furthermore he sung "My Cherie Amour", a hit tune from Stevie Wonder with whom Frankie Paul has been compared from the beginning of his career. Inevitable but truly worthwile was his hommage to the late great Dennis Brown - alongside Stevie Wonder one of Frankie's main influences - with fine versions of songs like "Cassandra" and "Revolution". During his set he got great approval from the crowd and it was obvious he couldn't leave them without an encore. With Frankie Paul's satisfying, sometimes masterful performance the main programme came to an end.

However, those who couldn't get enough of listening and dancing to reggae music didn't have to leave their place in front of the mainstage as London's Musik Street Twinspin took over the proceedings with the selectors in charge spinning the latest 45s on their turntables.

In so far as we can judge the festival was well-organized as ever and approximately 9000 reggae fans had a good time at Reggae Geel '99, thanks to the efforts of the promotors, the many volunteers and, of course, the reggae artists. Big up and maximum respect goes out to all of them !

Writers: Teacher & Mr. T. ~ Pictures: Teacher

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