From Benicàssim to the world: Rototom Sunsplash gets its roar back

From Benicàssim to the world: Rototom Sunsplash gets its roar back

The 27th edition of the international reggae festival, which takes place August 16 to 22, completes its line-up with 80 artists and a markedly ‘roots’ style without renouncing the eclecticism of Jamaican music.

The exclusive return to the stage of Burning Spear will be one of the highlights of the edition, joined by Damian and Julian Marley, Sean Paul, Davido and tributes to Toots and Robbie Shakespeare.

“The event returns as what it is, a global experience, beyond the musical, and this has been possible thanks to the trust, and the expectation, of the public,” says the director, Filippo Giunta.

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The roar of the iconic lion that empowers the Rototom Sunsplash international reggae festival returns to Benicàssim (Castellón), enveloping the global experience that, beyond the music, marks edition after edition of the event.

Two years of forced silence due to the health situation will now be broken – from 16 to 22 August 2022 – with the 80 artists from 20 countries that make up, and complete, an “incredible line-up for a spectacular edition”, predicts the director of Rototom, Filippo Giunta. The wait has served, he says, not to “betray” either the formula or the philosophy of the event. Nor the expectations of an audience that to date already exceeds 50 nationalities, “which has given us confidence until the time came”. And all of this “to be able to make a festival like Rototom”, Giunta ratifies.

And here, in strictly musical terms, the journey begins. It does so with Burning Spear (Winston Rodney), the Jamaican roots reggae singer par excellence “and who everyone wants to see once in their life”, nourishing a promising roots-tinged stage with his long-awaited return to the stage. Because yes, the line-up goes on (big) with the most mystical roots reggae represented by Spear himself, along with other key figures of the genre such as Luciano, Black Uhuru, The Abyssinians, Max Romeo, Clinton Fearon or Sly Dunbar and The Revolutionaries; but it also branches out towards the contemporary reggae of the Marley’s (Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ and Julian), Morgan Heritage or Alborosie; including afrobeats led by Davido and a diverse range of music, like the festival itself, where there is no shortage of ska (The Skatalites), dub (O.B.F), dancehall (Sean Paul), hip hop (Mala Rodríguez) or cumbia (La Dame Blanche). There will also be tributes to reggae legends that lost their voices during the pandemic.

Thus, this “all-star line-up” of Rototom 2022 will witness the return of Burning Spear, one of the most influential reggae artists, a living legend of the genre and deservedly having his place on the podium of Jamaican music alongside Bob Marley and Dennis Brown. The Benicàssim show will be an exclusive show in Spain. In 2016 he announced his retirement and few expected to be able to enjoy his live show again. Burning Spear’s reunion with the on stage at Rototom defines the uniqueness of the edition. It embodies the hopeful breath of fresh air that this kind of unexpected yet hard-won and tenacious turn of events, capable of changing the course of things, brings to a macro musical and social event like the Sunsplash. “We have high hopes. The commitment to the line-up has been strong, very strong, and the musical result is the best basis for the rest of the Rototom experience we can offer”, adds Giunta.

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Burning Spear

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Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley

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Julian Marley

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Sean Paul

The silence is broken. And the lion’s roar of roots takes its place. The exponents of the Marley dynasty, the sons of Bob, Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley and Julian Marley (along with The Uprising), the only member of the clan born in England who has remained faithful to his father’s commitment to foundational roots rock reggae, join this edition of the event. Davido, an exponent of Afrobeats, is also on the line-up, guiding the festival in this musical immersion ‘from Nigeria to the world’. Danceable, yes, and stirring. As much as the contagious sound of Sean Paul. Kingston’s Sean Paul, one of the most commercially successful dancehall artists, has achieved international success practically unheard of since Bob Marley.

Italy’s Alborosie, loyal to the festival since its inception, along with the eclectic reggae of Jamaican multi-Grammy award winners Morgan Heritage, give way to the roots parade.

The unmistakable voice and fiery protest lyrics of Max Romeo (& The Charmax Band); Rasta messenger Luciano; veterans Black Uhuru (‘freedom’, in Swahili), promoters of the changing roots reggae sound, for the first time at Rototom; The Abyssinians and Clinton Fearon, former bassist and co-vocalist of The Gladiators, accompanied by the band Riddim Source.

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Sly Dunbar

Also on the bill are tributes to recently deceased reggae legends. Sly Dunbar and The Revolutionaries will offer an exclusive show, the only date in Europe, dedicated to Robbie Shakespeare, the other half of Sly & Robbie, who died in December, and to Tabby & Bunny, from the harmonic trio Mighty Diamonds, who died this year. For its 2022 edition, Rototom Sunsplash presents a unique tribute show featuring Robbie’s partner Sly Dunbar, accompanied by members of legendary studio band The Revolutionaries. Sly, on drums, will be surrounded by celebrated musicians from the Channel One studio and Taxi label era: Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith on lead guitar, Rad ‘Dougie’ Bryan on rhythm guitar, Lloyd Parks on bass, Franklyn ‘Bubbler’ Waul and Lenky Marsden on keyboards, Dean Frazer on saxophone, Everol ‘Sting’ Wray on trumpet, along with Peter Gayle from the Taxi Gang on vocals.

In 2020, the Jamaican music scene also lost Frederick Toots Hibbert, a hitmaker in the ska, rocksteady and reggae eras, a record holder for number one singles in Jamaica and a key figure in the Caribbean island’s popular culture. His old band, with original Maytals studio musicians Jackie Jackson and Paul Douglas, will pay tribute to their leader under his new name of O’Bessa. We Remember Toots, a celebration of Toots’ extraordinary career, will be one of the highlights of Rototom.

The Sunsplash’s rhythmic range will be shaken up by The Skatalites, with a new generation of virtuoso musicians leading a line-up that maintains the original name of the leading broadcasters of ska in the early 60s and the cornerstone of this style. Also contributing to this diversity of sound are Natiruts, promoters of modern reggae and a mass phenomenon in Brazil; as well as another of the most eagerly awaited artists: the Ivorian-Malian Fatoumata Diawara, capable of skilfully combining the traditional instrumentation of Mali with the spirit and aplomb of classic 20th century jazz legends such as Nina Simone.

Fleeing from the strict canons of reggae emerges Mala Rodríguez, one of the most important names in Spanish rap, who, with her jump into the Rototom line-up, highlights the increasingly global conversation between reggae and dancehall with hip hop and its related forms. Hip hop is also the sound compass of the French duo L’Entourloop, another exponent of the musical depth of the festival, to which the reggae with hip hop and dub flavours of the Navarrese duo Iseo&Dodosound returns.

French sound system and production studio O.B.F., specialising in avant-garde Jamaican-influenced music with a nod to the most powerful UK-inspired dub and classic dancehall, will bring to Rototom 2022 a special, and different, show alongside Belen Natalí, Sr Wilson, Charlie P and Junior Roy.

The young Jamaican artist, representing the new reggae scene Hempress Sativa; Africa Unite, celebrating its 40th anniversary; the Italian-Madrilenian tandem formed by Mellow Mood ft Emeterians; Morodo, also from Madrid, together with the Okoumé Lions, and the party brought by the Balkan Paradise Orchestra from Barcelona, which will be accompanied by Tribade, Maruja Limón and Travis Birds, will also energize the 2022 edition.

The purely dub scene will also roar, with a touch of roots, on the biggest space dedicated to the genre on the peninsula, powered by hybrid of 24 scoops of Green Light and Watts Attack, with artists such as the British trident Aba Shanti-I, Channel One and Iration Steppas.

In the dancehall, Rototom confirms the benchmarks of this style: the Jamaicans Jazzy T and Freddie Krueger; Seani B and English Fire from the UK, and the Germans Warrior Sound and Jugglerz; together with emerging names such as the Spanish artist Dj Alicia or the Ugandan Ratigan Era. Code Red, winners of the last World Clash, along with the opening to grime and hip hop with the English artist Lady Leshurr; the live classes of a team of international dancers -with the special participation of Irie Queen- and the 20th anniversary of Madrid’s Unity Sound bring it in this incredible musical proposal for the 2022 edition. That of the reunion.