For the first time Reggae Sundance was a whole weekend this year instead of just a one-dayer, and it was kicked off in style by Seeed. The band took the stage playing the Pharaoh riddim, Diwali and more, with DJ Illvibe providing the samples and scratches, and the horns on top of these tight played riddims. The hooded sweaters wearing music monks started out with a song unknown to me "Storm Coming / Shock Rock Away" and segued into "Papa Noah" from their first album "New Dubby Conquerors". Next up was "Pressure" based on the Fishbone song, followed by "Wir Sind'S(eeed)" over the ever popular "Police & Thieves" riddim and a great rocksteady style guitar solo. "Release" over Germaica's popular "Cure" (based on a "Close To You") riddim was given a great rendition. A freestyle over a hip hop riddim with prominent horns bigged up the Holland posse, who were in front of the stage in a larger number, and more involved than I have ever seen an audience watch an act opening a festival. Seeed's 2nd Dutch performance once again showed they are one of the best live-outfits in reggae in this time, with a full band, killer horns, great turntablist and 3 great vocalists, who are also great dancers and performers. They played "Love Is The Queen" from their latest album "Music Monks" before DJ Illvibe got scratching on top with the band playing the "Murder She Wrote" riddim, and the horns providing the original "Bam Bam" melody on top. Then another original from their first album: "Dancehall Caballeros", and some from "Music Monks" like "Respectness" and the ska'd up "Fire In The Morning" before a trip down memory lane that included "Stop That Train", "Uptown Top Ranking", "Diseases" and more, with another Holland bigup showing Seeed seemed to love the audience as much as they were loved by them. Seeed's take on their own by now worldwide ruling "Doctor's Darling" riddim - "Waterpumpee" - had the crowd jumping, and they kept that momentum with "Music Monks" over the "Pharaoh" riddim. Having the crowd clapping the riddim for "Make It Clap", and then have the horns kicking in for "Dickes B". The deserved encore kicked off with the 'hidden track' on "New Dubby Conquerors" over Real Rock "Ms. Audrey", and culminated in a dancehall queen contest over "Riddim No.1" Seeed's take on the Diwali riddim, incorporating "Get Busy" and have the audience jumping bidding them farewell, after a superb performance.

The Morgan family's youngest musical group LMS, without Miriam who is still recovering in Jamaica after an accident, gave another solid performance, after their stints at Two77Splash and Reggae Geel this summer. Laza and Shy-Poo gave us more or less the same setlist as they did then, and their blend of R&B, hip hop, dancehall and roots is surely a force to reckon with.


Laza and Shy-Poo, LMS

Next up was the Peter Tosh Celebration Tour, featuring former Peter Tosh bandmember Tony Chin on guitar with Carlton 'Santa' Davis' substitute drumming and bassie Fully Fullwood backing former Wailers Band member Andrew McIntyre. Great to hear the songs of Peter Tosh, his powerful lyrics that haven't been 'ruined' as much on stage as some of Bob Marley's songs, sung live over a great backing by for this occasion dressed in Dutch national soccer team jersey Andrew McIntyre. Starting with "Pick Myself Up", they did "Equal Rights", Downpressor Man", "Stepping Razor", "Legalize It", "Johnny B. Goode" an original ballad that seemed out of tone with the Tosh material, and "Get Up, Stand Up".


Fully Fulwood on bass, Tony Chin on guitar and former member of the Wailers Band Andrew McIntyre singing as part of the Peter Tosh Celebration Tour.

Only a short change-over (one of few actually short change-overs) before Caribbean Pulse took the stage, with Santa's substitute still drumming in this 12 piece band, with real horns, and kicked off with their excellent "Jah Is My Rock" over the Rougher Yet riddim, that featured Damian Marley on the vinyl release, followed by "Victory" from their "Stand Up" album. Caribbean Pulse is a tight band, with (by now people will have notice I do dislike it) sometimes those rock-influenced guitar solos, with a very good lead singer in Ezzy Judah, going through other original songs like "Unity" and Freedom". Caribbean Pulse have the potential to become an established act if they are able to get more performances in Europe. They certainly deserve some more exposure over here.


Caribbean Pulse's vocalists LaNiece McKay & Ezzie Judah.

And no matter how much I would have loved to see especially Barrington Levy, (I am not easily convinced of the fact that I missed out on anything special by not seeing Junior Kelly or Lucky Dube, I think Lucky Dube is great the first 2 times you see him, but he certainly is overexposed in the Netherlands IMO), I had to attend a wedding-party. It was a very nice party, but every few minutes my mind wandered to the Genneperparken. The only thing keeping me upbeat I had was that there was still a day coming up on Sunday ;-)

It seemed there were less early risers the second morning than the first day for Seeed, to watch Dutch ska & rocksteady band Rude Rich & the High Notes backing legendary trombone player Rico Rodriguez. The absentees were wrong, they missed out on a great show. Rude Rich & High Notes have shown recent years, whether as the main act, or supporting Derrick Morgan, Alton Ellis or Dennis Alcapone, or once again Rico Rodriguez, they are as authentic as a modern ska band can get. Tight riddim section, great horns (and if needed flute), a real treat, sharp dressed as always, and only better yet if accompanying Rico Rodriguez on a session that includes almost all songs from his classic 1977 instrumental reggae album "Man From Wareika". Rico really acting as a band leader, not only appointing the soloists but almost coaching them into their solos, playing congas himself, and including in this performance another classic recording Rico played on, the Specials' version of Dandy's "A Message To You Rudy". A great performance, great to see this living legend with true keepers of the flame.


Rico Rodriguez and the great horn section of Rude Rich & the High Notes.

Next up was Bushman, and this popped up a thought in me, why is it that acts who appeared already on last year's or this year's festivals in Holland and Belgium, Two77Splash and Reggae Geel, reappear here, without having any significant new releases or other accomplishments. I like Bushman, but what did he bring extra after last year's Reggae Geel performance. Last year Reggae Sundance had Israel Vibration, what was the point in bringing them this year on Two77Splash for Mojo. Bushman had tight backing from the Grassroots band opening with "Nyah Man Chant", and going through songs like "Make A Change", "On The Road" and "Higher Ground" as well as "Total Commitment". All the title tracks and further selections of his albums were played, showing he is a very consistent performer on record as well as a fine performer. "Your Love", and his tribute to the herbs "Cannabis" in which he included some of the Mighty Diamonds famous "Pass The Kutchie". After "Fire Bun A Weak Heart" he came back for one of his IMO greatest songs, "Man A Lion".


Robbie Shakespeare with his son, plus S&R guests High Priestess Aisha and former Aswad vocalist Brinsley Forde in fine form.

Up next was the highly anticipated surprise guest of this festival: Sly & Robbie, the Riddim Twins, with Mad Professor behind the mixing desk, without Earl 16, which I think was a pity, but still 3 good singers featured, after Sly & Robbie played some of their classic riddims, Robbie Shakespeare even showing he CAN really sing, and playing one of the tightest versions of "King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown" I ever heard. The first to profit from the Riddim Twins' flawless instrumental backing was Sister Audrey, who sung her own popular Ariwa recorded "Popular" as well as a great version of "Who The Cap Fit". For years I have heard so many mediocre versions of Bob Marley songs on stage, that it was truly a relief to hear a great take on one of his songs, and there were more to come. First Sister Audrey sang another great track from her "Populate" album "English Girl" before having the stage taken by Aisha, who did great takes on "I'll Never Let Go" over a very powerful played "Answer" riddim. What a treat, and after her own great "The Creator", she made Bunny Wailer's "Dreamland" her own. And although I still think many vocalists should just leave the Wailers' songs untouched, next up was former Aswad frontman Brinsley Forde, and bearing in mind the thought that 'a trip down memory lane' has always been a great part of any Aswad live show, we were not disappointed. "Natural Mystic", "Lively Up Yourself", and right after that Brinsley doing snatches of Aswad songs like "Don't Turn Around" and a longer acapella intro of "African Children", meanwhile saying after each snatch "We are also NOT doing today.....", he sang "Crazy Baldhead", and when this was dubbed up Robbie's probably not older than 7 years son, who had been dancing on stage all concert with his more reluctant younger brother (?) took for a few bars the bass from Robbie, and just tore the house down, then he had a short stint behind Sly Dunbar's drumkit. Superb showcase by THE riddim section, with very fine vocalists. Best surprise guest the Reggae Sundance organisation could have come up with.


S&R guest vocalist Sister Audrey

They were followed by the other part of the Morgan's family Morgan Heritage, after the 'youngsters' LMS performed yesterday, now it was up to Una, Peter, Gramps, Lukes and Mr. Mojo. And they showed they truly are a great live band, with great songs. "Don't Haffi Dred To Be Rasta", "Live Up", "What We Need Is Love", "Trodding To Zion/I'm A Rastaman", "Helping Hand", "More Teachings", from their latest album "Three in One" "Nice Up U Medi", as well as older "Buss Up Barriers", Morgan Heritage showed they have got good riddims, strong singers, good lyrics, roots music still can be progressing as they show, even when they abandon the roots for poppy track "Jump Around", and other more lighthearted sounding tunes like "Down By The River", or a lover tune like "She's Still Loving Me" and other hit material like "Reggae Bring Back Love". I love the ska tune "Everything Is Still Everything" from their latest album, and live it is a standout song as well. Morgan Family once again performed fullfilling the great expectations that by now their name brings.


Turbulence.

Member Of The Firehouse Crew.

The Firehouse Crew were the next band to take the stage, and before Sizzla was up, the very melodic sounding Turbulence, who seems to have taken on a more singing singjaying delivery gave fine renditions of songs like "Unite", "Make Sure She Clean" in a fine set warming up for Sizzla. Sizzla was just fabulous. Great delivery in a very energetic style. Tight riddims, and he rode them superb. His performance featured "Praise Ye Jah", "Rastafari Teach I Everything", "Problem Inna The System", "Ancient Memories", "Like Mountain", "Be Strong", "Why Should I?", "Love Is Divine", "Can't Keep A Good Man Down", "Dem A Wonder", "Woman I Need You", "Just One Of These Days", "Love Amongst My Brethren", "Thank You Mamma", "Judgment", "Mash Dem Down". What a bunch of hits he has released, and how powerful he delivers them on stage.


Sizzla with the Firehouse Crew

This brings me to one of favourite complaints. Why wasn't he the headliner? Another dancehall artist to be followed by veterans, who were to be the last act. I still don't and maybe as important don't want to understand it. Having to be at work early the next morning, I only caught the first songs of 'headliners' Steel Pulse, who showed not to have lost anything of their magic touch. David Hinds being in fine form on "Don't Give In" and my personal favorite (alongside "Chant A Psalm") Steel Pulse song "Rally Round". Walking to the beat of "Rally Round" I walked back to my car, to contemplate on 2 great days of reggae music.

I do hope a few things for next year's festival season: Whether it be Two77Splash, Reggae Geel or Reggae Sundance, can we please have Elephant Man as headliner? (I'll settle for Capleton, I'm not that demanding). Can we have Seeed back, they surely will have released new boom-tunes in the meanwhile deserving a recall. Can we have Gentleman as well? Can we have Ward21 and T.O.K.? Can we have soundsystems at Reggae Sundance that actually can be felt as well as heard, with MCs who MC instead of only greet and wave to friends and relatives? If change-overs are as long as this year, the soundsystems have to do a much better job than be filler-only. In retrospect I grew even more fond of this year's much criticized two stage policy at Two77Splash. And can I be the stage MC? I promise I will just introduce the bands, without thinking I have to hype up the audience, and have them cheering so long before an artist actually takes the stage, that the massive is too tired to really welcome the artist.

Even if not all my demands are met, I'll surely be there next year ;-)

Text & Photos : Souljah



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