ROTOTOM SUNSPLASH 2018 REVIEW

Festival Report by DJ Skirtbag*

IMG_5334Every August finds a veritable pop-up city of around 200,000 temporary residents, all embracing the philosophy of one love, peace and unity, set among dusty fields of pomegranates bushes and almond trees scorched by the intense Spanish sun, at the foot of the Parque Desierto de Las Palmas in Benicàssim, Costa del Azahar, Spain. Yes, I could only be talking about the legendary Rototom Sunsplash, which continues to state its claim as Europe’s largest reggae festival. For this episode, Rototom celebrated its momentous 25th edition with the slogan ’25 Years of Walking Together’. Read on to find out how the reggae, roots and culture went down at the silver anniversary of this renowned celebration of all things reggae.

*includes links to buy songs and albums mentioned on Amazon Music

DSC_0473.JPG

Main stage:

  • ✓The main stage now features a new screen installed behind the sound engineer deck, where spectators at the back can still see what is going on on-stage. People seemed to enjoy spreading out on the floor in front of Radio Rototom to watching the screen at the back and soak up the atmosphere of the main stage while relaxing.New screens at Rototom Sunsplash main stage
  • ✓On Thursday night, the main stage was set alight by veteran Cocoa Tea, who lead his protégé Koffee to join him on stage with her hit song ‘Raggamuffin’ (on the Real Rock Riddim) following on from her mentor and friend Cocoa Tea’s ‘She Loves Me Now’. I only saw Koffee stay on-stage for two songs, Raggamuffin and her über-popular debut hit ‘Burning’ which introduced us to this rising starlet as an artist just last year. Despite her tender age, petite frame and teenage braces, Koffee held the stage with a presence, ease and maturity well beyond her 19 years. Koffee is highly touted as the one to watch, an up-and-coming legend of Jamaica with great hopes being pinned on her, and she seems to be rising to the challenge with natural flair and modesty.
  • ✓On Friday night Sly and Robbie’s ‘The Taxi Connection’ show was INCREDIBLE and featured a host of special guests including Junior Natural (from the Netherlands) and other stars who need no introduction: King Yellowman, Bitty McLean and Johnny Osbourne. Their set was a mammoth TWO HOURS long as they knocked out classic after classic from an extended stage version of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare’s ‘Unmetered Taxi’ to open, Yellowman’s ‘Zungguzungguguzungguzeng’, and finishing up on Johnny Osbourne’s classic on the Sleng Teng riddim ‘Buddy Bye’ and anther Real Rock riddim anthem ‘No Ice Cream Sound’ to close. This show was an education in reggae music from beginning to end, performed by living legends and I feel privileged to have witnessed the whole thing!
  • ✓Sunday night was fairly quiet with spaces in the crowd when Kabaka Pyramid and The Bebble Rockers band took to the main stage. He played a host of hits from his recently-released album including the title track and hot new single with Damian MarleyKontraband’ and ‘Reggae Music‘ (watch the performance video here). Kabaka kept the crowd interested and involved by incorporating well-known reggae hits from Ini Kamoze and Tenor Saw’s ‘Ring The Alarm‘ alongside his own work throughout his set . During the show Kabaka brought forward one of his guitarists from The Bebble Rockers who had incredible vocal talent to sing Sister Nancy’s ‘Bam Bam’ which was one of the highlights of the show.
    IMG_5338
    Press conference with Kabaka Pyramid

    After his performance, Kabaka Pyramid hosted a press conference for his latest album ‘Kontraband’ and spoke about how he made the tune with Damian Marley (apparently Marley suggested that he sing about something other than politics, which lead to the idea of Kontraband) and how Kabaka himself would not be interested in becoming a politician due to the level of corruption in Jamaican politics – however he could consider a role for himself as a government policy advisor, which I believe he would be well suited to.

Dj Skirtbag and Kabaka Pyramid Rototom Sunsplash 2018

Kabaka also provided a dubplate for Rototom, likening the festival to the Mecca of reggae in his new track, ‘Reggae Music‘ from his new Kontraband album: https://soundcloud.com/radiorototomsunsplash/kabaka-pyramid-reggae-music-mix?in=radiorototomsunsplash/sets/rototom-specials-2018

  • ✓Kabaka was followed by David Rodigan and the Outlook Orchestra, who looked impressively smart in their tailored outfits – the musicians covered the stage while ‘Ram Jam’ Rodigan introduced a string of special guests including Bitty McLean, Hollie Cook performing Dawn Penn’s ‘No, No, No’ as well as Tippa Irie. The accomplished orchestra played a wide range of reggae and dancehall inspired-music, right up to the drum ‘n’ bass remix of The Fugees‘ take on Johnny Osbourne’s ‘Ready or Not’! I had half expected Protoje to pop out for a little cameo for David Rodigan as he had done at the Outlook Orchestra’s London gig and since he was due to perform at Rototom the following day, alas he was still on tour in the Netherlands that night and unable to make it.

    IMG_5343
    Hollie Cook onstage with David Rodigan and The Outlook Orchestra
  • 20180820_224954.jpg✓On Monday, evening Protoje tore up the main stage – His show was amazing (as usual); he doesn’t drop a beat and showcased some of the tunes from his new album ‘A Matter Of Time’. Catch a video of him performing ‘Hail Ras Tafari’ here.
    Protoje performing on the main stage
    Protoje performing on the main stage

    Protoje even held an impromptu press conference after his performance and a quick costume change, which was already no mean feat considering that he had already performed in France, Italy and The Netherlands that week and had just travelled 26 hours in a coach to reach Rototom. This is a man who works seriously hard, but still maintains an air of cool as a cucumber. 20180821_001706.jpgHalfway through the press conference his manager interrupted the discussion and signalled to Protoje that he had 4, no, 3 (we assumed questions) left. It turns out that Alborosie was performing on the main stage with members of The Wailers at that time (so THAT’s why it was so quiet everywhere else!) so Protoje had to abruptly leave the press conference to run on stage to perform ‘Strolling’ (from the freedom fighter’s 2016 Freedom & Fyah album) with Papa Albo himself! We had not expected Protoje to return to the press conference and most people just left, but low and behold as he is SUCH a pro, he actually RAN BACK to resume the press conference as if getting up and performing on stage was nothing! This really showed great respect on Protoje’s part as I think most artists wouldn’t have bothered returning so hats off to him! During the press conference, Protoje explained that his latest single release ‘Like This’ had been selected for the BBC Radio 1 playlist, which was a first for him (normally his songs only reach the BBC 1xtra playlist). At the time of writing, ‘Like This’ is still resident on the C list for BBC Radio 1, which shows how popular and mainstream reggae is becoming in the UK. In contrast, both Protoje and Kabaka Pyramid noted that in Jamaica (and I quote) ‘dancehall still runs the streets’. According to Protoje, although the youth in Jamaica can still appreciate the younger reggae artists like Protoje and Chronixx, it is not at the same level of popularity as the dancehall artists (I mean, who can compete with Vybz Kartel?). Protoje does have a strong following in Europe and the US though, while Kabaka Pyramid believes he is most popular in Ghana. As for Kabaka’s press conference, the focus was on their newly-released album, Protoje’s new EP ‘A Matter of Time’, which lead to a question about the theme of time running through all of his album names (Seven Year Itch / The 8 Year Affair / Ancient Future). Protoje explained the reason behind this is his obsession with the concept of time and his constant quest to spend his time doing things which he thinks are the best use of his time (which he says he asks himself 10x per day).20180820_223502

  • 20180822_223821.jpg✓ On the final night, Wednesday 22nd August, Tarrus Riley and Konshens conquered the main stage. Konshens fans will be surprised to hear that he didn’t perform what I consider to be one of his biggest tunes, ‘Gal Tan Up’ the lead track on the Bashment Time riddim. Obviously though, no dancehall party in 2018 is complete until someone has played Konshens’ anthem ‘Bruk Off Yuh Back’ on the Moskato riddim (co-incidentally, both of these hit riddims were created by the none other than the Jamaican rhythm masterproducer that is Rvssian/Head Concussion Records) and Konshens’ show was no exception to this rule.  Sporting his signature tight-knit red curls, Konshens (real name Garfield Palmer) showed why he is one of dancehall’s biggest exports right now (with his multiple releases this summer alone such as ‘Bassline’, ‘Hard Drive’ (alongside current dancehall badgyal sensation Shenseea and, again, the unstoppable combo of Konshens x Rvssian) and ‘Turn Around’ on the World Vibes Riddim all attaining global success. A highlight of Konshens’ show was when he brought out top Jamaican dancehall queen (dhq) Aneika Headtop. Bubbling on stage, living up to her name of dancing on her head top, even dancing down on the floor in front of the crowd to ‘Bassline’ – Konshens invited her to the stage twice and and dhq Aneika gave the audience a taste of a true Jamaican dancehall party. Watch her wicked moves here:20180822_223438.jpg
  • ✓Following Konshens on the main stage was smooth crooner Tarrus Riley. The songs which links these two artists are the popular showstopper ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ released in 2009 and the gratifying ‘Simple Blessings’ released last year. ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ has aged well and the crowd went crazy, not only when Konshens played it (see video here), but also later on in the evening when he returned to the stage to re-perform it with Tarrus himself. Tarrus Riley’s solo show was impressive from start to finish; he sounds EVEN BETTER on stage than in his records (no, I didn’t think that was possible either!). But somehow he manages to achieve this effortlessly. With such an extensive backlog Tarrus Riley I didn’t even see him perform all of his most popular songs, even ones from last year such as ‘Don’t Come Back’ from, you guessed it, Rvssian’s Crown Love Riddim, it was missing from his set, however Tarrus did treat us all to an exclusive first-ever performance of his new song, a rendition of Black Uhuru’s ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner’ Watch the video at this link. Tarrus also performed a dubplate for Rototom of ‘Don’t Come Back’ which I heard played on the last night at the dancehall stage, dubplates lyrics include ‘If you feel like your festival badder than Rototom then YOU’RE WRONG’ and ‘You Must Come Back’ – listen here.

 

Dancehall:

20180821_005434.jpg

  • ✓The dancehall stage has received a well-overdue makeover! It now boasts a raised stage (much easier to see what’s going on on-stage, even for shorties like me!) with two new platforms on each wing of the stage, both complete with railings it was a more suitable stage setting than we have seen in previous years. The new side ramps created a perfect spotlight for the dancers, who now had podiums to perform on across the stage and meant they could be seen by the crowd. Central to the stage is a new DJ booth with plasma screens fitted above and below displaying the dancehall slogan ‘A we seh family’ and the Jamaican flag. Refreshed artwork has also been installed on the stage backdrop, making the stage seem grander and much more of a spectacle than in previous years. OLIR1480
  • ✓Rototom have (finally) improved the timing schedule for the dancehall stage by moving the dance class from 10pm to 00h30 (I feel like they may have read my review of last year’s festival as this was something I recommended there!) which creates a buzz at the stage and draws in the crowd in, then keeps them there in time for the main act to follow on directly from the dance class. This is a much better running order as in previous editions the dancefloor was cleared after the dance class when Lampadread took to the stage and spoiled the vibes created by the dancers crew and Unity Sound.20180821_005505.jpg
  • ✓The best dance class was on Friday night when the instructions were clearer, slower and repeated to a soundtrack of Don Andre’s ‘Tom Cruise’ and on Monday night but I don’t remember the music, I was too busy trying to dance. Watch the video and try the moves for yourself here.
  • ✓The opening night at the dancehall stage was absolute FLAMES – the first main act was the biggest female dancehall act out of Jamaica – Spice – who opened the festival with a feisty show of female empowerment and shenanigans. Introducing her Team Spice dancers ‘Dancing Rebel’ and ‘TC’, who proceeded to climb the railings and dance upside down on their shoulders and climb the riggings like Spiderwomen only to jump back down to the stage into the front spilts (OUCH!) – cue the crowd going KER-AZY! Spice put on a ridiculously lively show, including the chart-busting ‘Under Fire’ (see video here), getting girls who could ‘wine’ up onto the stage to challenge her dancers over her party-starting ‘Indicator’, inviting unsuspecting men to dance with her dancers on stage and she even jumped into the front row of the crowd at one point, even though she was apparently feeling unwell. I swear that the festival security guards didn’t know WHAT to do when Team Spice hit the stage – their eyes absolutely popped out of their heads – they were NOT prepared for the outrageousness in any way, shape or means! But her fans were – I managed to bag a spot right at the front and was surrounded by ardent fans who knew every word of every song, despite English not even being their first language for many of the girls there. #TeamSpice was out in full force showing Spain how its done, Jamaican dancehall queen style. Spice sang a number of her hits including her duet with Vybz Kartel ‘Romping Shop’ and her more recent ‘No Worries’ song on the Money Mix Riddim with Beenie Man’s ex-wife D’Angel (a.k.a. Boss Lady) and her number one crowd pleaser ‘So Mi Like It’. Songs which I thought were guaranteed to be part of her set but I think were missed out included Siddung and Sight & Whine.
  • ✓Spice was followed by Barcelona’s New Level crew, who announced their set with their dancers parading the stage with enormous flags. Their dancers are top-notch and include Flora Saez, who was one of the dance class teachers at last year’s ‘Celebrating Africa’ edition. The mixing skills of the New Level BCN DJs are not to be contested; I watched in awe at their skill and timing. It is safe to say that A LOT of thought, planning and practice had gone into this set as they whacked out dancehall banger after banger at top-speed in what I can only describe as a ‘dancehall hyper-mix’, keeping the crowd well and truly LIT. The energy of Spice is a tough act to follow but the New Level BCN crew managed to step up to the challenge and pulled it off with ease. Check them out here! At one point they even pulled out water pistols during ‘Under Water/Under Fire’!
  • ✓The best show of the dancehall stage this year was, in my opinion, the Reggae Rajahs’ very own General Zooz, accompanied by dancer Dhq Ms Sheriff on Wednesday night. What started as an unsuspecting DJ set turned into the main event of the night! Hailing from Mumbai, General Zooz wore a military green tunic while mixing old school bashment tunes better than the DJs at Notting Hill Carnival. 20180823_014833.jpg Before long General Zooz took to the mic and invited Ms Sheriff to the stage to demonstrate her Bollywood bellydance meets dancehall fusion dance form with a Million Stylez ‘Miss Fatty’ dubplate over the Panjabi MC’s ‘Mundian To Bach Ke’ riddim (see video here). The result was captivating. The Reggae Rajah theme continued through the show with Ms Sheriff and General Zooz performing their tune ‘Mumbai Gyal‘ (see the performance in the video here) and a dance piece to Charly Black’s ‘Indian Girl’ on the World Vibes Riddim. MS Sheriff has got all the moves, which you can see in this video here. Eventually all of the resident dancers from Mouv’ment crew were invited on stage to assist DHQ Ms Sheriff in leading the crowd through a host of dancehall moves while General Zooz recited a hilarious story of how he and Ms Sheriff had caught the plane from Mumbai (cue ‘Signal The Plane’ dance move) – the whole show was tongue-in-cheek and felt like it had been curated by a comedian – a comedian who knew a HELL of a lot about dancehall music. I laughed A LOT but genuinely enjoyed the show and tried all the dance moves – you couldn’t not – they had a real buzz about them and with their exotic good looks to boot, I’m sure these two will go far. Watch their energetic and entertaining performance here:
  • ✓ The dance teaching crew Mouv’ment Dancer’z ran the nightly dance classes, and pulled in a lot of energy and fun! Watch one of their opening dance classes here. The sounds were provided by French team Blaze Up Sound, who had nuff tunes and plenty of dubplates to keep the party going. These guys worked REALLY hard, out of all of the acts at the festival, these crews were working day and night for the whole 7 days, so maximum respect for that!
  • ✓A new dancehall sculpture of women ‘twerking’ has been introduced just uphill from the dancehall stage – which can be used as a meeting point.
  • ✗Blaze Up Sound crew who hosted the dance classes were slightly less entertaining than the previous dance class hosts Unity Sound, and didn’t help the audience to follow along to the dance moves in the same way that Unity Sound used to. The dance classes at the dancehall stage were a bit hit and miss to follow along to this year unfortunately as sometimes the dancers would jump down onto the dancefloor so I couldn’t always see what they were doing.
  • Bad Gyal played a DJ set after the dance class on Friday which I have to say was not to my taste at all, I found it quite boring and did not rate her DJ skills (she was pretty much playing songs the whole way through and not even really mixing them into each other) and she was playing downbeat tunes which didn’t match the same upbeat vibe of other dancehall stage performers.
  • ✗There is no dancehall merchandise stall, although Rototom have come up with their own ‘Pullll Uuuup’ slogan for the dancehall gear at the official merch stall (it felt rather naff and out-dated as a slogan to me in all honesty) there was no State of Mind stall this year and absolutely no dancehall artist merchandise available to buy.
  • ✗The ‘DANCEHALL’ stencil on the floor at the entrance has now completely worn away, presumably bleached by the intense Spanish sun. The dancehall area still remains fairly dark and some extra fairy lights wrapped around the palm trees wouldn’t go amiss to brighten to place up a bit.
  • ✗There are no seats available at the dancehall stage – the nearest seating area is up by the dancehall sculpture, set a few hundred metres uphill from the stage.
  • ✗Lack of decent drinks in the dancehall area still remains: There is a bar with a limited selection of drinks on one side and a beer kiosk to the other side, but to me, the dancehall yard deserves to be accompanied by a top quality rum bar serving up freshly made cocktails, think rum punch/piña coladas etc, to give a more authentic dancehall yard experience. The nearest (and only) place to get a rum punch at the festival was luckily up near the dancehall statue, from Wayne’s Jerk Kitchen, but the queue was often not worth the wait.
  • ✗Dancehall heavyweight MC Ding Dong’s ‘Flairy’ and ‘Fling’ were played at almost every DJ set at the dancehall stage – Fling was mostly played as everyone who’s anyone knows the viral ‘Fling Yuh Shoulder’ dance move which accompanies the song – Usain Bolt, Shenseea and Chronixx have all been recorded doing the ‘fling’.  Watch the Mouv’ment Dancer’z teaching the ‘fling’ at the dancehall stage here. Other overplayed tunes included Sean Paul’s ‘Temperature’, which I heard at the beach dance classes two days in a row….

 

Lion Stage:

  • ✓Accordingly named after Rototom’s mascot, the dread lion, the Lion Stage was the setting for some brilliant shows throughout the festival.
  • ✓On the opening night we saw the Santander-based Lone Ark Showcase show, headed by Roberto Sánchez and featuring a host of talented artists, including Inés Pardo, and Benjammin’ (whose tune ‘Sons and Daughters’ has been a MASSIVE hit for dub fans this year. Their show was impressive but the crowd was unusually sparse – all the better for me to get down to the front! I think maybe this act should have played later on in the evening or had some mic sessions at the Dub Academy instead of the Lion Stage as this is more their target audience.
  • ✓ French-speaking Mo’kalamity drew a moderately large crowd for her late night performance on Friday, with a style reminiscent of Jah9 and Hempress Sativa and vocals as smooth as Sade, she held the mic with sovereignty in the centre of the stage.

    IMG_5210
    Mo’kalamity at the Lion Stage
  • Skarra Mucci drew the largest crowd of any of the Lion Stage artists I saw this year, it was extremely well-attended considering it didn’t start until 2.15am on a Sunday! Really, I’ve never seen that stage so busy – I think he should probably have been scheduled to play on the main stage as he could probably fill it! His show included remixes of big reggae tunes such as Wayne Wonder and Buju Banton‘s Bonafide Love and the renowned World A Music / World Jam Riddim among others.
  • I would have liked to have seen Biga Ranx and Samory-I play but unfortunately missed them!

 

Dub Academy:

XZWP9586

  • ✓This stage has blossomed over the years, from humble beginnings as the Dub Station in the back field with just a small sound system in 2010 and around 100 people at peak times (of which I was one til 5am every night!), to moving to the larger space occupying the geodome on the grass in 2011, then to the space near the Bob Marley statue in latter years; the Dub Academy has grown at a rate of knots to now become one of Rototom’s main attractions – even hosting its own off-shoot festival of International Dub Gathering in Bigastro, Spain.
  • ✓The new site layout saw the Dub Academy in yet another new position this year and was tucked away in a snug corner between the dancehall stage and the market (previously roughly where the Juanita club was placed).
  • ✓Being enclosed by a high wall of cargo crates stacked in a wide U-shape behind the sound system speakers sets encircling the venue created an effective sound barrier and prevented any soundclash at the nearby Dancehall stage and stopped the low-frequency vibrations from the Dub Academy from disturbing sleeping campers (but really we all know that ‘Nobody Nuh Sleep Inna Rototom City’).
  • ✓The Dub Academy has been pimped with some new decorations, including enormous IDG logos, LED screens with IDG images and eye-catching IDG posters plastered in rows. This brightened up an otherwise dark and dingy corner of the festival.20180821_013454.jpg
  • 20180821_013407✓The dates for the next International Dub Gathering festival were promoted around the Dub Academy so if you are a serious dubster dude don’t miss out on that festival, which will hold its 4th edition 18th-20th April 2019 in Bigastro, Alicante, Spain.
  • ✗This year the Dub Academy did not feature any seating area as the Foro Social and Reggae University are no longer neighbouring sections to the Dub Academy, which was a great shame as for me it is the perfect place to sit down, make yourself comfortable, and meditate to the bass for a while to recoup your energy after being on your feet dancing non-stop.
  • ✗The new layout felt much more hemmed in that in previous years, and it felt as though there was less space to dance. In particular the entrance and exit to the Dub Academy felt far too narrow and caused bottleneck footfall, which put me off entering the Dub Academy at times as I couldn’t face having to push through and salmon upstream against the people flowing out.
  • ✗The dominating sound wall of shipping containers can make you feel fenced in and borderline claustrophobic once you get inside the main arena and you can lose some sense of being out in the open air. I personally would like to see the Dub Academy position itself back up by the Bob Marley statue, or where the Lion Stage currently is, as it is one of the last stages to close anyway, or if it stays in its current position, perhaps to change the orientation of the arena to allow more space for revellers to flow in and out and feel less penned in.
  • ✗The DJ and MC booth was position right at the very back of the Dub Academy arena, and also was at the bottom of the incline, which made it impossible to see the happenings inside the tent unless you were right up the front and much less accessible than in previous years. This could make it difficult to tell who was playing and compared to previous editions you lost the ‘up close and personal’ connection with the artists (the artist booth used to be in a more central position at the epicentre of the arena for everyone to circle around). I think it may be time for the Dub Academy to set up a raised stage area for the artists to give everyone a chance to see them.
  • Iseo and Dodosound were last minute special guests at the Dub Academy, but we only found this out from a handwritten scrawl on a board behind the Reggae University. It was probably advertised online, but as we are camping and abroad we aren’t often able to check our social media accounts for updates – there needs to be a better way to communicate eleventh-hour performances to the guests already at the festival.
  • ✗ No toilets were available at the Dub Academy, you had to leave the venue and head up or down the hill to get to the nearest toilets, which was slightly inconvenient. I think all stages should house their own toilet block.
  • ✗There was only one dub-specialist clothing outlet to buy merchandise from around the Dub Academy and the majority of t-shirts and jumpers on sale catered to men only. It would be more inclusive if the popular ‘BORN TO DUB’ tops were made available in female shapes and sizes, or preferably on a unisex beanie hat (I would wear that ‘All Day (Dubs)’). It would also be great to have artist specific merch available to purchase for any fans.
  • ✗We were bitten to pieces by mosquitoes one night while watching DubDadda (who talked quite a lot over the music), so might be a good idea to wear insect repellent if you are heading into the Dub Academy.
  • ✗We didn’t spend anywhere near as much time here and we normally do, mostly because we felt quite cramped and stifled in the Dub Academy this year. When we go there we want to feel free and enjoy the sensation of being outdoors, which unfortunately I feel is a quality the Dub Academy has started to lose.

20180821_013501.jpg

 

Reggae University:

  • ✓The Reggae University found a new home for Rototom 2018, sandwiched between the main stage and the dancehall stage. This allowed more artists to speak at the reggae university desks and attend press conferences than in previous years, as they could directly access the Reggae University forum from the main stage backstage area.
  • ✓The Reggae University seating area was open as long as the main stage was on, which was helpful, especially on the nights it rained, to have a seating area under cover inbetween the main musical arenas.
  • ✓Screens showing Radio Rototom live interviews and the performances on the main stage were set up inside the Reggae University, which provided a comfortable place to still enjoy the music and not allow you to miss any of the important acts while you took a break from being on your feet in the crowds.
    20180817_213009.jpg
    TV screens inside the Reggae University

    The television service was extremely well put together and included regular reminders of the set times for the artists performing on each stage, including their photos, and switched seamlessly between radio footage and main stage footage – overall this was an excellent addition to the festival.

  • shlt3045.jpg✓ I attended the Reggae University for its opening session, in which Original Koffee and Inés Pardo talked about their careers and their experiences of being women in the music industry. Koffee came across as an extremely sweet and innocent and honest girl, verging on naïve, although for her tender age of 19 she held herself well and spoke confidently to the audience and her natural ability to engage people shone through. Her manager was on hand for guidance and encouragement too. 20180816_184316.jpgThe organisers played some of Koffee’s music on the Ouji Riddim, while Koffee explained that ‘Burning’ was a metaphor for her burning passion for music. Finally Koffee treated us to an exclusive acapella of a new track from her upcoming album due out in September.  Watch the video here.
  • ✓Inés Pardo also spoke at the Reggae University and provided Koffee with some wisdom about how to navigate the music industry as a young woman, commending Koffee for having risen so quickly in the music industry without having to use her femininity to gain attention in a sexual way. Inés herself talked about her philosophy of sisterhood and choosing to name her album ‘One Sister’ while the organisers played the title track which includes the lyrics ‘Sister We Are One’. The reggae university also taught me that Inés, like Koffee, also has a musical link to Cocoa Tea via their combo track ‘Fuego‘  where Inés lended her sweet vocals to add some latina flavour to the track.
  • ✗As the Reggae University was positioned in such a central and musically-busy area, exceptionally loud soundclash from the main stage and dancehall stage could be heard inside the Reggae University during the press conferences, which made them virtually inaudible. It was actually quite embarrassing on the part of the organisers that stars had come all the way from Jamaica only for everyone to struggle to hear what they were saying at the press conferences over the booming stages. The excessive background noise would have probably been frustrating for the artists speaking too, as they would have been tired from performing on the main stage and need to take care of their voices and hearing due to the line of work they are in, so this amount of noise should have been avoided. It would be better to host the press conferences once the main stage has closed, to keep sound clash to a minimum, or to move the Reggae University to the space currently occupied by the skate park or stage left of the main stage.
  • ✗The early evening Reggae University sessions on the first day of the festival were marred by the sound tests for the Dub Academy and Dancehall stages – Original Koffee and Inés Pardo were hosted by the editors of German ‘Riddim’ magazine and were speaking about their experiences of being a woman in the music, but it was difficult to hear them over the sound tests.
  • ✗The advertisements for the Reggae University schedule is often a bit flaky, for example, on the Monday prior to the festival the Rototom Facebook page announced that Spice would be speaking as a guest at the Reggae University on the opening day of the festival. As Spice’s appearance was a late addition to the Reggae University schedule it was not advertised anywhere at the festival site that Spice was due to speak and therefore was not well-attended. Even I somehow managed to miss this announcement at the time despite checking the Rototom page and website daily in the runup to the festival – luckily the announcement was forwarded to me so I was aware of the change to the line-up. The lack of audience worked in my favour, ss I seemed to be one of the only people who was aware of that Spice was due to speak so I duly turned up to the Reggae University to see her at 6pm as advised online where dozens of seats were vacant, even in the front row (lucky me!)
  • ✗After being extremely chuffed at being so organised to bag a front-row seat for Spice, you can only imagine my disappointment when we were told at the beginning of the session that Spice had dropped out of the Reggae University talk because she was tired and wanted to save her energy for the show. Apparently, the festival organisers had tried to convince her to come but she wasn’t up for it at all. What a huge disappointment and frankly a crappy way to kick off the festival with my favourite artist not showing up to their agreed session. The organisers really need to be sure that an artist will show up before they advertise to the fans.
  • ✗During the press conferences for Kabaka Pyramid and Protoje, I felt that the female presenter spoke for too long, her questions were at times rambling and she seemed slightly ill-prepared. She often asked so many questions that by the time the microphone was handed over to the audience for a question and answer time we had no relevant questions left to pose.
  • ✗More media and journalists should be invited to the press conferences to help give artists more exposure to promote their new album releases and extend their reach.

 

Beach parties:

Rototom Solé Beach Bar, Playa del Gurugú, Benicàssim:

DSC_0037
Solé beach bar

 

  • ✓For this 25th edition of Rototom Sunsplash, the beach parties were ONLY held at the official festival beach bar, Solé. The festival bus still stopped at Playa Heliópolis, but there were no beach parties held there, nor at San Vincente beach in town.
  • ✓The booking system for the sun beds was clearer and was written up on a chalk board with an attendant present to assist you with the sun beds rental, who was very helpful and tried his best to squeeze people into any sun bed slots, but there just aren’t enough beds to cater to the high demand of them in the first place.
  • ✓Sun beds at Solé were cheaper to rent than at other areas of the beach, for example 10€ per day for a BalInése daybed with rattan roof compared to 16€ for 2 padded sun loungers at La Playa beach bar on Gurugú beach.
  • ✓The beach here is excellent for swimming with soft sandy and shallow clean waters and gentle waves.
  • ✓The Solé beach bar played reggae and dub non-stop all day, and some mornings they logged into the special festival broadcast of Radio Rototom Sunsplash. I was lucky enough to be at the Solé beach bar when my mix was aired on Radio Rototom as part of the Radio Rototom festival line-up, which obviously was a MAJOR highlight of the festival (slash my life:-)!!!

Watch the live stream of my mix being played at Solé beach bar here, in which I explain some more of my experiences at Rototom 2018:

  •  ✓The sound system was provided by Barcalona’s Greenlight Sound making the bass pop and the sounds travel across the sands, great sound quality overall for the beach acts.
  • ✓The dancehall dance classes were a fun feature of the Solé bar from 4:30pm every day where dancers from Mouv’ment Dancer’z crew (based in Martinique 972, the same West-Indian island I lived on in the Caribbean) performed as you followed along – think dancehall style aerobics class in the sun and sand – all while assistants hosed you down with cold water to keep you cool. These classes really picked the beach bums up out of their slumbers and onto their dancing feet and got the party started off with a bang for the day. Catch their vibes in this video here. And this video shows a typical warm up before the dance class begins.IMG_5357.JPG
  • ✓My favourite dance class was the ladies special with Marion on Monday, which got us up and dancing to Popcaan’s ‘Wine For Me’ and Hoodcelebrityy’s ‘Walking Trophy’ for the warm-up, then to routines current dancehall smash hits including Shenseea x Konshens x Rvssian’s collab ‘Hard Drive’, Spice’s ‘Tik Tak’ and Vybz Kartel’s ‘Under Water’. The class ended up under water itself once the water hose came out to play! Following the dance class, Jamaican DJ set Coppershot took to the stage (albeit 1.5 hours late) and played a lively set of absolute tunes and dubplates. I think one of the guys really likes women cos he changed the words to Mr. VegasI am blessed’ to ‘I love breast, every day of my life I love breast’ – not really the Rototom vibe to be honest but people didn’t seem too bothered. Watch the video here.
  • Selecta Kza from France played a daily set at the Sole beach bar, which included big tunes from Supercat, Cocoa Tea and a host of 90s bashment and dub music to set the scene for the dance classes to start.
  • ✓On Sunday afternoon dub act Kibir La Amlak and the Brazilian singing trio of MCs Dawtas of Aya performed at Solé beach. Singing about female warriors, struggles and freedom, reminding us that we are lucky to be free in these times; Their vibe was serious and captivating, commanding your attention, and their message of redemption and emancipation was powerful and strong. During their set a violent incident took place, which Kibir La Amlak condemned whilst acknowledging that violence comes from a place of pain and struggles. Very wise and insightful, their set was a pleasure to experience and left me with a lot of food for thought. Highly recommended. Watch some clips I took of their jumping beach party on my Facebook page and here.
  • ✓A good choice of food and drink was on offer at the bar such as crepes, tapas, salads, tacos, mojitos (also available alcohol free and mixed with fruit puree). The beer at Solé beach bar was slightly cheaper than the beers up at the festival site (4€ at Solé as opposed to 4.5€ at the festival) cañas were 2€ instead of 2.5€.20180817_132622.jpg
  • ✓Lots of merchants had set up stalls along the pavements around Solé bar, which livened up the place, especially the African fabric stall, which really brightened up the place hanging their colourful cloth prints on a line between the palm trees.20180820_192349.jpg
  • ✗Anyone who had been to previous editions of Rototom Sunsplash and had planned their accommodation to be nearer to the original beach party sites of San Vincente beach and Heliópolis beaches would have been EXTREMELY disappointed to find that this year, despite no word from Rototom prior to the festival about this, there were NO BEACH PARTIES in the town beaches – ONLY at Solé. This meant for anyone who had a hotel or Airbnb at Heliópolis, to reach the beach parties they would either have to take a local bus back along the beach (if such a thing even exists!) OR face a trip up to the festival site, then onto a bus heading to Solé – cue massive disappointment for those organised enough to think they had the beach parties at their hotel doorstep. Rototom could have forewarned us about this change – I was constantly checking the beach party schedule online and it said ‘TBA’ right up until the week of the festival. I only actually saw the full Sunbeach line-up on a poster at the campsite entrance and at the bus stop at the festival site, which made it impossible to plan in advance which days you wanted to attend the beach parties.
  • ✗There is still a lack of shade at the Solé beach bar, so unless you are in the restaurant seating area or are lucky enough to nab one of the highly sought-after sun beds you will need to take a parasol. There were simply not enough sunbeds to meet the high demand – they were all reserved at all times.
  • ✗The ladies’ toilets were very poorly maintained well and with only 3 female toilets for the thousands of people at the beach there was ALWAYS a long queue for the ladies, and on several occasions on one of those three toilets was functioning! I had the misfortune of queuing for these loos – it took about 40 minutes! Then when I finally got into the cubicle it was covered in blood and was just disgusting. This is particularly bad as the Rototom bar staff who make the food also only have access to these toilets, so hygiene down there is really rock bottom – it’s pretty gross and unacceptable really.
  • ✗I didn’t see any disabled access toilets at the Solé beach bar – the toilets at the beach bar are up a steep set of metal stairs which, again, is a major fail on behalf of Rototom in terms of catering for their disabled guests. It’s also very bizarre as there is a disabled access ramp at the entrance to the Solé beach bar and wooden boardwalks down to the beach for disabled access – it just needs a bit more thought and attention from the organisers.
  • ✗Sea water here is very warm and murky, probably due to the thousands of people pissing in the waves due to the lack of adequate toilet facilities.
  • ✗The food on offer was slightly pricier than elsewhere, e.g. 10euros for a burger without chips – I actually heard people complaining about this.
  • ✗The bar didn’t always play the Radio Rototom festival broadcast as advertised on the festival schedule, which I believe was down to technical issues and internet access failures.
  • ✗The soundtrack for the beach party dance classes was provided by Blaze Up Sound Crew from France, who slightly lacked the charisma and vibes of the Madrid’s Unity Sound crew who had previously hosted the beach parties with, I have to say, more energy and interaction with the crowd. Otherwise, Blaze Up Sound played top notch Jamaican dancehall and dubplates and the crowd were always massively pumped when Blaze Up Sound were on!
  • ✗The limited playlist from the DJs was a bit of an annoyance, for example, at the Tuesday beach dance class for ‘middle school’ dance moves, the DJs played the first verse of the Vybz Kartel tune ‘Addi Truth’ in excess of 30 times! I even went for a sea swim after getting bored of it, came back and they were STILL selecting it on repeat!
  • ✗The dance classes were fairly hard to follow as a novice, because the moves were not broken down and ‘taught’ as such, more they were performed and you had to dance simultaneously with the dancers. Also it was fairly difficult to catch a glimpse of what the dancers were even doing – the sand is flat so your view to the dancers is mostly blocked by people in front of you, meaning you have to rely on the person in front doing the right moves in order for you to follow along. In addition, at times the dancers didn’t seem completely prepared for the routines that they would follow, e.g. with up to 3 dancers leading a class at a time it was often unclear who the main dancer to follow was, and sometimes they wouldn’t be prepared for the next move they were going to do.. A little bit confusing really despite them obviously being extremely talented movers. Sometimes the moves were WAY TOO hard, such as kneeling on the floor, slut drops etc! You definitely need to limber up before and after these classes!
  • ✗There was no beach party for the pre-festival on 15th August, however, Greenlight Sound played a set at Solé bar the day after the festival on 23rd Aug (the day everyone was leaving!) which again, in typical Rototom style, was not advertised ahead of the festival. Rototom made it clear that the campsite had to be vacated by 4pm on Thursday 23rd August, so most people had planned to travel back home that day rather than to the beach party, otherwise we may have been able to plan our transport and accommodation to enable us to see this show (which I very much would have liked to!).
  • ✗The Solé beach is very far out of town in an isolated area of town so if you need any supplies or equipment you will need to come prepared as there are NO shops at all within walking distance.
  • Although I have pointed out some of the aspects which do need drastic improvement at Solé bar, don’t get me wrong, it is still one of the coolest party locations I’ve ever been to, so please do make sure you pay a visit! Check out this video to see what a typical afternoon at the Solé beach bar looks like!
DSC_0036
DJ Skirtbag hanging at Solé bar

Changes to festival layout:

  • ✓In previous editions of Rototom, the Roots Yard, Jumping, Caribbean Uptempo and Juanita Club were all set side-by-side alongside the market. This used to create a terrible soundclash which was at points unbearable and I used to feel very sorry for the marketstall holders who had to put up with this noise, or who lost customers. This issue was remedied for the 25th edition as these nightclubs have now been split up across the festival site and the market is now free of sound clash, which provides a much more enjoyable shopping experience.
  • 20180823_025429.jpg✓For this 25th edition of Rototom, the Roots Yard has been repositioned to the back field, where Pizza Elfik and the craft beers and artisan craft stalls are located. Once the main stage had closed this provided a really chilled out area where people had the option of getting up to dance at this intimate stage, or just sit in the seating area and take in the vibes. Sets from Fly Sebo Selector and Gudaridub were some of the highlights at the Roots Yard stage. Rototom even hosted a competition for DJs to submit a mix to win the chance to play at the Roots Yard stage this year (I didn’t enter but will maybe have a go next year if the competition is still open!).
  • ✓ The noise around the market was much more bearable this year, making for a quieter shopping experience.
  • ✓ The Juanita club didn’t feature at Rototom this year, which was a good move, as there just isnt’ the space to fit all these stages, african village and nightclubs, food stalls, seating areas, etc so something had to go.
  • ✗ Speaking of the nightclubs, these have now been moved to the area where the Bob Marley statue stands, previously the Dub Academy’s home. This made for a quiet area to chill out early on in the evening until about 9pm when the nightclubs opened and the soundclash filled the air – meaning this area was unusuable. I would recommend for future editions that Rototom organise just one stage per area, otherwise the soundclash is just too annoying.
  • ✗ Whenever the main stage was playing at the same time as the Roots Yard stage, this created a horrible soundclash, which completely spoiled the artisan market area for me – In previous editions of Rototom I have enjoyed listening to the main stage while eating a pizza in this area, but this year you couldn’t hear the main stage properly due to the Roots Yard stage, yet you couldn’t hear the Roots Yard music properly either due to the main stage! Plus the chillout feel of the area was absent due to the soundclash, which made it a fairly stressful place to sit and eat peacefully.

 

Radio Rototom Sunsplash:

Rototom Sunsplash Radio 2018 festival programme featuring DJ Skirtbag
Rototom Sunsplash Radio 2018 festival programme
  • ✓Radio Rototom Sunsplash have a great presence at the festival, slap bang in front of the main stage – Their revamped radio booth makes for a great photo opportunity.
  • ✓ Radio Rototom Sunsplash ran a special festival programme schedule, which was also streamed live and direct from Benicassim on Rototom TV and on the Radio Rototom Facebook page, for anyone unlucky enough to miss the festival you could still catch the vibes online.
  • My latest reggae mix aired on Radio Rototom Sunsplash as part of the festival programme in the Selecta Mixtape section, and was broadcast during the festival on Mon 20th August (see above schedule). Leon Selector of Radio Rototom explained that my mix was scored and chosen by 3 judges from a high number of entries. I was also the only female DJ whose mix was selected, and it was the first time any of my mixes were ever played on the airwaves, so I felt especially stoked to be part of the festival this year.

Listen to my mix here:

My mix also features on the official Radio Rototom Soundcloud page Mixtape Selection playlist for 2018 here:

See the full track list of my mix below including links to buy the songs I selected:

10: Journey To Jah – Gentleman feat Alborosie
15: Herbdub – Alborosie
18: Ready Fi Di Road – Kabaka Pyramid
VOKS6721.JPG
Other:
  • ✓The sound systems used across the festival are high grade – none of that going to bed with your ears ringing, even after standing right at the front for the big shows – a blissful tinnitus-free experience overall.
  • ✓There was slightly more clothing available for females at the official merchandise store this year.
  • ✓If you go to the info point you can pick up a Rototom newspaper in a variety of commonly-spoken languages as well as a detailed breakdown of the daily schedule for the line-up across all stages and daytime festival events.

    IMG_5309
    Info Point at the campsite
  • ✓Entry to the festival is reduced for Benicassim residents, disabled guests, unemployed people, which is a great way to embrace the local residents and ensure everyone gets to participate in the festival. This is also well advertised, with plenty of posters plastered all around town so people don’t miss out.Reduced entry for local residents
  • ✗The official Rototom Merchandise stall didn’t have much on offer by way of 25th anniversary stock. A good idea would have been to run limited edition re-prints of all the previous 24 Rototom logos, or a special 25th anniversary poster could have been on sale to amalgamate them into one.
  • ✗One of the official Rototom t-shirt designs of the tricolour red green and gold block stripe top with the Rototom lion emblem on the front and ‘94’ (the year of the first ever Rototom) on the back was not available to buy at the festival and was only available to purchase online ahead of the festival. This was a major omission from the merchandise stall and left man, many people disappointed that they hadn’t caught this ahead of the festival. It does seem to miss the point if people who haven’t even attended the festival can buy the limited special edition shirt online, but people at the festival are left empty-handed.DSC_0001DSC_0002
  • ✗Many tunes were overplayed across the festival site, such as Collie BuddzCome Around’ (on the Last War Riddim) which I found very surprising since his latest release ‘Love & Reggae’ is a quality tune, so I would have expected to hear that played but didn’t hear it once!. And Cocoa Tea’s ‘18 and Over’ on the Tonight Riddim, well, I must have heard this song about 5 times a day across the festival sites, but don’t really mind as it is an absolute TUNE! It can take a while for the newest tunes to get enough exposure and following before they are played at Rototom, although the dancehall stage in particular did seem to be playing more up-to-date releases (this year has been another bumper year for dancehall tracks) and the main stage did feature a lot of artists like Protoje, Chronixx and Alborosie who all have new albums out this summer.
  • ✗Often the top acts are saved for the weekend slots, but this year weekend line-up was slightly weak, which would be a shame for those people who could only attend over the weekend.
  • ✗The Rototom newspaper doesn’t include the Rototom Radio Schedule or a bus map – both of which would be good to have to hand. And the line-up in the paper is often out of date, for example it did not include the late addition of Romain Virgo to the main stage on Saturday night.

 

TOP TIPS:

  • Pace yourself
  • If you go hard on the first night and stay at the dancehall stage until 5am (like I did!) you’re going to wear yourself out!
  • Going into the festival too early can also be a big mistake, as you just won’t have the stamina to see out the main acts at the dancehall, lion stage and dub academy which don’t reallyget up and running until 2am.
  • Remember that it can still rain and be cold in Spain, even in August! This year saw incredible thunderstorms and torrential rain on the first few nights of the festival, particularly up at the campsite since it is located at the foot of the mountains. Unfortunately this unseasonal weather caused flooding in parts of the campsite and our tent was unlucky enough to be flooded. We had to take our bedding down into town to the launderette to wash and tumbledry it! I didn’t have an umbrella or waterproof shoes or jacket and had mostly packed bikinis and sundresses and hot pants, which just didn’t cut it some nights at the festival and I was cold to the bone! So even though you are going to sunny Spain remember to pack something warm clothing or bedding in case of adverse weather and maybe a pack of cards as there is not much shelter or many things to do in the daytime at Rototom during a downpour!
  • It is not possible to withdraw cash at the festival site (there are no ATMs as in previous years) so make sure your wallet is loaded with enough cash to see you through the whole night!
  • Tobacco is not sold on the festival site, only smoking paraphernalia is available to purchase, such as rizlas, lighters etc from the Rototom stalls, so if you want to smoke you will need to bring the tobacco with you.

    IMG_5303
    Rototom Smoking stall
  • Buying weed or drugs from random men who approach you is ill-advised and we have seen people buy these drugs which then turned out to be laced with something else.
  • I’ve been to Rototom 6 times now and have only just figured out that you can arrive at the campsite the DAY BEFORE the festival starts – in this case 15th August – where your glamping tent will be ready for you. This is a good time to arrive in order to bagsy the best camping spots if you are taking your own tent. This year we attended the mythical pre-festival, where two of the on-site festival nightclubs – Jumping and Caribbean Uptempo – opened the festival at midnight on 16th If you hold a festival ticket for 16th August you can attend this pre-festival party, although it wasn’t clear from information on the festival website until literally a week before the date, which for some people this would have been far too late notice to rearrange travel plans in order to attend. It would be helpful to have some clear information around who and how to attend the pre-festival night and the dates you can enter and leave the campsite when buying the tickets.
  • Avoid arriving on the first day of the festival as you will face queuing for hours to collect your ticket in scorching heat without any shade and very limited toilet and refreshment facilities! Not the best start to your time at the festival. Avoid peak time trains and arrive before or after the first day and avoid midday sun.

    20180816_161510
    The Looooong queue for tickets on the first day

 

Food/Drink:

  • ✓The sharwarma and falafel shack has been at the festival since at least 2010 and is a safe option for a meal which is good value and easy to eat on the move. Don’t begrudge the festival workers who get cheaper meals and fast-track queue service at this food stall.
  • ✓Wayne’s Jerk Shop was the only authentic Caribbean food outlet on the festival site. Their jerk chicken has people waiting in queues up to 20metres long! But it is SO worth the wait! If you can’t handle the long wait, then try one of their goat curries or saltfish and rice or order a decent rum punch while you wait instead. This year Wayne’s Jerk Kitchen had more space, so the seating area was set away from where the queue forms – to give diners a more comfortable space to enjoy their meal. Also, Wayne’s Jerk Kitchen was moved downhill slightly to sit right next to the dancehall stage, which I really feel is its natural home, and gives a more Caribbean feel to the dancehall stage with the scent of hot chicken grill barrels filling the air.
  • ✓For this year’s edition, I noticed an Ethiopian restaurant in the African village was extremely popular – always had a queue. We didn’t try this restaurant, mostly because spicy food and I do not mix, but it did have a marquee area where you could sit down and enjoy your meal in relative peace.
  • ✓The Pizza Elf stall in the back end of the market area is an absolute gem – whacking out around 20 vegetarian pizzas per minute, this place is fast, cheap and simple and this year they have improved the layout of the serving area, so you can see the pizzas through clear Perspex when they come fresh out if the oven, people can’t breathe on them! This place also sells beer (only), but you have to form a separate queue to the left of the shop front, and they only have one tap so service can be slow. The pizzas were slightly dearer this year at 6€ a pop, but still a reasonable price for a freshly-cooked, thin and crispy pizza.
  • ✓Mojitos are a popular choice around the festival. One of the legendary stalls, next to the shawarma stall, pours up to 20 mojitos at a time, inducing a Mexican wave style rumble of applause when it is ready to be served up to all of the customers eagerly watching the cocktail maker.

    IMG_5322
    Round of mojitos being made
  • 20180817_221838My favourite place to pick up a crisp and minty concoctions is the Canna craft beer stall, where a freshly-made mojito in classic, watermelon or strawberry flavour would set you back 6.50€ (up a sharp 30% from the reasonable 5€ last year) I had to approach these as a one per night treat due to the price rise, BUT it is worth every god-damn cent (although I heard people complaining that they were paying 6€ plus for mojitos this year which were mostly ice) I am never going to complain about these mojitos, which quite rightly stand up to their claim of being the best mojito at Rototom!
  • ✓Rototom has a great environmentally-friendly outlook under the codename ‘Greensplash’. For this edition of the festival single-use plastics were not allowed onsite and all bins were multi-purpose recycling points. Many posters were displayed at the food stalls reminding guests of the eco-friendly nature of the festival.
IMG_5191
Rototom ‘Greensplash’ eco-friendly systems
  • ✓Once again this year Rototom operated a reusable cup scheme, whereby you pay a non-refundable 1€ euro deposit for your cup and when you order your next drink you can either choose to refill your original cup, or switch it for a clean cup, or you can exchange your cup for a cup token to use the next time you order a drink. This is a great scheme as it cuts down on waste, unnecessary cleaning and compliments the environmentally-friendly ethos of Rototom City. The cup deposit price is the same whether you have a large or small cup. The deposit scheme is great if you are trying to collect the different versions of the cups, as you can swap your cup until you find the design you want to keep.20180817_213350.jpg
  • ✓Each year Rototom releases a new design logo on their reusable cups and this year was no different with a 25th edition heart cup design available for collectors. The cups also had the dates 16 – 22 August without the year 2018 printed on the cup, which makes sense as the cups can also be reused for next year’s edition, which also falls on 16-22nd August in 2019 – another tick for Rototom’s environmentally friendly ethos.20180822_230448

INSERT PIC OF CUP HERE

  • ✓For the 2nd year in a row, Rototom gave punters the chance to donate their reusable cup to charity – this year the charity was Open Arms, which provides rescue boats for stranded migrants in the Mediterranean sea. Large boxes where you could post your cup to you’re your support for the charity were found dotted around the festival site, at the entrance and next to Radio Rototom. Charity workers were easily identifiable in their red and white Open Arms t-shirts, and they presented on the main stage to explain what the cause is about. When they said they wanted our cups, which would be turned into donations to the charity hundreds of people started throwing their cups on stage, which just shows the support for this charity and how the Rototom family appreciate the work this charity is doing to help refugees and asylum seekers. We donated our cups on the last night of the festival. The charity workers were much more relaxed this year than in the previous edition, and didn’t feel as ‘chuggy’, but more like genuine supporters of the cause. It really did make me think how lucky we are to live the lives we live in freedom, whenever I dipped into the Mediterranean I couldn’t help but think of all the refugees who had lost their lives in the same waters. It is crazy to think about and thanks to Rototom supporting this cause I feel empowered and inspired to do more to help this line of charity work from back home.20180823_040240
  • ✗I know I’ve mentioned this already and also in my report from last year, but it is a VERY important point – There was a complete lack of a decent rum bar at the festival! Considering this is Europe’s largest reggae festival, authentic Caribbean food and drink was disappointingly hard to find. The best mojitos used Havana Club rum, which is Cuban – there are PLENTY of Jamaican rums and other drinks which could be served to match the music. There is also NOWHERE which makes a decent piña colada, which I’m sure would go down a storm if only it was available.
  • ✗There were a large number of artificially made mojitos for sale, which are blended in slush puppy style machines. As these drinks look pretty chemically, I preferred to find bars making up fresh mojitos with raw ingredients instead.

 

 

PICTURE OF BUS ROUTE HERE

Accessibility:

  • ✓A very regular bus service to reach the Rototom Solé beach bar at Playa del Gurugú was in operation this year, as all of the festival beach events were happening down there.
  • ✓There was a friendly bus warden at the festival in the mornings and at Solé beach in the evenings, directing passengers to the correct bus and organising which buses would pass through town and those which would drive directly to the festival.
  • ✓In addition to being regular, the buses were spotlessly clean, comfortable 52-seater coaches and came with much-needed air con!
  • ✓The bus drivers were very nice and often played reggae music to keep the bus passengers happy 🙂
  • ✓The bus fares were very reasonable – only 1.50€ per journey, or 15€ for an unlimited bus ticket, which came in the form of a purple fabric wristband with red, green and gold tags. This included use of the night bus.

    DSC_0027.JPG
    Wristbands for festival, glamping and bus
  • ✓If you needed to go into town rather than to the beach party you could hop onto the pueblo bus, which stopped at Heliópolis, near the Burger King and at the Mercadona before heading back to the festival site.
  • ✓A new night bus service was in operation between the festival and town, however we didn’t catch this so unclear whether this was a helpful service.
  • ✓The buses were waiting for us when we reached the train station, as they had been scheduled to collect Rototomers at the arrival of all long and medium distance train arrivals. Extra buses had also be scheduled to drop Rototomers back at the train station on the last day of the festival.
  • ✗It is not possible to stop off in town to buy supplies / cash / food / drinks / medicine/ sun cream / tobacco etc before hitting the beach parties as the new Solé bus route skirts the edges of town on the dual carriageway to hit the beach bar without stopping off in town first. You can still get to the high street in Benicassim if you walk from the festival site, otherwise you would have to catch a bus into town, hit the shops, catch a bus back to the festival site, then ride the Solé bus to reach the beach parties – Which in all honesty is a complete mission in 33 degree heat! Not to mention a massive waste of your precious holiday time – it is a major annoyance actually so I would recommend to anyone camping to stock up on supplies for the next day AFTER the beach parties if you can, then you’ll be well-equipped to head directly to the Solé bar in the morning without faffing about on a merry-go-round of buses around Benicassim!
  • ✗The buses did not stop at San Vincente, as in all previous years, which was a very strange development – San Vincente is the main beach in Benicassim, with a Consum supermarket nearby, and was a very popular daytime hangout for Rototomers. It was not advertised until a week beforehand that the buses wouldn’t be stopping here, which I am sure will have marred a fair few people’s holidays as they would have sought to book rooms in some of the larger hotels close to San Vincente beach and the bus stops. With not festival transport from that part of town to the festival Rototomers were faced with a good 30 min walk to the festival site, or the option of walking 15 mins to the Mercadona on the main high street to get a bus up to the festival from there – overall this would have been a massive disappointment for those hoping to have the beach parties and buses to the festival on their doorstep.
  • ✗Again, it would be much more helpful if Rototom could confirm the bus routes well in advance of the festival dates, so that people can make informed choices for the most convenient accommodation option.
  • ✗Poor access for disabled guests on the buses: This is a regular issue at Rototom – One day I saw two wheelchair users waiting for a festival bus at Heliópolis beach, at the peak travel time of around 7pm. The buses were full – the drivers had not noticed that disabled passengers were waiting and let able-bodied people flood the deck, preventing the wheelchair users accessing the designated space for them on the bus. The bus driver had pulled up at an awkward point of the pavement where the wheelchair accessible side door was blocked by a lamp post on the pavement. On one bus the wheelchair ramp seemed to be faulty so a group of people had to lift a man in a wheelchair onto the bus. All in all, I feel that the needs of wheelchair users must be taken into account more seriously in relation to transport to and from the festival site, especially as the festival has a relatively high number of disabled punters as the festival site itself is otherwise fairly accessible for wheelchair users thanks to the tarmac ground and the various ramps and walk ways provided at the beach party site, just the transport seems to be lacking for these guests from what I have seem.
  • ✗Some Rototom buses between the festival site and Castellon were advertised, however it was not clear where to catch these from or what times they ran. This would have been useful to know as a lot of Rototomers stay in the cheaper hotels in Castellon throughout the festival.

PICTURE OF CAMPSIRE HERE

Campsite:

  • ✓The ‘Glamping’ facilities are basic but adequate but do not constitute the typical English vision of the glamping experience. The tents are simple, 4-man tents, lined in rows and numbered, so locating your tent is easy, even after a night out. Each tent comes with a combination code padlock, a lamp and an inch-thick camping mat. We were very pleased with our tent this year, it was cool, I could stand up in it (but I’m a real shorty!) and it came reserved and set up for us at the rock bottom price of 90euros for the whole week! SO much cheaper than staying in a hotel or renting an airbnb.
  • ✓This year the glamping area was quieter and seemed to have expanded out towards the west of the site, which I believe was a previously unused area of the campsite.
  • ✓More security were present at the camping area this year with some fairly heavy duty armed civil guards at the festival and campsite entrance, possibly due to the heightened risk of a terror attacks following the Barcelona attack which occurred during the Rototom festival week last year. The campsite security guards were conducting random checks on new arrivals at the entrance, although I noticed that these seemed to be more targeted at ethnic minorities and I overheard a French man of African descent saying to the security guards that he had been stopped twice a day since arriving – in contrast, we were not ‘stop and searched’ once during the entire 8 days, but we are of white British ethnicity…
  • ✓The bar and food stall with seating area at the campsite opens 24 hours a day.
  • ✓A new feature in the form of a water dispenser was set up at the campsite bar. Users could pay 0.50€ for a large water using their own bottle or reusable cup. This was worked out significantly cheaper than buying the cold bottled water from the campsite bar, at around 1/3 of the cost, and allowed us the option of reusing our festival cups or bottles (Rototom is the most environmentally-conscious festival I’ve ever been too and wholeheartedly encourages reducing plastic consumption).
  • ✓The shared kitchen facilities and washing up sinks at the campsite were never crowded and seemed to be a good option for anyone on a budget who wanted a space to make their own food at the campsite.

    IMG_5299
    Kitchen at Rototom Sunsplash campsite
  • ✓There was a first aid tent at the campsite entrance, as well as a facility to rent portable mobile phone chargers and also a set of rentable lockers for storing valuables.
  • ✓In previous years, wasps were a tedious pest at the campsite, normally buzzing up in your grill first thing in the morning and during sunset, however this year the wasp situation was completely under control and they were not an issue at all during the whole 8 days I was there. Which was a huge relief, as they normally go for me.
  • ✗The camping is great if you can handle the outdoors mixed communal cold showers. There are a couple of private showers (literally two) and when I say private really I mean that everyone can still see you through the shower curtain which blows in the wind! The cold showers are fine, you actually get used to them after a few days and find them refreshing, especially in the humidity which we experienced for the first half of the festival – until you need to wash your hair that is! This year the water felt particularly cold and people were definitely not as shy about getting naked as they have been over previous years, so I would advise that the campsite is not for the faint-hearted. Sometimes the cold water just won’t shift the dirt though, what with all the sun lotion, sweat and sand it’s only hygienic to have access to warm water to wash yourself in, which just isn’t available at the Rototom campsite.

    IMG_5295
    Campsite at Rototom Sunsplash
  • ✗Rocks are EVERYWHERE all around the campsite. The Glamping Company put their tents up over some large rocks, they never have the courtesy to clear away the rocks before setting up the tents, which means it is always difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position on the bed of rocks jabbing into your hips, shoulders and back. The pathways around the campsite are full of piles of rocks and form very dangerous stepping grounds, particularly at night, when the paths are not well lit and if you are wearing sandals. Navigating piles of rubble and rocks in the dark after a few drinks to get back to your tent is a sobering experience to say the least. The funny thing is, the security guards would sit in their chairs right next to these rocks around the clock, yet none of them took the initiative to clear the paths of the rocks during the whole time they were sitting staring at them day and night for 8/9 days (maybe more)…
  • ✗Due to the arid terrain, the campsite can become uncomfortably dusty. This year we were lucky with the dust for the first few days as the torrential rains dampened the ground, albeit temporarily – the ground here is so dry it is comparable to that of a desert and within 15 minutes of the rain clearing the dust picks up again. This can make for a very comfortable stay for anyone in the campsite with breathing problems or dry eye conditions. I find I often have to cover my airways with a cloth to prevent from choking on the dust kicked up by trucks and wind around the campsite and a top tip is to take eye drops and nasal spray for anybody who is susceptible to dry sinus problems.
    DSC_0016
    Arid fields of Almond trees surrounding the festival

    DSC_0017
    Rows of dry pomegranate fields neighbouring the festival
  • ✗Ants, ants and more ants: The campsite seemed to host every type of ant going, all of whom are after your crumbs and will form an orderly queue to invade your tent and make your life A LIVING NIGHTMARE for even the tiniest scraps of food or juice. Some people don’t seem to care and will leave their tent doors wide open all day, only to come back and find an organised trail of militant ants devouring the contents of their tents! Some of these ants can squeeze through the tiniest of holes in your tent’s ground sheet and even through your tent’s mesh, so the advice is just DON’T TAKE ANY FOOD to your tent WHATSOEVER and sellotape or plaster over any holes you find in your ground sheet (better still – ask to swap to a hole-free tent if you find any when you move in!) and you will be sure to experience an ant-free festival!
  • ✗This year the urinal wall for men didn’t feature a water fountain so you can only imagine the bog of eternal stench which you had to navigate past before and after your shower. I found this to be quite inconvenient and would have preferred for glampers to have direct access to the showers at the opposite end of the shower area to the urinal.
  • ✗The toilets are very basic and small, with just a toilet in each cubible – There are NO hygiene bins provided in any of the cubicles at the festival AT ALL – so it is tricky and embarrassing for girls and women to dispose of their used sanitary products all across the festival sites. I consider access to adequate facilities to handle the menstruation cycle to be a fundamental right for all females and should be an integral part of the planning for hygiene units at such a large festival, especially in 2018. Camping on your period is hard enough for us ladies, so with the added stress of nowhere to change it can become impossible. Hygiene seems to be a low priority for the festival organisers in general, as soap is also not provided at the majority of toilets (limited soap is available at some of the festival toilets but runs out quickly). Rolls of toilet paper are not provided in any of the cubicles, rather industrial-sized toilet rolls are attached to railings outside the toilets, meaning that when you are queuing for the loo everyone can tell whether you are about to squeeze out a number 1 or a number 2 just by looking at the quantity of loo roll you are tearing off – HOW EMBARRASSING *blushes*! In some areas of the festival toilets are split into fe/male, but the campsite toilets and showers are all unisex.
  • ✗There were less sinks available for toothbrushing this year – only 6 (for 1,000s of campers!), and they were positioned RIGHT NEXT to the stale stench of the dry urinal *blurgh* hence I had to find other places to brush my teeth which didn’t make me wretch.
  • ✗The toilets at the campsite were not as well-maintained this year as last year, and felt quite dirty. It would be interesting if Rototom could extend it’s environmentally-friendly outlook to the campsite hygiene facilities in the form of compost toilets for the next edition.
  • ✗The campsite was full until Sunday, which meant some latecomers had to set up their tents in a make-shift campsite in the communal areas near the toilets (YUCK). This would not have been a nice place to wake up on a boiling hot morning. The campsite could be better organised with specific plots laid out to ensure the ground space is used to its optimum capacity.
  • ✗Two days before the festival I saw an announcement on the Rototom website that you could now rent a Rototom-designed tent for 30€ for the entire festival, or you could buy the tent outright for just 50€. This would have been a considerable saving when compared to the 90€ (plus 40€ deposit) for a bog standard 1-2 person glamping tent. It could be an interesting option for anyone on a tight budget who doesn’t mind faffing about finding a decent camping spot and putting up and taking down the tent. Had I known about this offer in advance of booking the tent hire from The Glamping Company, I would have been tempted, but in reality it was unclear where the tent stall was to buy/hire the Rototom tents, plus by opting for the glamping tent all the hassle is taken away, the hard work is already done for you and you can travel light without having to lug a tent around in the heat.

 

Overall:

In its 25th edition – one of the biggest and best Rototoms to date – the festival has proved it can stand the test of time and remains a prominent leader in the field of reggae music celebrations. Not to mention it has to see off some stiff new competition in the form of multiple emerging reggae / dancehall festivals across Europe. There is still, to my knowledge, no other reggae-oriented festival on the continent which can compare to Rototom in terms of size, reputation, organisation, nor provides that feeling of genuinely being in the Caribbean which only Rototom can.

BRING ON ROTOTOM SUNSPLASH 16 – 22 AUGUST 2019!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

20180821_021430

DUB + REGGAE MIXES BY DJ SKIRTBAG

Featuring the best reggae artists and dub music from across the globe for seriously laid-back vibes (think a Sunday afternoon in the sun).

CHRONIXX WILDLIFE MIX 2016:

  • The FIRST EVER DJ Skirtbag reggae mix!
  • A mix of my ultimate favourite Chronixx hits ahead of his gig with Zincfence Redemption Band at Wildlife Festival 2016, Brighton
  • Includes tracks such as Smile Jamaica, Here Comes Trouble and Who Knows!   
  • This mix reached 30th in the Mixcloud #reggae dancehall chart and 65th in the #dub chart

 

PROTOJE MEGAMIX 2016:

  • Some of Protoje’s best hits up to 2016
  • in the mix by DJ Skirtbag 
  • Includes 17 hits from Protoje, including Kingston Be Wise, Strolling, Answer To Your Name, Who Knows and MORE.

 

CROWN LOVE RIDDIM MIX:

  • A silky sweet mix featuring the smoothest Crown Love Riddim reggae tracks from Vybz Kartel, Tarrus Riley, Kalash, Christopher Martin and OCG.
  • All songs from the hit riddim from Rvssian
  • Features reggae tracks from Vybz Kartel, Tarrus Riley, Kalash, Christopher Martin and OCG. 

 

ROOTS REGGAE AND DUB MIX APRIL 2017:

  • A 4h15m (yes, you read right – FOUR WHOLE HOURS AND FIFTEEN WHOLE MINUTES!) MEGAMIX of 2017 reggae and dub tracks, peppered with some classics, all mixed into a smooth blend of serious roots and culture. 
  • A special Gold medal award goes out to anyone who plays the whole mix and reaches the end tune (I saved my favourite tune til last as a special prize to you)! 
  • See my Facebook page for a full track listing: fb.me/djskirtbag
  • This mix reached in the Mixcloud #dub chart

 

INTERNATIONAL DUB GATHERING 2018 MIX:

  • A round-up of some of the most sublime and popular dub tracks 
  • All heard at International Dub Gathering 2018, Bigastro, Spain #IDG2018
  • Features tracks from Danny Red, UK Principal, Alborosie, Michael Palmer and MORE
  • This mix reached 42nd Mixcloud #Bass Music chart and 100th in the Mixcloud #dub chart

 

INTERNATIONAL DUB GATHERING 2018 REVIEW

Festival Report by DJ Skirtbag

Last week, I hit up one of Europe’s biggest dub festivals, held on the outskirts of the unsuspecting and sleepy Spanish town of Bigastro in the Alicante region – Yes, I could only be talking about the dubbers mecca of International Dub Gatheringthe only place for discerning dubster dudes to be found over this Easter weekend. If you didn’t make it out to Spain for the sangria and sound systems – fret not! DJ Skirtbag has got you covered with this full-on report of how the bass, bars and beats went down at the 3rd edition of the newly-relocated IDG 2018 festival.

IDG 2018 Logo

Tickets:

IDG 2018 Ticket Prices✓ The tickets for this year’s IDG were SO reasonably priced and represented absolutely amazing value (even with the currently painful post-Brexit exchange rate). The most you could pay for a full 3-day festival ticket was 109€ at the ‘taquillas’ (box office to any anglophones), which worked out an absolute steal at the bargain basement price of just 36€ per day.

IDG 2018 Ticket Sale

 

✓ Any dubsters with military grade organisational skills had the option to bag one of the first 300 tickets released on 15th November, which were priced at a measly 59€ (+ booking fees) for the whole 3 days of festival. This deal sold out quickly as it turns out that dubbers are surprisingly quick to react to super early bird dub tickets! You’ll have to be quick off the mark if you want to nab a similar deal for next year. If you missed the super early bird prices you could have still made some serious discounts during the 2nd round of  the early bird tickets releases, which were available to purchase up until 14th January, before the tickets went full price.IDG 2018 Ticket Prices 1

IDG 2018 Tickets 59 euros

✓ Those who didn’t fancy the whole long weekend of dub could have opted for a 1 or 2 day pass. These ‘prince’ (1 day) or ‘queen’ (2 day) tickets set you back 30€ or 60€ respectively if bought them in the 2nd round of early bird releases, otherwise they cost a reasonable 39€ and 79€ on the door.IDG 2018 Prices

✓ It was possible to combine local IDG-sourced accommodation with your festival ticket in a bundle ticket.

✓ At the festival, the palmed-tree lined ticket offices were well-

DSC_0285
DJ Skirtbag arriving at IDG 2018

organised when we arrived on the first day, with barely any queue. This video shows the colourful welcome you receive on entering the festival.

✓ I noticed that late on the first afternoon of the festival some gazebos had been put out at the ticket collection points to shade anybody waiting in the line, which was a nice touch and showed that the organisers were trying hard to cater to their guests; although we had already stood in the sun to collect our tickets by the time the gazebos went up (we were among the first guests to arrive).

✗ The line up and daily schedule were not available at the time of ticket purchase, so you were taking a risk of travelling abroad for an unknown line up. However, looking back at the previous two editions of IDG, held in Barcelona, it was clear that we were going to be in safe hands! This was also backed by the fact that IDG is hosted in collaboration with Rototom Sunsplash and the Dub Academy and organised by Greenlight Sound System – so to me there was never any doubt that the line up and organisation was always going to be FIRE! It just would have been nice to know at least one or two of the headliners a bit in advance.

✗ I didn’t see any loos at the ticket gate for those waiting to get in. This probably wasn’t a huge problem however just thinking of people who may have travelled a long way to get to the festival this may have been a useful addition for them.

✗ The festival used some ultra fancy-schmancy tech, which came in the form of a microchip attached to the festival wristbands (yes, microchips, at a DUB festival). It was at all not clear to me what on Earth the microchip was necessary for initially. It only became evident when we tried to enter the campsite to sort out our glamping tents, when we were stopped by a security guard who had a device (think it may have just been a mobile phone with a sensor?) who proceeded to scan our wrists before allowing us entry. Typically, my chip was denied entry, so I was sent back to the ticket office to arrange for the chip to be activated. Very complicated! I don’t understand why it was necessary to set up this system – it must have been an extra expense for the festival organisers – when surely a simple and cheap coloured wristband system like this would have sufficed in its place?

DSC_0294
Advanced Microchip Wristbands

✗ Once inside the festival, your wristband doubled up as a futuristic payment method. This meant the whole festival site was CASH-FREE. In order to pay for any food, drink or merch you needed to prepay and top up your microchip with credit (I feel like I’m from Back To The Future explaining this).  I had not seen this advertised prior to the festival so it was a big surprise. There were several options available to top up: you could either attend the manned top up booth and pay by cash or card, or you could use one of the top up machines which were located at the entrance and in the chill out zone of the festival. There were rules around using the microchip payment system, e.g. the minimum top up amount was 2 euros. In order to receive a refund of any unspent credit you needed to have a minimum of 2.50€ on your microchip and you had to request the refund before 5am that day, otherwise you would lose any prepaid monies. This left a few people confused, especially around 14 hours into the festival when it became hard to keep track of how much you had left on your microchip and you were made to calculate exactly how much money you needed to add to your chip to see you through the rest of the night without having to top up again or queue up for a refund by 5am. One night at 3am we were in a weird situation of figuring out some sums on the dancefloor – one of us had 3€ on their chip, the other had 1.50€, we needed to figure out how to maximise the money before we lost it, so we worked out the complicated solution of obtaining a refund for the 3€ on person 1 (before if fell below the 2.50€ threshold for a refund), giving the 3€ to the other person for them to top their card up with 3.50€ so that we could have exactly the right amount of prepaid credit to buy one last round of two beers before bed and not lose out on any unused money – complications I would have preferred to avoid and just get on with enjoying my night. We also ran into situations where we had lost track of the amount of credit left on our microchips (easy to do when you have been dubbing all day and night) so we went to the bar, ordered beers which we then couldn’t pay for, so had to go back to top up the chips. This kind of situation would have been avoided if we were able to just pay with cash or contactless bank card. We realised though, that if we weren’t sure of our remaining credit we could pop to the microchip machine and scan our wrist, then our balance would be displayed as if by magic. It felt as thought the festival organisers had opted for this microchip system, not only to prevent any five-finger discounts from the tills, but possibly also to monitor our transactions and analyse our spending habits to see who spent what, on what, how often they topped up, by how much etc. If this data is going to be used I would like to think that it would be to tailor the stalls and products on offer to the clientele in a more targeted way to maximise their enjoyment and experience at the festival. This sort of Orwellian payment system didn’t seem to fit with the overall laid-back atmosphere of the dub festival and was a bit of a hassle to be honest. Although I can see that it probably allowed for faster transactions to occur at points of sale (e.g. the bartender would flash you the total price, you would nod, put out your wrist, they would scan you with their device and show you your remaining credit, you nod in agreement and walk away) no waiting around for change or being asked if you have a smaller note etc. But I can still imagine that overall it probably cost more money to run this cashless system it than it saved, mostly since the devices must have cost a fair whack and the cashless till points had to be manned throughout the whole festival.

✗ As a young lady who does not appreciate to be touched by strangers, I felt uncomfortable to be manhandled by the security men every time they needed to scan me in and out of the festival (like an object an the supermarket checkout) or any time I needed to pay for something. After a day or so though, we all seemed to have settled into the arrangement and most of the security guards had come up with a way to scan our microchips accurately without having to hold everyone’s hands (ick). And I had developed a clever technique to hold the microchip in place for the security guards to scan without them having the need to touch me. I’ve put this awkwardness down to a cultural difference on my part, as I am aware that Spaniards are not always as prickly about their personal space being invaded as us Brits can be.

✗ Once checked into the glamping site we were issued with ANOTHER wristband (this time chip-free). Personally, I would have preferred to wear just one wristband which showed both the last day of the festival I was allowed to enter with entry to the campsite embedded, as sporting an armful of synthetic and plastic wristbands along with long sleeved tops, jumpers and jackets at night was a somewhat cumbersome and uncomfortable arrangement. I would suggest that a striped wristband like this could work in this scenario.

Accessibility:

CARMEN 24 - Google Maps
Location of IDG 2018 – Carmen\24, Bigastro, Alicante, SPAIN

✓ IDG 2018 was hosted in the enormous indoor/outdoor nightclub venue Carmen\24 outside of Bigastro, Spain. This location between Murcia and Alicante made it accessible to those travelling from abroad, as the nearest airports in Alicante and Murcia are around an hour’s drive away. Carmen 24

✓ Carmen\24 is situated outside the town of Bigastro, with the nearest residents living a good 10 minutes’ walk away. This was ideal in terms of the DJs being able to crank up the bass guilt-free, safe in the knowledge that we were probably not disturbing our nearest neighbours or imposing on the nearby townsfolk.

✓ IDG coordinated with a local transport company to offer cheap transfer coaches between the nearest major airports for festival goers to reach the festival site and nearby accommodation at a reasonable price. IDG 2018 Airport Transfers✓ The best way to access the festival site was by car. There was a car park directly opposite the festival entrance, with parking spaces available at a fee of 5€ per vehicle for the whole 3 days.

✓ IDG had struck a deal with Avis car rental to provide a discounted price for any festival types – we found a cheaper deal elsewhere though, but did appreciate that the organisers had gone to the effort to ensure that people could afford to get to the site.

✓ Bigastro felt like a very safe town to walk around. It is a very chilled out place with a slow pace of life and provides great views of mountains in the distance and is surrounded by fields of lemon trees! There is a large lemon factory just a few minutes’ walk from the Carmen\24 site and lemon trees even lined one side of the festival site, so occasionally the sublime fragrance of bergamot cut through the green haze to provide a fresh, sweet blast of balmy Spanish air. If I were to catch that scent again it would transport me straight back to the palm trees and bass of IDG with a whiff of nostalgia. IWe were also lucky enough to see the lemons being loaded into the lorries at the local factory – Citrus fruit production must make up a large percentage of the economy of the Bigastro and Orihuela area.

DSC_0288✗ Bigastro seemed like an unusual place to hold a festival as it is not situated near the coast (beaches were over 30mins drive from the festival site so had to forget the idea of sleeping on a sunbed), public transport to and around Bigastro is EXTREMELY limited, as are the facilities in the town. The town itself is so quiet, you would be forgiven for thinking there had been an unfortunate chernobyl-type incident there with several disused building merchants and industrial zones adjacent to Carmen\24; It was virtually a ghost town at all times of the day (although perhaps this was down to the fact we were there over the Easter weekend…?). I only found one moderate-sized supermarket – a MasYMas – which, to be fair, stocked all of the essentials, such as the wet-wipes we had forgotten to pack. I didn’t see any restaurants in Bigastro to use as an alternative to the food stalls available on site and I only came across three small and very ‘local’ bars during my explorations of the town, so finding entertainment or sustenance outside of the festival site was not really an option. It felt a bit like we had been dumped in the middle of nowhere to be honest, which in a way worked very well for me as I was using the festival as a holiday to escape the hustle and bustle of my hectic inner-city life in the UK, but it was a slightly isolated place to be. Obviously the organisers must have run into difficulty finding an appropriate venue with decent transport connections and nearby facilities for this year’s festival, but I wouldn’t complain if the festival were to be held at Carmen\24 again – it made for a unique festival experience!

✗ The transfer coaches to and from the festival had to be booked in advance via Whatsapp, which I thought was an fairly unusual arrangement – but maybe this is common in Spain? Personally I was  worried that this unorthodox booking method could result in an unreliable bus service, so we didn’t dare to try it out this time around. I didn’t happen to see any of these transfer coaches at the festival site either, so have no idea how reliable or popular this service actually was.

✗ The nearest train station to the festival site was 6km away in the town of Orihuela. The trains which ran to Orihuela from Murcia and Alicante over the IDG period were few and far between. We looked up the times on the Renfe website ahead of our visit and it seemed like there were trains every 20 minutes so we made our way to the stations, however this was a different story when we arrived at the train stations in both Alicante and Murcia, where waits between trains to Orihuela were anything from 1 to 2 hours! And for some reason the media distancia trains were not stopping at Orihuela the weekend of IDG (again, perhaps because of the Easter weekend), and the línea C-1 Cercanías Murcia/Alicante route seemed to be operating a reduced service that weekend too.

20180331_173702
Bludsh0t waiting hours for the C1 train to leave Murcia for Orihuela

✗ There was a public bus from Orihuela train station to Bigastro centre which ran every few hours,  however this bus didn’t seem to run anywhere near the festival site, only to the centre of Bigastro, so public transport to the festival was basically impossible. I did not see any festival shuttle buses to transport punters to the train station, which I had expected to see given the distance between the station and the festival site and lack of public transport.

✗ Given the absence of public and festival transport available we had no choice but to hire a car at the last minute from a cheap place outside of Alicante airport. Although this was an extra expense which we had not factored in, I’m so pleased that we had the car, as it meant we were able to easily access the slightly out of the way festival site in our own time, and we also managed to fit in a cheeky day trip to Murcia in between the dub nights.

✗ The onsite car park was very rocky ground, had limited spaces and was full by the first evening. At least half of the vehicles accessing the festival had to park across the A road around the abandoned industrial estate opposite the nightclub and drivers and their passengers had to cross a busy A road with no pavement or crossing.

✗ By the last day of the festival, the car park had unfortunately become quite badly littered with rubbish and smashed glass. I think that some of the people who were sleeping in their cars and vans in the car park left a lot of litter behind, which goes against the environmentally-friendly ethos of IDG. It would be helpful if the organisers could add some wheelie bins or recycling bins to the car park.

DSC_0350
The car park on the first day of IDG 2018

✗ Pedestrian access to the festival was absolutely shocking. And I’m actually amazed that nobody was seriously injured crossing the roads and walking between town and the festival site. The festival site is a sharp turn off an A road with no pavement – the pavement that does become available beyond the festival site has ENORMOUS holes in it and is not lit at night. To get to the town you had to circumnavigate a busy A road roundabout with 4 exits, partial dual carriageway and no pedestrian crossings or pavements! Beyond the treacherous roundabout the pavements in town only started once you had reached the main factories about 10 minutes’ away from the festival entrance. Needless to say that anyone with mobility issues would not have been able to leave the festival site without personal transport. For future editions of the festival held at Carmen\24 I would recommend that the organisers liaise with the local municipal officers to arrange an accessible and well-lit pathway for the festivalgoers to access town safely. This would be especially important to provide adequate access for those staying at the Camping La Pedrera. I would recommend that anyone going next year and considering camping at the La Pedrera take a lightweight torch with them for the walk to/from the festival.

DSC_0289
Approaching the Carmen\24 site by foot, on the outskirts of Bigastro

 

Accommodation:

IDG 2018 Orihuela Hostel

✓ IDG organisers had kindly secured hostel accommodation for dubbers to book in the local town of Orihuela. It was helpful to know that there was somewhere nearby we could book to stay if necessary. IDG staff regularly updated their Facebook page and the IDG website in the lead up to the festival weekend to keep us informed of the availability of beds – e.g. when it was 50% sold out. Other festival accommodation was also made available at the Palmera Beach apartments in the coastal town of Mil Palmeras – 26km away from the festival for those who had transport. The hostel and hotel deals could be booked in combination with your IDG ticket and discounts were available for those booking in large groups.

✓ IDG provided a very exclusive number of parking spaces for camper vans to reside on site. These were situated right next to the campsite entrance on site.IDG 2018 Glamping Options

The Glamping Company provided a range of tented accommodation to hire on site to suit all budgets. We plumped for the cheapest and simplest option – a 1/2 person Easy Tent, similar to this model, with no porch, just a slight hood over the front, and a front door and back window. At 60€ for the 3 nights, based on two people sharing it worked out as 10€ pp/pn. Camping equipment hire of an inch-thick cushioned floor mat similar to this one, a hanging camping lamp and a combination code padlock were included in the price.

DSC_0449
Short girls can stand up inside the tent, no problem!

✓ The ‘Glamping‘ facilities were basic but were more than adequate for a short stay of just 3 nights. The easy tents are spacious 4 man tents (I can stand up in them, but I am a bit of a shorty!) and the tents are laid out in rows and clearly numbered, so locating your tent is easy, even after 19 hours of straight dubbing! The tents are sturdy and  even withstood some unseasonally strong winds.

✓ Residents of the glampsite had access to its own separate toilets and showers in portacabins and an alfresco sink area for communal teeth brushing next to a field of fragrant lemon bushes. I am very pleased to report that the glampsite toilets came equipped with raspberry handwash and were fully stocked with loo roll at all times I visited! 🙂 I didn’t test out the showers (wet wipe washes only I’m afraid!) but they did have shower curtains and private cubicles, not communal.

20180401_085432 (2)
Lemon trees freshened up the loos

✓ Other options in the glamping area included bell tents, which were arranged in a pastel rainbow and looked really pretty at twilight.

✓ When you arrived at the glamping check in desk, you had to put down a cash deposit of 40 euros, which was refunded to you upon inspection of your tent at the end of your stay and once you had handed back the padlock and lamp lent to you. Check-out was swift and well-organised with inspectors radioing back to the reception desk via walkie-talkie to confirm the state of the tent before the deposit could be returned.

✓ The glampsite was RIGHT NEXT to the festival venue. At first I was anxious about this, as thought the noise from the stages around 25m away from my tent was going to be unbearable. Thankfully, this was not the case for me as the outdoor stages whose sound carried across closed down at midnight, which is when the indoor stages opened. This drastically reduced to amount of noise the glampers were subjected to and meant although we could still hear quite loud music, it was not anywhere near as invasive and disturbing as it could have been and was actually quite pleasant to sleep to (saying that I really do LOVE dub and could probably fall asleep right at the front of the show it puts me in that much of a trance, so don’t just take my word for it!). Further to this, the day stages which started at midday were based at the furthest end of the festival site to the glampsite, so this really helped in keeping the noise disturbance in the campsite at a reasonable level in the mornings too. The stalls at the chill out zone started to play gentle reggae music at around 10am, such as a playlist from the Solé and breakfast bar of Chronixx, Protoje, Alborosie and Bob Marley. This gave us 3 music-free hours between 7am-10am to sleep in (provided your neighbours weren’t too noisy like ours – could have throttled the Italian girl who jumped out of the tent opposite ours at 9am every morning to enthusiastically shout BUONGIORNO at the top of her lungs to each of her friends one by one – grrr) and some people in the glampsite were such hardcore dubbers that they even brought their own hi-fis to play their own dub music back at the campsite, as if 19 hours of reggae was not enough for them – true sound system addicts!

✓ You could take your own food into the glamping area, but not into the main festival, and there were no kitchens to prepare food. If you wanted to cook your own food you would need to bring a camper van. We didn’t take any food into the tents as didn’t want to end up with an infestation of wasps and ants. Although the bug situation was relatively under control in the glampsite area, I did see a lot of ginormous ants going for the rubbish in the car park – wouldn’t want to mess with THEM.

✓ For anyone who missed out on glamping or who wanted a better night’s (read: day’s) sleep away from the festival, there was an alternative campsite, La Pedrera, just out of town and 2km from the festival site.

✓ Using The Glamping Company is so easy and really helps when you are travelling from abroad as you don’t have to worry about packing a tent in your luggage and carrying it around with you on your travels. You can travel light and everything is perfectly set up for you when you arrive. Not having to take a tent meant we could load up on the extra bedding and blankets which we definitely needed, as night-time temperatures dropped to as low as 5°C (it was snowing in other parts of Spain that weekend and many of the Semena Santa parades had been cancelled due to high winds, rain and snow!).IDG 2018 Glamping✗ The toilets at the glampsite flooded on the second day. Luckily it didn’t contaminate the festival site and was cleaned up quickly thanks to the fast-acting cleaning team. It was just a slight inconvenience one morning.

✗ The girls toilets at the glampsite were not equipped with bins to dispose of feminine hygiene waste. As a female, this was an inconvenience for me and I regard this as a basic Human right for women to have access to feminine hygiene equipment in all toilets in the year 2018.

✗ The campsite was INCREDIBLY DUSTY. We were rather unlucky to have been hit with a wind storm which blew up the dust something chronic. I got dry eye infections in both eyes! On the windiest day we actually had to leave the campsite and festival site altogether as the dust was even getting into my eyes whilst wearing sunglasses and was making us feel like our throats were lined with chalk, which was quite unpleasant. Even despite the rain on the 2nd day, the campsite was so dry that it didn’t dampen down the dust in the slightest and the dust was even blowing all over the chill out area, so we couldn’t get comfortable there either. I would suggest that if this site is going to be used again that the rocky walkways between the tents should be lined with astroturf or some sort of temporary boarded flooring to prevent the awful dust clouds from kicking up and choking and blinding the customers. It can’t be good for anyone to be breathing that in! Or if the dust cannot be managed through a flooring solution, the festival could provide some face masks or goggles for people who are suffering badly with the dust!

✗ On the final morning, Easter Sunday, the music stopped at 7am. ‘PHEW!’ I thought, this is my chance to sleep before packing up and heading off – WRONG…! The folk of Bigastro had other plans and proceeded to set off several daytime fireworks displays, presumably for their Easter celebrations, from 8am, again at 8.30am and 9am. By 9am simultaneous firework displays from neighbouring towns could also be heard echoing around the campsite. I took a video of the ‘displays’ (of course they were mostly invisible aside from some puffs of smoke). I was not aware of this as an Easter custom (we don’t do this in the UK at all!) so was somewhat miffed to say the least at the prospect of no Sunday lay in after 3 days at the festival!

✗ On the final day of the festival when the glampers were leaving I could not believe the piles of rubbish left behind. There was a distinct lack of bins for glampers, and as I was leaving the site I saw a van plough through piles of rubbish stacked up around a bin and burst lots of bags and cartons – it was a real mess and wouldn’t take much to provide just a few more bins around the glampsite, especially at the exit on the final day.

✗ The camper vans were parked RIGHT NEXT to the day stages, I’m talking 10metres away from the speakers of the Back A Yard stage and main arena – so I felt very sorry for anyone staying in those come midday when the music kicked off – the campers there must have got very little rest in that area of the site.

✗ The accommodation options arranged by IDG seemed to be quite difficult to access, especially the site at Mil Palmeras, and booking transport ahead of time to return back to these hotels at anytime up until 7am seemed to be too difficult which is why we did not consider these options.

The festival site and music:

To hear a selection of the best tunes I heard at International Dub Gathering 2018, check out my latest mix on Mixcloud – it is GUARANTEED to take you back to Bigastro!

LISTEN TO DJ SKIRTBAG’S IDG 2018 DUB MIX!

Features tunes from:

Wayne Wade, Don Carlos, Afrikan Simba, Beres Hammond and Zap Pow, Alborosie, Vivian Jackson/Yabby You, Imaani, Junior Delgado, Benjammin, Michael Palmer, Danny Red, Superior, Ziggi Recado, Hatman, Dixie Peach and UK Principal.

  • This festival site and layout was so unconventional, it warrants a full explanation!IDG Map 2018

✓ Altogether there were 6 stages, all playing wicked dub music:

  1. Back A Yard,
  2. Main Arena,
  3. IDG Free Yard,
  4. Rototom Arena,
  5. HortiDub Lab
  6. Bassment.

✓ The venue was a mixture of indoor and outdoor stages, which made it fun to explore, and different sections of the venue were opened up at different times of the day to contain noise pollution.

✓ The full line up for all stages except for the IDG Free Yard was proudly displayed in the festival entrance. NINETEEN (yep, 19!) HOURS of PURE DUB PER DAY – a dusbter’s paradise!20180331_192156

✓ At the front of the festival near the entrance was an outdoor market, bar and food stall area. The options for food were rather limited – oriental rice or noodles, paella, pizza or crepes, for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for 3 days. I found the crepe stall offered the best value and the most versatile option, as for under 5€ a go you could switch it up and have a sweet crepe for breakfast then a savoury one for dinner. Apparently the noodles were REALLY good, but rather on the pricey side at 8€ a pop and for only a small carton.  Some of the food stalls provided seating and a small amount of shelter under their marquees. Some of you may recognise the crepe stall from the main stage at Rototom Sunsplash, which was nice to see such a familiar stall.

DSC_0297
Crepe stall
DSC_0298
Noodle and Pizza Stall
DSC_0348
Overlooking the food and market area
20180331_192328
Overlooking the food and market area
DSC_0337
Panorama of the festival food / market stall area

✓ The market area also included a range of market stalls selling art work and a rad  clothing shop, Lion Army, which stocked a range of rasta-themed basketball tops and t-shirts alongside khaki and camouflage military style Lion Army branded clothing and hats.

✓ The market area also included a range of market stalls selling art work and a rad military style clothing shop Lion Army, 

20180331_191817
Artwork from Rototom Sunsplash’s ‘Celebrating Africa’ edition main stage decorations, IDG 2018.

DSC_0376The outdoor area Back A Yard was my favourite, as it was underneath a canopy of trees, lined with bushes and fully decked with astroturf. The venue was intimate but was spacious enough for a large crowd to dance energetically. Benches were available on a platform behind the stages, and the venue had that sort of amphitheatre shape where spectators could stand on higher ground around the edges of the dancefloor to get a brilliant view over all of the proceedings. This area even featured artwork in the form of sculptures, including a car which was fully covered in astroturf and had its own raised bar and food joint! Tree shelter, snug dancefloor and dub is an absolute winning combination! See my video of the daytime dubbing sessions at Back A Yard here.

 

 

DSC_0452
Skirtbag standing in her happy place under the tree at Back A Yard

IDG 2018 Afrikan Warriors

✓ On Friday night, the Afrikan Warriors Sound System took to the decks, powered by Greenlight Sound System, and kicked the first evening of the festival off with a bang. I enjoyed their set so much that I went on to buy their t-shirt from the merch stand! Catch the video of their set here.DSC_0367

✓ On Saturday and Sunday night, Dubstoned Sound System took over the Back-A-Yard area with Tunelon Iration on the mic. They seemed to play for hours and introduced plenty of special guests,  Dadda Wanche from Kanarias Reggae – watch my video here  – and musicians playing live instruments such as melodica and saxophones (video here) and including Don Fe on the flute. It was also one of the Dubstoned crew’s birthdays on Sunday night, so the energy in the yard was particularly high for their sessions.

Buy music from Tunelon Iration on Amazon here

Buy music from Dadda Wanche on Amazon here

Buy music from Don Fe on Amazon here

Buy music from Dubstoned Records on Amazon here

DSC_0440DSC_0433

✓ The vibe at Back A Yard was so sweet and you couldn’t help but have a great time there. These youngsters were certainly having the time of their lives with their glow poi and dancing on the roof of a car (until security asked them to step down)! DSC_0429.JPG

✓ The main arena was undercover but the ceiling was so high and with no external walls on 3 sides, it gave a light and airy sensation to make you feel that you were still outside – imagine a dome-shaped roof as high as an aircraft hanger but with a massive tree growing up through the middle of the roof surrounded by a circular bar in the middle – then add sound systems and that is your main arena. The music here and in Back A Yard started at midday and carried on until midnight. 12 hours of outdoor dubbing per day – that’ll do nicely – thanks IDG!

DSC_0304

DSC_0306
Main Arena at IDG 2018

✓ The main arena featured a wall of light shows and displays to provide ambience and entertainment – mostly they displayed the logo of IDG or the particular act or sound system playing at the time.20180331_193748.jpg

✓ With the DJ and MC booth at the epicentre of the dancefloor revellers had the opportunity to stand around the epicentre of the Main Arena and get up close and personal with the artists as they selected tunes, manipulated the amps and took to the mic. This was the best position to be in and many hours could be spent enjoying the music and artists here.

✓ Headliners we saw at the main arena included King Shiloh full Sound System on Friday. The bass was fully cranked for that show as you can see in this video! What a way to start the weekend!

DSC_0355
DJ Skirtbag at King Shiloh Sound, IDG 2018

✓ We also checked out the mighty Jah Shaka, powered by Greenlight Sound System, for a bit, but only caught the very end of that set as we were too busy rocking out at the Back A Yard all night, so can’t really comment on the set – sure it was red hot though as Jah Shaka always delivers!

DSC_0444.JPG
Jah Shaka packing up at the main arena of IDG 2018

20180331_193742.jpgGreenlight Sound provided a quality set with maximum vibes alongside MCs including Macky Banton and Biga Ranx! These videos are a must-watch for the mad MCing and massive tunes played – video 1 and video 2 here!

 

20180331_204039.jpg
Greenlight Sound, Macky Banton and Biga Ranx and the main arena, IDG 2018

✓ The woodland theme continued through the other side of the main arena, which led onto a semi-open forest chill-out area with bar, loos and urinals for men.

20180331_193417

Buy music from King Shiloh Sound on Amazon here

Buy music from Jah Shaka on Amazon here

Buy music from Macky Banton on Amazon here

Buy music from Biga Ranx on Amazon here

✓ A further palmed-tree lined outdoor area was found at the back of the site between the main arena and the glamping area, and was open 24 hours a day. This was a real Ibiza-style chill out area, with a covered seating area full of comfy patio furniture, some with cushions, tables, market stalls, massage stall, alcohol-free Solé bar, astroturf lawn for yoga and playing with circus props, coffee shops and a free mobile phone charging unit. This area did not host a stage, however the cafes did play reggae soundtracks throughout the day from about 10am and some of the stalls selling records played music quietly in their corner area. I spent a lot of time in this area just taking in the atmosphere and relaxing in between dances/recharging with a snack. At night this area also housed two fire lamps, which were extremely useful for warming up at night before bed! In the daytime the giant slopes were the perfect place to lay back and catch some sunrays and take in the beats from the main stage, or watch the sunset with a drink. Snacks such as muffins and cookies were available to buy from 2€ each and fresh orange juice from 3.50€ in this area. This area was just great – there were always plenty of seats and lots of shaded areas to relax in.

DSC_0323
Solé beach bar in the chill out area at IDG 2018
DSC_0422
Watching the sunset in the chill out area
DSC_0400
Morning activities in the chill out area
DSC_0402
Seating area in the chill out zone
DSC_0330
Comfy patio furniture in the undercover chill out area
DSC_0403
Mobile phone charging area

 

 

✓ The mobile phone charging unit was an excellent feature of the festival for glampers. We were particularly grateful for this as we needed to converse our phone battery for the sat nav journeys. It was free to use, you just had to plug in your phone (with your own charger) and sit nearby to keep an eye on it for a while while you enjoyed a little sit down in the chill out area. Simple!

 

 

 

✓ The indoor venues opened up one at a time throughout the evening. The first one to open was the IDG Free Yard. This was a small rectangular shaped room with the DJ stage at the entrance and a bar down one side and what seemed to be secret toilets at the back (easily the cleanest and least used toilets at the festival!). The IDG Free Yard opened up at around 10:30pm, which was ideal as by then the outside temperature had started to plummet, so was great to get inside into the warm.

DSC_0381
Bar inside the IDG Free Yard

✓ We saw some awesome DJs at the IDG Free Yard, most of which were previously unknown to myself. GudariDub seemed to be hosting the stage and played several times. Some real highlights of mine were Tatanka Sound but in particular it was K22 Sound who stood out to me for their seamless blending of some bad boy reggae tunes one after the other.

DSC_0385
Gudaridub playing at the IDG Free Yard

✓ Following on from the IDG Free Yard, the next stage to open was the Rototom Arena at midnight, where main acts such as the phenomenally popular Soom T and  Iseo & Dodosound played. This was an arena-sized concert hall equipped with large performance stage, extremely high ceiling, glitter balls, aircon, a bar – I would say it was around a 2,000 thousand capacity venue and it was completely ram-jammed on the first night! As a vertically challenged person I am pleased to report that the dancefloor sloped down gently towards the stage, hence I was able to see the goings on on stage from the very back of the hall.DSC_0388

DSC_0395
The Rototom Arena at IDG 2018

✓ Blackboard Jungle provided endless hours of tunes at the Rototom Arena as a solid late night fixture at this stage, also stepping in to cover for late or absent DJs at the last minute, such as for Channel One Sound, who were grounded at London Stansted following a fire outside the airport building. When listening to their show on Worldwide FM directly following IDG 2018, I wrote a comment to say what a shame it was they couldn’t make it. Their response was detailed and fully explained why they were not able to perform at the festival, which was much appreciated as no information was provided about their cancellation at the festival itself – listen here from 1h26min.

Buy music from Iseo and Dodosound on Amazon here

Buy music from Channel One Sound on Amazon here

Buy music from Soom T on Amazon here

✓ The penultimate venue to open up was the HortiDub Lab, which was accessed via the staircase inside the Rototom Arena, or via the external staircase at the entrance to the IDG Free Yard, or via a stair case entrance at the Main Arena. The HortiDub lounge featured a bar, geometric optical illusion sculptures and sliding patio doors.

DSC_0396
HortiDub Lab at IDG 2018

✓ The HortiDub Lab room hosted the mighty sounds of UBIK. We also spent a long time there skanking to Alpha Steppa and Ras Tinny (Kibir La Amlak and Danny Red were on a bit past my bedtime unfortunately so missed them!).

✓ Also upstairs was a sprawling terrace which housed yet another bar, seating areas, access to a lift for any disabled guests and even MORE secret toilets. You could look over the veranda down to the main arena but by the time you were allowed upstairs the acts were already finished.

✓ And finally, by 1am all of the indoor venues were opened as the outdoor stages were fully closed and people came inside to the warm – the last stage to open was the Bassment, which was accessed through the IDG Free Yard, or though the Rototom Arena, or through the fire exit by the toilets at the Main Arena or via some steps at the main arena. The Bassment also included YET ANOTHER BAR area, and a large empty space with just a sofa(!).

✗ The sound clash in the market stall and food area between the main arena and Back A Yard was really annoying. In fact, just walking past the main arena to get to the food stalls was quite an unpleasant aural experience as you walked around the speakers, so the sound levels were out and the shrieky, tinny sound rang in your ears, but once you were inside the centre of the sound system the sound quality was SIIIIICK!!!

Paolo Baldini Dubfiles and Hempress Sativa were due to play at the Main Arena on Sunday evening. This was the event I had most been looking forward to over the entire weekend. Hempress Sativa has some big hits, she is a serious talent and I was determined to get right to the front to get the best view. I wiggled my way through the sparse crowd (that was easy!) and positioned myself RIGHT AT THE FRONT in a prime position and waited for the Hempress to come Rock It Inna Dance. The Charltan 58 including Sister Awa ran over, so I assumed that the Hempress but have been running late or the shows were behind schedule, so I patiently waited. Next thing, Greenlight Sound’s Daddy Savi was spinning some low key tunes – cool – any minute now the Hempress will be here, this must just be some mid-show entertainment until she arrives, I thought. TWO HOURS LATER and still no sign of Hempress Sativa, only the act which was due on after her Greenlight Sound with Macky Banton and Biga Ranx had started up a couple of hours early. No word from the hosts on the situation with Hempress Sativa. OK, sooooooo….WHAT the FUDGE is going on here? We decided that the Hempress was clearly not going to be attending, or maybe the sets had been switched and she would be here later? I didn’t bring my mobile phone with me, luckily my partner had his and knowing how much I needed to understand the situation he kindly used his international data roaming to log onto Facebook to find out what the story was. Turns out, to my deep disappointment, that Hempress Sativa had been unable to attend the event due to unforeseen circumstances. If only someone had said that at the time she was due to play, or had put a little notice on the huge line up banner next to the main arena, then I might not have stood at the front of the main stage like a complete lemon for TWO WHOLE HOURS in a state of mild distress and confusion. Weirdly, I didn’t hear anyone talking about it AT ALL, and there were no announcements from the crew about it that I heard. Only way to find out the sitch was online, which for many of us at the festival was not a possibility.  And also weirdly, none of the other acts played any Hempress Sativa tunes which I heard of – you might have thought they would to please the crowd with her huge dub anthems ‘Boom (Wa Da Da Deng)’, produced by Paolo Baldini Dubfiles on the Kingston 6 riddim, ‘Skin Teeth‘, ‘Rock It Ina Dance‘ and a big hit with the sensimillia-smoking crowd is her refix of The Fugees ‘Fugee-La’ tune, Hempress Sativa style ‘Oh la la The Weed Thing‘. To be fair to the organisers, this artist cancellation was completely out of their control (apparently it was down to visa issues), and they have since kindly expressed that due to the number of artist cancellations (Channel One Sound were also absent), anyone still wearing their IDG 2018 wristband can benefit from a number of special treats this year, including a 5€ entry to see Hempress Sativa play in Barcelona later this month. That’s a lovely gesture on the part of the organisers, and is great for those people who are based in Barcelona, but we travelled all the way from England, mainly to see Hempress Sativa – the tickets were also my Christmas present. It’s just one of those things and is always going to be a challenge to arrange an international festival and get everyone at the place they are supposed to be at the right time. I’ll look out for any of the extra special offers for IDG wristband wearers and will hope that perhaps I can go to some of the events – if any extra events are linked to Rototom Sunsplash I can go to that one as already have my ticket for 2018!

✗ The IDG Free Yard was a bit of a mystery to me. The listings were not noted on the main line up board along with all of the other stages, so it was anyone’s guess as to what time it would be opening/closing and who would be playing. It seemed to just open magically and we went inside not understanding where we were or what was happening until we found an a3 poster of the line up blutacked to the wall on the dancefloor inside the IDG Free Yard!20180401_004742.jpg

✗ The HortiDub Lab was also extremely crowded on the first night, but had an excellent sound system so you could hear the music perfectly even standing outside on the upper veranda.

✗ This daytime event hosted by some of the performing artists was extremely poorly advertised, hence many of the punters were not aware that talks were happening in the HortiDub Lab during the afternoon. After the talks had already happened I saw a plain white a4 poster wrapped around a pole advertising it. It was, of course, advertised online, but we didn’t have an internet connection so were not aware.

✗ The music in the Bassment was DEAFENINGLY LOUD – Ear plugs should have been provided to anyone who dared to enter that zone!

✗ The building which housed the indoor stages felt a bit run down and I was worried that it may not be structurally safe at times, especially with the mega hertz going through the place!

 

Drinks:

DSC_0299
Bar at IDG 2018

✓ In total there were 10 bars (2 alcohol-free) across the site, so nobody was going thirsty!

✓ The drinks on offer were limited – see the price list below. IDG 2018 Drinks Prices

✓ In addition to these drinks, you could buy herbal teas, espresso coffee, fruit juice and freshly squeezed orange juice from the alcohol free bars in the chill out zone from 2euros.DSC_0417

✓ IDG operates the same reusable cup scheme as Rototom, whereby you pay a 1 euro non-refundable deposit for your cup and when you order your next drink you can either choose to refill your original cup or exchange it for a clean cup. At IDG, if you no longer wanted your cup you could exchange it for a small green token, which you could then present at the bar the next time you needed a cup. This is a great scheme as it cuts down on waste, unnecessary cleaning and compliments the environmentally friendly ethos of Rototom and IDG.

✓ If you wanted to collect your cup to take home as a souvenir, you had the choice of two designs – a red IDG logo, or the new black one. If you are trying to collect all the different designs you can keep swapping your cup until you find the design you want to keep.

✗ There was a distinct lack of a decent rum bar! Considering this is Europe’s largest dub festival, authentic Caribbean food and drink was disappointingly hard to find.

Merchandise:DSC_0302.JPG

✓ Available to purchase were special 3rd edition IDG T-shirts with the slogan ‘Warriors Dance Like Nobody’s Watching’ in black, an IDG ‘My DNA chain shows low frequencies’ T-shirt in white, and a classic grey T-shirt featuring the yellow IDG logo (same as which staff wore).

✓ All T-shirts at the merch stall cost 15 euros, no matter what design or size.

✓ Many of the items for sale were also available for purchase year at the Dub Academy at Rototom Sunplash, or are available to purchase on the Dub Academy web store here, such as the ‘All Day Dubs’, ‘Born To Dub’ and ‘Sound System Addict’ tops.

✗ The limited edition items sold out so quickly, by the time I got to the merchandise stall there were none of the T-shirts I wanted in my size – Sad face!

✗ There were far more items of clothing on offer for men than for women.  I tried some of the tops on, the #BornToDub and #AllDayDubs logos were COOL AS, but alas, the shape of the cut was ill-fitting on me 😦

✗ It is not possible to buy much artist merchandise at the stall, only dub and IDG themed goods.

Overall:

As this was my first time at IDG I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have to say that overall the festival surpassed my expectations in many ways. The interesting layout and design of the venue stands out to me as making the festival particularly memorable. I think that the organisers should be proud of themselves to have moved the festival from Barcelona and have planned in at lightning speed (they only found the venue in October!) and especially planning it from a distance – it is a real achievement and shows an astounding  level of motivation and professional skill to pull off such a feat in such a limited time and with all the obstacles the team faced.  The festival shows no signs of slowing down, if anything it is expanding year on year and preparations are already under way for the festival to take place in Bigastro again next Spring. In terms of escapism from everyday life, I couldn’t have asked for more than to have been part of the IDG dub bubble, to be part of the energy, the oneness and feel grounded back to the Earth through the bass resonating under my feet and my ears left ringing with the sweet sounds I’d grown so accustomed to hearing even in my sleep from 19 hours of dub per day (genuinely living up the the ‘All Day Dubs’ slogan! Maximum respect to all of the team who created this magical event and here’s hoping that IDG will remain a firm fixture in the festival calendar and continue to share the philosophy of solidarity, peace, roots and culture.

BRING ON IDG 2019!!!!!!!!!!!!

DSC_0441 (2).JPG

 

 

ROTOTOM SUNSPLASH 2017 REVIEW

Festival Report by DJ Skirtbag

This year, like every other year, DJ Skirtbag hit up Europe’s biggest reggae festival, the only place for hardcore reggae fans to be found in mid-August, for its ‘Celebrating Africa’ special.  If you didn’t make it out to Spain for the sun, sea and sound systems, don’t worry! DJ Skirtbag has got you covered with this ridiculously in-depth report of the facilities, concerts and every minute detail you could wish to imagine about how the beach, bars and beats went down at this 24th edition of the legendary Rototom Sunsplash festival 2017.

Rototom Celebrating Africa.jpg

Ticket prices:

  • Ticket prices✓The tickets for Rototom Sunsplash were still super reasonably priced and represented amazing value yet again this year. The most you could pay for an 8 day festival ticket with camping included was a mega low 240€, which worked out an absolute steal at the bargain basement price of just 30€ per day. You basically got a whole 8 days of festival for the price of a standard UK weekend festival ticket – not to mention the guaranteed sunshine – with not a welly in sight. At prices like these it’s no wonder that Rototom Sunsplash is the largest reggae festival in Europe.
  • ✓If you see yourself as somewhat of a professional bargain hunter and are also fairly organised when it comes to making plans in advance, then you would have bagged yourself one of the of the first 1,000 8-day festival tickets, which were priced at a measly 130€ (with camping!). These deals generally sold out within minutes, so you’ll have to be quick if you want to nab one for next year! If you are a bit slower off the mark and miss out on the first 1,000 tickets, don’t fret! There are still some seriously discounted tickets available if you book online in advance. You just need to purchase by the first week of February to pocket an 8-day festival ticket with camping included for just 180€.
  • ✓For those who didn’t fancy the whole 8 days of reggae,  you could opt for anything from a 1-7 day pass and could pick which day your pass started on. We were given a coloured wristband which indicated the last day you were allowed to access the festival site. If you were also camping you were given a separate camping wristband. This year we opted for a 4 day ticket starting on the Tuesday. This worked out quite well for us at just 100€ each in advance and we got to wear the neon orange band which really complimented our tans!
  • ✓On top of these dirt-cheap prices, entrance to the daytime beach parties was completely free!
  • ✓Rototom Sunsplash also offered free entry to local residents, which is a lovely perk and creates a good mix of people at the festival.
  • ✓Special tickets were also available for certain groups. Check before you arrive as certain rules apply but in general: Kids under 12 years old go free, 65 yrs olds and over go free, Free entry for wheelchair users and up to 65% off for attendees with other disabilities, with one free carer wristbands available for each disabled guest.
  • ✓On the last Saturday of the festival local unemployed people were able to enter the festival for just 5€.
  • ✓If you only wanted to turn up at the festival once the party is in full swing, you could benefit from a night ticket at the extremely modest price of 15€ per night. These tickets were available to purchase at the ticket booth from 1:30am until 6am and allowed you to enjoy the festival right until the closing act at 7am. Bearing in mind that a lot of the parties didn’t really get going until gone 1am anyway, if you were happy to miss out seeing the acts on the main stage (which normally finished at around 2am), then you could definitely still get your money’s worth with these late entry tickets.
  • ✓On my second day at the festival I realised that I had chosen to let the ticket booth agents attach my festival pass wristbands to the wrong arm and needed to get it switched over! The ticket agents were totally fine about this when I went in to get it changed and understood my very basic Spanish of ‘cambiar por la izquierda por favor’!
  • ✗ There were so many different types of ticket that it was slightly overwhelming to choose the right one and make a festival plan, especially without knowing the line up at the time of ticket purchase!
  • ✗WARNING: If you buy online and arrive on the first day of the festival be prepared for MASSIVELY LONG queues to pick up your tickets, in the blazing sun with no shade (hello sunburn my old friend), a few vending machines for refreshments and maybe 1 or 2 portaloos available for the thousands in the queue! Aim to collect your wristbands at a different time. Having been burned (literally) by this before we decided to turn up on Tuesday morning instead to avoid the mad rush on the weekend and it worked a treat – we were blessed with no queue at all to pick up our wristbands in record time!
  • Wristbands✗It can be annoying to have to wear a separate wristband for entry to the campsite – I would have preferred to wear just one wristband which showed both the last day of the festival I was allowed to enter with entry to the campsite embedded, as sporting an armful of synthetic and plastic wristbands on the beach in 35 degree heat can become rather sweaty and uncomfortable. Perhaps a striped wristband could work in this scenario.
  • ✗The ticket booth entrances were a bit confusing and it wasn’t totally clear where you should be lining up to collect your wristband.
  • ✗The security guards did not move the barriers depending on the size of the queue for tickets, so even if when there was no-one waiting ahead of you they still made you snake along all of the barriers, carrying all of your stuff in the heat. This was not the best welcome to the festival after a long journey from abroad!
  • ✗I’ve been to Rototom five times now and still haven’t figured out for sure which day you can arrive to start camping at the festival. Every year I see and hear about the opening night party at the campsite, which seems to take place the day before the ticket holders arrive. It’s really unclear whether ticket holders are allowed to arrive the day before the festival starts or whether these are just workers parties. It would be good to have some clear information around this when buying the tickets as could help enormously with cutting down accommodation costs if it was possible to camp there for an extra night.

 

Getting to and from Rototom Sunsplash:Rototom Location

  • ✓Again this year, Rototom Sunsplash coordinated with Mediterraneo Holidays to put on coaches to and from the nearest major airports to the festival site. This included Barcelona airport, Reus (which Ryanair serves) and Valencia airport. These buses are very convenient if you are travelling from overseas as they deliver you right from the arrival terminal directly to the festival entrance. These coaches do run on time though so don’t be late!
  • ✓The festival site is only about 2km away from the train station, which made using the rail connections a sensible option. The festival organisers provided much easier pedestrian access to the train station this year than in previous years, with some sign posts from the train station leading down a secluded pathway, terminating right at the festival entrance. With tarmac paving all the way along this shortcut really helped disabled travellers and those rolling suitcases, by keeping festival goers off of the rocky terrain and, most importantly, away from the path which runs alongside the high-speed roads next to the vehicle entrance to the festival.
  • ✓If arriving by car you could use one of the enormous car parks around the festival site. Cars were directed to the back of the festival this year to ease congestion for acts and buses into the main vehicle entrance.
  • ✓There were more Mediterraneo coaches available for passengers arriving at the festival on the opening weekend, with far fewer journeys scheduled for the closing days of the festival, so you needed to be quick to book if you planned to use the coach for your return trip to the airport as seats go quickly.
  • ✗This time, we didn’t get the opportunity to use the Mediterraneo Holidays coaches, as these are only available for passengers who are travelling on the first and last days of the festival and as we were arriving mid-week we had to make other travel arrangements. This worked out fine in the end as the train actually provided better value at just 6.50€ for a single journey from Valencia Estació del Nord.
  • ✗The trains which run to Benicassim from Barcelona and Valencia were few and far between, with sometimes only 2 scheduled per day! So it was really important to check the timetable in advance otherwise you could end up waiting around at the train station for a reeaaaaaaaaaalllllllly looooooooooong time!
  • ✗The train station in Benicassim is fairly inaccessible by public transport. When were arrived at the station there were no Rototom buses ready to collect us to take us to the festival site, which is very poor organisation considering that there are only 2-3 trains arriving from both Valencia and Barcelona per DAY. It wouldn’t take much to arrange for a bus to be waiting each time a train arrived from a major destination. The organisers do try to schedule buses to collect rail passengers on arrival at the train station for the first two days of the festival, but for people like us, who arrived mid-week, this service was lacking and with no taxi rank or other public transport serving the train station we had no choice but to walk to the 2km to the festival in the desert heat with our bags and luggage – not cool!
  • ✗Last year Rototom had managed to organise a 30% discount voucher for rail passengers to the festival to download, however I couldn’t find such a voucher for the Renfe trains this year. In all fairness, Spanish train fares are waaaaaaaaay cheaper than anything we are used to paying back home in England, so even without this discount the journey is not exactly going to break the bank, but with the pound to euro rate falling faster than Usain Bolt can run for a bus, and with the high rate of unemployment among young Spaniards, every little discount helps us all to enjoy the festival and really get our money’s worth!
  • ✗For drivers who left their cars or camper vans parked on site, I doubt they were prepared for the thick covering of dust waiting to engulf their wheels in the worst ever version of pimp my ride imaginable – after just a few days, the blankets of dust were like you would never have thought possible. I’m sure there are still some dreaded rasta types circling the festival car parks searching for their redecorated cars. If you hadn’t already gathered, the festival site is EXTREMELY dusty – it is basically a rocky desert and the dust shows no mercy.
Car Park Dust Rototom 2017
Impressive dust artwork at the Rototom Sunsplash car park

Accessibility:

Rototom Bus 2017 Heliopolis
Passengers mounting the Rototom bus at Heliopolis beach bus stop
  • ✓There was a regular bus service to all of the beach parties this year. This included a more regular service to the Rototom Solé beach bar at Playa del Gurugú than in previous years, probably because some of the best day-time festival events were happening down there this year such as dance classes, volleyball tournaments and dub acts, which was a new site of the festival.
  • ✓In addition to being regular, the buses were very clean and came with much-needed air con!
  • ✓The bus drivers were very nice and often played reggae music to keep the bus passengers happy 🙂
  • ✓The bus fares were very reasonable – only 1.50€ per journey, or 15€ for an unlimited bus ticket, which came in the form of a red, gold and green fabric wristband.
  • ✓There were some bicycles for hire, including these crazy surfboard and rasta themed bikes!

    Bike Hire Rototom Sunsplash 2017
    Rasta themed bicycle gang!
Rototom Bus route 2017
Bus routes between the festival site and beach parties
  • ✗The new bus routes around town have made it harder to stop off in town to collect supplies from cheaper shops/cash/food/medicine/sun cream before hitting the beach parties. You can still get to the high street in Benicassim if you walk from the festival site, otherwise you would have to sit on the bus and wait for it to complete the circuit past all of the beach parties until you could get off at the last stops on the high street. Then, to get to the beach parties, you would have to get back on the bus and return to the festival site then switch onto another bus headed back to the beach – very tricky and time-wasting! The service was much better for stopping off in town in previous years, when the bus stop outside the large Mercadona provided an interchange for buses driving both back to the festival and down to the San Vincente and Heliopolis beaches.
  • ✗Poor access for disabled guests on the buses: From the bus window, I saw a man in a wheelchair waiting for a bus on the main high street in Benicassim at the peak travel time of around 5pm. He was trying to return back to the festival site for the evening. I saw the man in the wheelchair arrive back at the festival at around 8pm, it took him around 3 hours to get a bus back to the site – for something like a 25 minute walk. I felt very sorry for this man, and felt that the needs of wheelchair users should have been taken into account more in relation to transport to and from the festival, as otherwise the festival site seems to be fairly accessible for wheelchair users due to the nature of the tarmac flooring at the festival site and the various ramps and walk ways provided at the beach party sites.

Campsite:

Rototom Campsite 2017
Rototom Campsite plan
  • ✓The ‘Glamping‘ facilities are basic but adequate but do not constitute the typical English vision of the glamping experience. The tents are simple, 4 man tents, lined in rows and numbered, so locating your tent is easy, even after a night out, and each come with a combination code padlock, a lamp and an inch-thick camping mat. We were very pleased with our tent this year, it was cool, I could stand up in it (but I’m a real shorty!) and it came reserved and set up for us at the rock bottom price of 90 euros for the whole week! SO much cheaper than staying in a hotel or renting an airbnb.
  • ✓This year the glamping area was quieter and seemed to have expanded out towards the north of the site, which I believe was a previously unused area of the campsite.
  • ✓There seemed to be a new camping space dedicated to one day campers. This is the first time I’ve seen a one day space, but it is a great idea as it can become difficult for campers arriving mid-week to find any space in the camping grounds, especially when others have set up camp and spread out into any remaining space. This new feature must save new arrivals to the festival precious time hunting for tent space in the heat.
  • ✓There used to be a wild area of ground with some shrubs and bushes between the festival site and the camping entrance. These bushes used to harbour mainly drug dealers and shady individuals who were up to no good. This year the scrubs had been cleared away, meaning that nobody could lurk in the bushes and cause any problems. This did seem to curtail a lot of trouble and kept the route between the festival and the campsite relatively peaceful and safe.
  • ✓More security were present at the camping area this year with some fairly heavy-duty guards at the campsite entrance conducting random checks on new arrivals at the entrance. There was a female and male officer, and they were very thorough in their searches. In general the security around the festival had been pumped up, which was reassuring given the heightened threat of terrorism we are sadly experiencing at tourist resorts these days.
  • ✓There is a bar at the campsite which seemed to be open 24 hours! This bar sold large bottles of water for 2€. This was very handy as we could grab a nice cold bottle of water on our way back to the tent after a night of partying and didn’t have to worry about going to the shops to buy water before we left town. It also meant that if you woke up early with a stonking hangover you could stumble along to the bar and grab a freshly squeezed orange juice and a pastry for breakfast without even having to leave the camping area.
  • ✓The kitchen facilities at the campsite seemed well-organised and clean for people who brought their own food.
  • ✓There was a first aid tent at the campsite entrance, as well as a facility to rent portable mobile phone chargers – we have used these chargers before but as we were only staying for 4 days we didn’t need them this time around.
  • ✓The toilets at the campsite were different again, for the 3rd year in a row! Rototom are really trying to find the best toilet set up for their campers! These new ones came complete with sinks, running water and mirrors and were always fully stocked with loo roll and I didn’t see any queues for loos at the campsite at all this year and blocked loos were very rare so think Rototom really found a winning solution with these toilet blocks this year!
  • ✗Due to the increased presence of security at the festival, the usual entrance for campers to access the festival through a little shortcut in the gate was no longer accessible. Instead, campers had to walk the long way around and enter in the main festival entrance along with everyone else. This was annoying if you were used to zipping through the shortcut entrance, especially at the end of the night when you had danced so hard all day that you didn’t think your little legs could carry you the extra few hundred metres to walk the long way around.
  • ✗Access to the festival itself was well guarded with armed soldiers at the gates, ultraviolet lights to scan wristbands, and sometimes overly eager security guards at the entrance searching bags. For example, on one night they wouldn’t allow me entry to the festival with my anti-bacterial hand gel as they maintained it was a fire risk due to the flammable contents. This did annoy me, not least because I had already entered the festival on previous nights with the same hand gel, but also in the absence of any hot water or soap at the festival to allow me to wash my hands, but especially since my boyfriend had managed to stroll undetected through the gate parallel to mine, anti-bac and all! The inconsistent and stubborn approach of some of the security guards was over-the-top for such a placid crowd, but I did appreciate the extra efforts that had been put in place to keep us all safe from harm.
  • ✗The camping is great if you can handle the outdoors mixed communal cold showers. Despite more efforts to shield the shower area with screens to help maintain washers’ privacy, these showers were still very much out in the open and for those who dare to bare! There were a couple of private showers, when I say private I mean that everyone can still see you through the shower curtain as it blows in the breeze, so it really is better to embrace your inner nudist and get your bits out – no-one is looking, honestly! But you never really get all the dirt off with just cold water so really need to scrub!
  • ✗The cold showers are fine, you actually get used to them after a few days and find them refreshing, until you need to wash your hair that is! In the past I have cheated and was probably the only Rototomer in the history of Rototom to book a hairdressers appointment for a wash and blow dry towards the end of the week! Sometimes the cold water just won’t shift the dirt though and with all the sun lotion, sweat and sand it’s only hygienic to have access to warm water to wash yourself in.
  • ✗Rocks are EVERYWHERE all around the campsite. The Glamping Company put their tents up over some large rocks, they didn’t have the courtesy to clear away the rocks before setting up the tents, which meant finding a comfortable sleeping position on the bed of rocks in the was very difficult! The pathways around the campsite are full of piles of rocks and form very dangerous stepping grounds, particularly at night, when the paths are not well-lit. Navigating piles of rubble and rocks in the dark after a few drinks to get back to your tent is a sobering experience to say the least. The funny thing is, the security guards would sit in their chairs right next to these rocks around the clock, yet none of them took the initiative to clear the paths of the rocks during the whole time they were sitting staring at them day and night for 8/9 days (maybe more)…
  • ✗Wasps were a pest at the campsite. I would advise anyone camping that under no circumstances should you bring any food back to the camping area. The wasps were persistently up and at you from the moment the sun rose until sunset. We learnt that the best approach to take with these unrelenting wasps was to not hang around near the tents, get yourself out of there, and in the event of an unshakable wasp pursuing you take the advice of the local people ‘stay still’ and once the wasp realises that you are not edible it should fly away peacefully.
  • ✗Ants, ants and more ants: The campsite seemed to host every type of ant going, all of whom are after your crumbs and will form an orderly queue to invade your tent and make your life a nightmare for even the tiniest scraps of food or juice. Some people don’t seem to care and will leave their tent doors wide open all day, only to come back and find an organised trail of militant ants devouring their tents! Some of these ants can squeeze through the tiniest of holes in your tent’s ground sheet so the advice is just don’t take ANY food to your tent WHATSOEVER and sellotape or plaster over any holes you find in your ground sheet (better still – ask to swap to a hole-free tent if you find any when you move in!) and you will be sure to experience an ant-free festival!
  • ✗Due to the screens attempting to protect the modesty of those having a good ol’ scrub in the shower area, the shower entrance nearest to the glampsite has been closed off. Instead of using this shortcut you now have to walk all the way past the loos and up a path which runs alongside the urinals, past the sinks until you reach the shower entrance. I found this to be quite inconvenient, mostly due to having to walk past the stench of the urinal wall after I’d just cleaned myself fresh as a daisy and personally I would have preferred if direct access to the showers could be made available for the glampers.
  • ✗Although the toilets are clean and well maintained, they are very basic all across the festival sites and it can be difficult and embarrassing for girls and women to dispose of their used sanitary products across all of the festival’s loos. There are no hygiene bins provided in any of the cubicles. In 2017 I would consider access to adequate facilities to handle the menstruation cycle to be a fundamental right for all females and to be an integral part of the planning for hygiene units at such a large festival.
  • ✗A few years ago, there was a little raised area near the kitchen with shade provided by camouflage tarpaulin, serving crepes, beers and burgers, which has not been back at the festival for the last couple of years. I think it is based in the same area which is now kept clear for opening parties at the campsite on the night prior to the festival. It is a shame, as that was a great place to sit in the shade with a cold drink while you waited for your friend to finish getting ready, or while they were in the shower/loo etc. Also it was a great place to grab a decent breakfast and listen to some tunes if you woke up too early to get the bus into town. I miss that area! But to be honest, this year, we just got up and went straight to the beach, so wouldn’t have used it that much anyway. And maybe the music bothered people camping nearby so I can see why they might have got rid of that area.
  • ✗I’m not sure why this happens but nearly every day there are loads of announcements over the tannoy for people to go to the information area. Instead of reading out the names in one long list, the voice reads the sentences out over and over and over…’Pablo Fernandez, please make your way to the information point. Andrea Martinez, please make your way to the information point. Carlos Garcia, please…’ Not only that but the lists are read out in multiple languages and are about 50 people long so eventually it does your head in!

Dub Academy:

  • ✓This year the Dub Academy featured an in-built seating area covered with artificial turf, which ran all the way around the edge of the dance floor between the three sound systems. This was a much-needed addition to the Dub area, as skanking on your feet all night for 8 nights in a row will take its toll on even the most dedicated dubster dude. These seats also provided the perfect place to get comfortable, chillax and nod your head to the bass for a while.
  • IMG_9628
    Sound system at the Dub Academy

    ✓Another new feature of the Dub Academy took the form of a wall of shipping containers stacked in a U-shape around the back of the speakers in a semi-circle enclosing the venue. We can only assume that these were put in place to act as a sound barrier, to protect the other areas of the festival from the serious sound clash which had been present in previous years, and to stop the deep vibrations from the Dub Academy from reaching up to the people sleeping at the campsite. It definitely worked for this purpose. Happy campers.

    Dub Academy Rototom 2017
    Wall of shipping containers and make-shift seating area at the Dub Academy 2017
  • ✓With the DJ and MC booth at the epicentre of the dancefloor revellers still had the opportunity to stand around the epicentre of the Dub Academy and get up close and personal with the artists as they selected tunes, manipulated the amps and took to the mic.

    IMG_9657
    YT, Solo Banton and Blackboard Jungle, Dub Academy 2017
  • ✓There were a handful of seats available at the entrance to the Dub Academy, which were made from repurposed materials, such as plastic crates and potato sacks. Reusing items in this manner co-ordinates with the environmentally friendly ethos of Rototom Sunsplash.
  • ✓I found some secret girls-only toilets at the back of the Dub Academy, complete with mirrors! Result!
  • Blackboard Jungle provided endless hours of entertainment at the dub academy as a solid fixture at this stage, stepping in to cover for late DJs at the last minute.

    IMG_9779
    Blackboard Jungle, Dub Academy 2017
  • Dubfiles played a long set on Friday night, and treated us to a super extended mix of their Kingston 6 riddim, featuring Hempress Sativa and the likes – seriously this same tune went on for about 40 minutes and hypnotised us all into a dubbers trance!
  • ✓For me, the best night at the Dub Academy was when the lyrically proficient YT and Solo Banton teamed up with Blackboard Jungle and drove the crowd wild!
  • ✗There was definitely less space to dance overall at the Dub Academy this year, and the bar seemed to have been pushed a lot closer to the centre of the area, so it did become very crowded there at times, especially at peak times such as when the popular Aba-Shanti-I played.
  • ✗This venue did feel slightly fenced in when you were down near the speakers and you did lose some sense of being out in the open air due to the high wall surrounding the dancefloor.

    Dub Academy 2017
    Dancefloor at the Dub Academy 2017
  • ✗There were less clothing outlets to buy merchandise from around the Dub Academy than in previous years and the majority of t-shirts and jumpers on sale catered to men. I tried some of the tops on, the #BornToDub and #AllDayDubs logos were COOL AS, but alas, the shape of the cut was ill-fitting on me 😦
  • ✗The Smoking Dub DJ booth next to the Dub Academy was closed most times I went past it and it was not clear what was happening there. On one night I saw Smoking Dub branded deck chairs out the front and DJs playing inside the marquee, but didn’t see them again on any of the other nights. It seemed to me that this space could have been put to better use as a chill out area near to the Dub stage.

Reggae University:

Rototom17_program_reggaeuniversity-page-001.jpg
Reggae University seminar and lecture schedule
  • ✓This daytime attraction is a hub of activity and filled with humble students attentively soaking up the words of legendary acts imparting their wisdom, experience and knowledge of reggae music.
  • ✓The interior walls of the Reggae University were lined with iconic photographs from the ‘Reggae – The African Connection‘ collection, showcasing reggae stars behind the scenes and on tour on the African continent as well as portraits of African/Jamaican musical collaborations such as Fela Kuti and Peter Tosh.
  • ✗The reggae university would be better attended if it were hosted at the beaches, as most people hit the beach during the day time while the festival site is roasting hot during the day.
  • ✗The Foro Social and the Reggae University next to the Dub Academy are out-of-bounds while the sound systems are playing. It is a real shame as these areas provide hundreds of white plastic chairs which are in high demand throughout the night, however security guards patrol the area and stop weary festival goers from resting their souls, even momentarily, in these otherwise unused seats.

    img_9825.jpg
    DJ Skirtbag prepares for a lecture 😉

Dancehall Stage:

Rototom17_program_dancehall-page-001.jpg
Dancehall stage line up
  • ✓As ever, the daily dose of dancehall masterclasses did not fail to disappoint. This 10pm slot is a permanent fixture in my Rototom festival routine. The combination of the excellent sound system, the slight downwards slope leading to the stage to help even the shortest of shorties (such as myself) to see the happenings on stage, coupled with the good vibes from the hosts Unity Sound and the energy and talent from the series of professional dancers on stage; these classes are the life and soul of Rototom and are without a doubt the best way to kick off your evening with a sure-fire ticket to party central.

    Dancehall Stage Rototom Sunsplahs 2017
    Dancehall queens
  • ✓The dancers teach the coolest moves to the latest and most banging dancehall tracks, and cater for many levels of dancer.
  • ✓On Tuesday night, Sir Ledgen (who has performed for ‘Wild Thoughts‘ star Rihanna), got the crowd going with a nice routine to Assassin‘s ‘Nothing At All‘. He chose to teach us some simple but powerful arms movements and got the evening off to a great start with his great smile and attitude.

    IMG_9639
    Unity Sound and Sir Ledgen
  • ✓On Wednesday night, reputable Jamaican dancer Kimiko Versatile took us through some bad gyal moves, including Watch Your Pum – (instructional video here if you fancy giving it a go!) all to the soundtrack of Stop Watch di Pumz by Razor B. Kimiko used some quality tunes throughout and taught us some killer moves, all with her unbeatable stage presence. Her class was the busiest one I went to, for one obvious reason – Kimiko Versatile is fiercely awesome fun and knows how to get a party started!
  • ✓Of all of this year’s dance classes, I found Damion BG Dancer‘s Thursday night class the most accessible as a beginner dancer (even with a leg injury). With Alkaline’s Red Eyes on the La Vida riddim as the backing track, you couldn’t help but try out the moves. By the end of his slot, Damion BG had the whole crowd fully involved and moving around to the sounds of Bob Marley with his ‘greetings’ move and had infected everyone with his love of dance.
  • ✓Friday night saw dancehall queen Irie Queen of Spain’s Got Talent fame mash up the dancehall stage with her show-stopping booty antics in her Shake Your Bam Bam masterclass. During the class, dhq Irie Queen guided us through a mind-blowing EIGHT different ways to wine your waist up, including Make It Clap, Turbo Wine and the art of bubbling. At one point she even mounted the turntable to demonstrate her bootylicious moves! In this well-planned lesson, Irie Queen selected the best bum-shaking dancehall anthems, including Spice’s ‘Indicator’ and the recently remixed Sister Nancy hit ‘Bam Bam’ released by RDX.

    IMG_9806
    Irie Queen demonstrating some bum wiggling dhq style
  • ✓During all of the dancehall shows, the Unity Sound crew proved the perfect hosts as they helped the crowd to keep time to the beat and remember the upcoming moves. It is evident that the DJ and MC share great relationships with the dancers and together they really animated the crowd to keep the party vibes well and truly flowing throughout each session.
  • ✓The best dancehall DJs tended to perform later on in the night, with acts such as King Turbo from Canada and Superlock feat Spida (Supersonic) and Tommy (City Lock) mixing and selecting some of the best dance floor fillers and most popular dancehall tunes from the last few years, with acts starting at around 2am.
  • ✗This year the dancehall stage seemed to be lower than in previous years, so it was slightly harder to see what was going on on stage, making the dance classes slightly tricky to follow at times if you couldn’t quite see.
  • ✗The main acts, Bugle and ‘Yeah Yeah‘ star Aidonia, arrived on stage very late – up to half an hour later than their scheduled start time. This was slightly annoying as their shows were scheduled to start at 2:30am – it was hard to maintain enthusiasm when you were still waiting for them to start gone 3am.
  • ✗The resident dancehall crew of Lampadread of One Love Hi Powa and Michelle and Fyah Ed from Northern Lights were slightly underwhelming. They seem to play old school dancehall, and unfortunately did not have the charisma, connection with the crowd, and stage presence of the other sound systems at the dancehall stage. After the dancehall masterclasses had warmed up the crowd and people were raring to go, Lampadread would take over the decks from 11pm and the dancehall yard virtually became a ghost town. In my opinion, it would have made much more sense to shuffle the line-up around a bit and schedule Lampadread at 10pm to set the stage for Unity Sound and the dancer team to pump up the crowd from 11pm onwards instead, ready for the headliners to hit the stage from midnight onwards. I’ve thought this every year! Personally it would make more sense to me to switch things that way around.
  • ✗There are no seats available at the dancehall stage – the nearest seating area used to be the Ti Punch bar opposite the entrance to the dancehall yard, but that bar was nowhere to be found this year and had been replaced by an Italian restaurant with table service. It must be the first time I have ever seen the combination of an Italian cafe alongside a dancehall stage at a reggae event and to be honest, I’m not quite sure what the organisers were thinking there!
  • ✗Lack of decent drinks in the dancehall area: There is a bar with a limited selection of drinks on one side and a beer kiosk to the other side, but to me, the dancehall yard deserves to be accompanied by a top quality rum bar serving up freshly made cocktails, think rum punch/pina coladas etc, to give a more authentic dancehall yard experience. I tried to buy a cocktail from the Italian cafe: they didn’t know what they were doing and eventually I bought an alochol-free pina colada for 7€ (including the reusable cup) as the somewhat scatty barmaid had forgotten to add rum to my drink! At a reggae festival! The nearest (and only) place to get a rum punch at the festival was luckily only a few yards away, from Wayne’s Jerk Kitchen, just behind the State of Mind stall. This place was my saviour and at 5€ for a decent planteur punch was an absolute winner.
  • IMG_9801
    DJ Skirtbag chilling at the Dancehall Yard

    ✗The decorations at the dancehall yard were very outdated. The ‘DANCEHALL’ stencil on the floor at the entrance which was bold and vivid a few years ago has completely worn away, presumably bleached by the intense Spanish sun. And the palm trees in the dancehall yard which are normally lit up were left dreary in the dark this year. I think it would have been fairly easy and cheap to at least paint over the Dancehall logo and wrap some fairy lights around the tree trunk to provide some low maintenance spruced up decorations for the area.

  • ✗Some of the biggest dancehall tracks of the year, and dead cert tunes which I had expected to hear played at the dancehall yard, were unfortunately missing from the dancehall yard playlist. Namely the top hits from current dancehall sensation Shenseea along with massive tunes out of Jamaica such as Vybz Kartel, Masicka and Russian’s ‘Infrared’ – I had definitely expected to hear that tune drop more than a few times, but didn’t hear it once!

Beach parties:

Rototom17_program_sunbeach (1)-page-001.jpg
Beach party schedule

Rototom Solé Beach Bar, Playa del Gurugú:

IMG_9698
Panorama of Sole Beach Bar
  • ✓The lounge area at Solé beach bar had been renovated for this edition of Rototom Sunsplash, with a new area for sun chairs and four-poster day beds, as well as an extended seating area for diners and drinkers.

    Sole Beach Bar Rototom 2
    Lounge area at Sole Beach Bar
  • ✓Sun beds were cheaper to rent than at other areas of the beach, for example 4€ per day per slatted wooden sunbed with head shader, or 10€ per day for a day bed with rattan roof compared to 15€ for 2 padded sun loungers at more central town beaches.

    IMG_9677
    DJ Skirtbag in her happy place
  • New decorations had been added to the beach bar and lounge area, to give a fresh look to the place, including the super-sized LOVE letters, which provided a great photo opportunity.

    IMG_9675
    LOVE statue at Sole Beach bar
  • ✓The ladies toilets were fairly well maintained and showers were available to wash off the sand and sea water.
  • ✓The beach here is excellent for swimming with soft sandy and shallow clean waters.
  • ✓The new addition of shows, beach parties, sound systems and dance classes really livened up this previously isolated beach bar.

    Sole Beach Bar dance lesson Rototom Sunsplash
    Beach dance class
  • ✓The daily dancehall dance classes were a totally
    Assistant Water Sole Beach Bar Rototom Sunsplash
    Feeling hot, hot, hot!

    excellent feature of the Solé bar, with Madrid’s Unity Sound at the decks hosting from 4:30pm every day and top dancers teaching you how to shake what your mama gave you in the sun and sand, all while assistants hosed you down with cold water. These classes really picked the beach bums up out of their slumbers and onto their dancing feet and got the party started off with a bang for the day.

  • ✓On Wednesday Flora Saez gave an afrobeat special dance class for this ‘Celebrating Africa’ Rototom edition. Flora chose to make us move to one of Nigerian Wizkid’s latest tunes ‘African Bad Gyal’ from his latest album. Unity Sound used their charisma to help keep up the dancers’ momentum and encouraged them to keep going through the sweat and heat until the end of the class.

    Flora Saez Beach Bar Dance Class
    Flora Saez Afrobeat dance class at Sole Beach Bar
  • ✓Following Flora’s unique class, heavyweight MCs YT and Solo Banton took the mics, playing to a relatively intimate crowd, they gave us more of their dubtastic vocals.
  • ✓On Friday afternoon dancer Damion BG was back, this time teaching us his ‘One Don’ class on the beach. After his dance class the previous evening I had expected his daytime class to be fairly easy to follow, but at times I was lost and the moves were too fast for me to keep up! It was still great to take part and was a lot of fun learning from such a talented groover.
  • ✓Straight after Damion BG, German dancehall sound system ‘Glockwork Posse‘ fired up the speakers with some street-party style dancehall crackers. Think Vybz Kartel hit medleys galore (Fever, Taxi and more) and you can probably imagine the girls twerking like crazy in their bikinis. That was one of the best beach parties I went to this year!Sole Beach Bar Rototom
  • ✓I was sad to miss the Solé beach party on Thursday as the line up looked particularly epic – Kimiko Versatile with her ‘Authentic Social Dancehall’ class followed by dub academy regulars Iration Steppas! Bet it was HUGE!
  • ✓A good choice of food and drink was on offer at the bar such as crepes, burgers, tapas, salads, tacos as well as beers, juices and MOJITOS!Sole Beach Bar mojitos rototom sunsplash
  • ✓The beach bar is next to an airfield, so can you enjoy watching light aircraft taking off and landing and also see paragliders floating down in the surrounding skies.
  • ✗There is a lack of shade at this beach bar, so unless you are in the seated area or are lucky enough to nab one of the highly sought-after sun beds you will need to take a parasol. There were simply not enough sunbeds to meet the high demand – they were all reserved, and it was not clear how to reserve the beds.
  • ✗I didn’t see any disabled access toilets and heard that the men’s toilets were often blocked.
  • ✗The food and drink on offer was slightly pricier than elsewhere and the service was quite slow – to be fair it was 35 degrees heat (and then some!) so people did tend to be on a go slow!
  • ✗The bar didn’t play the Radio Rototom live session as advertised on the festival schedule. Instead they played the same roots reggae playlist on repeat until the dance hall classes started up at 4:30pm. The CD became very tiresome if you spent more than one day at this beach.
  • ✗The speakers are very far away from the sea, around 150m, so you really can’t hear the music if you venture down for a swim, which was a shame, as sea dancing is one of my favourite activities!
  • ✗This beach is very far out-of-town in an isolated area so if you need any supplies or equipment you will need to come prepared as there are NO shops at all within walking distance.

    IMG_9663
    DJ Skirtbag arriving at Sole Beach Bar

Heliopolis:

  • ✓This beach has been blessed with some brand new decking which extends all the way from the pavement to the beach showers and sun loungers down on the sand and provides a great platform to overlook the Rototom tent on the beach.
  • ✓With lots of convenience stores, restaurants, supermarkets and cash points nearby, this beach is accessible and is a suitable location for running back to the shop to grab a cheap, cold can of San Miguel.
  • ✓There is very regular bus access to this beach and it is very easy to grab a ride back to the festival from the bus stop at this beach compared to the more central beach San Vincente.
  • ✓A great act we saw at this beach stage were Barbass Sound, who played some party starting tunes and whipped the crowd into a frenzy! They certainly got me up and interested despite only having had 1 hour’s sleep the night before!
  • ✓As the stage faces the shoreline and is only about 10 metres from the sea it is possible to be in the water swimming and still hear the music at this beach – absolutely amazing!

    IMG_9731
    DJ Skirtbag at Heliopolis beach party
  • ✗The Rototom stage here is based on top of the beach slope, making it hard for people lower down near the shore to see what is happening on stage.
  • ✗This area is rife with loud what we call ‘Agua Cola Fanta’ men, as well as persistent sarong sellers and masseuses, so don’t expect to get much rest at this beach.
  • ✗The sand here ends at the water’s edge where it becomes very sharp shingle, making it tricky to enter and exit the sea at this beach. I actually cut my foot here on the shingle, like tiny blades.

San Vincente:

  • ✓This is the most popular beach by far, and is also the most central, meaning the crowd at the Rototom stage here is a melange of regular tourists, local residents, street sellers and festival goers.
  • ✓The beach here is flat which is great for watching the festival shows.

    IMG_9617
    DJ Skirtbag at San Vincente beach party
  • ✗There is a peninsula here slightly away from the stage which has coarse sand, but the terrain in the bay near the stage is rocky and large pieces of shingle.
  • ✗The sun loungers here are the most expensive in town.
  • ✗It can be very windy on this part of the beach and the walkway to the beach stop can become a wind tunnel.
  • ✗The shops nearby the festival stage charge extortionate amounts for beers and ice-creams. If you can be bothered to make the mission to the nearest Consum supermarket about 5 minutes’ walk up the main road, it could save you a few euros for your efforts.
  • ✗There is a lack of shade at this venue now, as for some reason the shaded areas under the trees which people normally shelter under were cordoned off with tape and were out-of-bounds. This left people with very little shade from the scorching sun and the reason behind this restriction was not obvious to me.
  • ✗There is a ridiculous amount of ‘Lookie Lookie’ men at this beach, some of whom are very aggressive and are not to be reckoned with. Girls relaxing on the beach in particular were groped and harassed by these men in an unsettling manner which did not fit with the overall festival vibe at all and should not be tolerated on these beaches.
  • ✗It was difficult to catch a bus back to the festival from this beach, as the buses tended to fill up at beaches further down the road from Playa del Gurugú or Heliopolis, so the wait times for a bus here could be long and the buses very crammed once you do finally fit onto one.

Food/Drink:

IMG_9761
Pizza shack at Rototom Sunsplash
  • ✓The sharwarma shack has been at the festival since at least 2010 and is a safe option for a meal which is good value and easy to eat on the move.
  • ✓Wayne’s Jerk Shop was the only authentic Caribbean food outlet on the festival site. Their jerk chicken has people waiting in queues up to 20 metres long! But it is SO worth the wait! If you can’t handle the long wait, then try one of their goat curries or order a decent rum punch while you wait instead.
  • ✓There are plenty of fresh juice bars around the festival site, which are perfect for perking you up during an energy slump to give you your second wave, or if you are starting to suffer from dehydration.
  • ✓For this year’s ‘Celebrating Africa’ special, I noticed more African food vendors at the festival than before, such as an Ethiopian food stall in the African Village.
  • ✓The Pizza Elf stall in the back end of the market area is an absolute gem – whacking out around 10 vegetarian pizzas per minute, this place is fast, cheap and simple.
  • ✓Mojitos seemed to be on sale EVERYWHERE. The best place I found for these crisp and minty concoctions was the Canna craft beer stall, where a freshly made mojito in classic, watermelon or strawberry flavour would set you back a reasonable 5€.
  • ✓Rototom operates a reusable cup scheme, whereby you pay a 1 euro deposit for your cup and when you order your next drink you can either choose to refill your original cup, or exchange it for a clean cup. This is a great scheme as it cuts down on waste, unnecessary cleaning and compliments the environmentally friendly ethos of Rototom City, under the project name Greensplash. And the price is the same whether you have a large or small cup.
  • ✓Every year Rototom releases a new design logo on their reusable cups and this year was no different with a ‘Celebrating Africa’ cup design available for collectors. The deposit scheme is great if you are trying to collect the different versions of the cups, as you can swap your cup until you find the design you want to keep.
  • ✓Another change to the cup system this year was the chance to donate your cup to charity. At the entrance and near the Caribbean Uptempo stage were large boxes where you could post your cup according to the charity you wished to support.
  • ✗The seats at Wayne’s Jerk Kitchen are very hemmed in and close to where the queue forms – it would be nice if the diners could have some more space to eat in.
  • ✗The Pizza Elf would serve pizzas on thin cardboard, if the pizza was hot or moist enough it would melt through the cardboard!!!! Queue hot cheese running down your legs – ouch!
  • ✗I know I’ve mentioned this already but it is an important point – There was a distinct lack of a decent rum bar! Considering this is Europe’s largest reggae festival, authentic Caribbean food and drink was disappointingly hard to find.
  • ✗The sorbet coco stall in the market area serves rum, however I noticed that they hide the rum underneath the counter and never have the bottles on display and never show the brand of rum. Once I even asked the guys on the stall (who are French Caribbean) in my perfect French with Caribbean accent what kind of rum they were using. Their answer: Rhum Vieux. Simply, dark rum. They were very blunt and not interested in prolonging the discussion so personally I avoid this stall as I believe their rum to be of poor quality.
  • ✗There were a large number of artificially made mojitos for sale, which are blended in slush puppy style machines. As these drinks look pretty chemically, I preferred to find bars making up fresh mojitos with raw ingredients instead.
  • ✗This year the cup deposit scheme was slightly different, and for the first time the 1 euro deposit was non-refundable. This was a surprise as in all previous years which featured this cup arrangement the deposit was refundable. I suppose in previous years it may have been a bit of a brain buster for bar staff to calculate cup deposits for large rounds so this new idea must have eased this confusion.
  • ✗The charity cup donations idea is lovely, however there were some very persuasive and relentless ‘chuggers’ at the festival entrance, who would approach you to try to convince you that tonight was the night you should donate your cup. I did not appreciate this method of raising funds for charity, as I had planned to donate my cup on the last night of the festival, so being bothered about it every night as I went into and left the festival was quite exhausting. It also made you feel bad for trying to take your cup home as a souvenir, which was a shame as I have always liked to collect the cups since they were introduced at the festival a few years ago.

Merchandise:

  • ✓Available to purchase were ‘Celebrating Africa’ 24th Rototom t-shirts and limited edition of exclusive handcrafted African design vest tops and a specially designed range of cushions and garments made from African fabric, with proceeds donated to promote community gardens in Senegal.

    IMG_9717
    Rototom Sunsplash merch store
  • ✓The prices of items were mostly unchanged from previous years.
  • ✓Many of the items on sale are available for purchase year round on the Rototom Sunplash web store.
  • ✗Some of the stock has been hanging around for years and is becoming a bit out of fashion
  • ✗The sizings of the clothes vary signficantly, e.g. a large bikini is the equivalent to a size UK 10.
  • ✗The limited edition items sold out so quickly, by the time I got to the merchandise stall there were none of the special edition items left! Sad face!
  • ✗There are far more items of clothing on offer for men than for women.
  • ✗It is not possible to buy any artist merchandise at the stall, only Rototom themed goods.

Main stage event reviews:

Often the top acts are saved for the weekend slots, but this year saw a killer line-up take to the stages of Europe’s largest reggae festival mid-week!

Rototom17_program_allstages-page-001.jpg
Full festival line up

Tuesday night:

  • ✓As part of the specially curated ‘Celebrating Africa’ special edition of Rototom Sunsplash this year it was only right to invite Kenyan singer Treesha to make her first appearance on the main stage. Treesha’s vocal talent is second to none, and her vibe is friendly, humble and relaxed. As a relative newcomer to the fore-front of reggae artists, Treesha’s own hits were limited to a handful, however that didn’t stop her from engaging the audience with certified crowdpleasers such as Dawn Penn’s immortal ‘No No No’. Treesha did take the opportunity to drop in her gun crime conscious hit ‘Don’t Do It‘ until she was able to top off her charming set with her energetic smash hit ‘Rude Gyal Swing‘. Her slogan ‘From Nairobi to Kingston’ really summed up the atmosphere of this year’s #CelebratingAfrica edition of the festival.

    IMG_9647
    Treesha performing on the main stage at Rototom Sunsplash 2017
  • ✓As ever at Rototom, whenever a Marley is on the main stage the rest of the place lays all but empty, and Tuesday night was no different when Ky-mani Marley performed with popular German reggae act Gentleman on the main stage. The unexpected rapport between these two artists is strong and as they whacked out hit after hit from their joint album ‘Conversations’ as well as solo hits from Gentleman such as ‘Superior‘. I found a seat in a quiet area nearby to listen in while eating my dinner and relaxing after an already lively evening while they played out their set to some classic Bob Marley tunes.

Wednesday night:

  • ✗This was the night I had been impatiently waiting for all summer: KING OF THE DANCEHALL – BEENIE MAN playing on the main stage at Rototom Sunsplash! As a huge dancehall and Beenie fan, I had expected to be overcome with awe at Beenie Man’s performance, however I was left somewhat underwhelmed. First of all, his set was scheduled first on the main stage line-up that night, FIRST! At the ridiculously early 8:30pm! This meant having to leave a very good beach party prematurely to rush back to the campsite and get ready for the festival MEGA early, so I naturally after I’d put in all this effort to make it to the show dressed up and on time I was expecting for my tiny mind to be blown. Unfortunately, there was something off-key about the sound system for his set – the music was quiet and I couldn’t hear any bass line, considering that many of Beenie’s tunes feature a heavy bass line this was a disappointment. Beenie Man’s vocals were harsh and abrasive, which I think was down to the sound engineers poor control over the event. There was hardly any crowd, I’d say around half the size of a standard main stage show. There were just no vibes. That said, Beenie definitely churned out ALL of his hits!!!!!  King of the Dancehall, I’m Drinking / Rum and RedBull, Romie, Dude, Girls Dem Sugar, you name it, he sang it! Including my favourite Who Am I (Zim Zimma). Basically I think the main stage is not the right venue for a dancehall artist, the Zagga Zow Band are great, but there is just something about this genre which does not work well with a band on stage. I probably would have preferred for Beenie to stick to the dancehall stage and work with a DJ and sound system specifically set up for his style of dancehall music.
  • ✓Later that night silky smooth crooner Christopher Martin sang on the main stage. Chris gave a great show including his 2011 anthem ‘Cheaters Prayer’ and more recent hits such as ‘My Love‘ on Rvssian‘s 2016 Crown Love Riddim and half-way through was joined by King Beenie himself in a surprise appearance.

Thursday night:

  • ✓✓✓Hempress Sativa on the main stage was by far the highlight of the night. Her stage presence commands your attention, in a fashion rivaled only by the mighty Jah 9, who graced the same stage the year before. The mood was sombre, I thought that the crowd were feeling a deep connection with the hempress, however, when she started to speak of ‘standing up to terrorism’ etc, I started to wonder why she would want to create such a buzz kill when introducing her hit song ‘Fight for your rights’. It was not apparent to me at the time that her performance was only a few hours after the terrorist attack on Las Ramblas in nearby Barcelona. Many of those in the audience probably came from Barcelona or its surrounding areas, and for some the terrorism attack was probably too close for comfort. That night I also heard MCs at the Dub Academy speaking of the need for us to unite in the face of terrorism, and selectas playing tunes to reflect the serious undertones of the day’s events. Security at the venue was ramped up another notch, with army style guardia civil at the festival perimeters and newly erected fences and barriers to prevent any vehicles from ramming the crowds. The meaning behind all of this was not apparent to me until the following day, where somehow I managed to connect with reality and get an overview of the sinister events that had happened the previous day. It is easy to forget that there is an outside world when you are living in the red, gold and green bubble of Rototom City. Nevertheless, Hempress Sativa rocked the crowd with her dub anthems ‘Boom (Wa Da Da Deng)’, produced by Paolo Baldini Dubfiles on the Kingston 6 riddim, ‘Skin Teeth‘, ‘Rock It Ina Dance‘ and a big hit with the sensimillia-smoking crowd was her refix of The Fugees ‘Fugee-La’ tune, Hempress Sativa style ‘Oh la la The Weed Thing‘. Overall, she oozed power and had an excellent command over the audience. Hempress Sativa is an act who will be gaining a lot more attention in the years to come, for sure.

    IMG_9767
    Hempress Sativa ‘pon di mic’ on the main stage, Rototom Sunsplash 2017
  • ✓Rototom regulars Mellow Mood from Italy provided an upbeat show were joined the odd friend on stage, which warmed the crowd up perfectly for the headliner The Wailers to take over the stage for the final slot.

Friday night:

  • ✓✓✓The firmly-established top reggae act Chronixx and the ZincFence Redemption band dominated the stage on Friday night. The arena was jam-packed and it was difficult to get a glimpse through the dense crowd of Chronixx and his wild eyes, especially with his shoulder-length dreads loose and dancing around his face. His look was more business-like than usual, donning a freshly pressed bright white shirt. At the tender age of 24, Chronixx took us through his impressive back catalogue of hits such as ‘Sell My Gun’, ‘Here Comes Trouble‘ and ‘Capture Land‘ from his 2014 ‘Dread and Terrible‘ EP, as well as newer tracks including ‘Smile Jamaica‘, ‘Spanish Town Rockin’, ‘Majesty‘, ‘Likes‘ and ‘Skankin’ Sweet‘ all from his recently released Chronology album (entirely produced by Chronixx himself!). Not only that, but he treated us to renditions of his biggest collaborations with Protoje for ‘Who Knows’, before finishing off with his show-stopping Moombahton slash Rock floor-filler ‘Blaze Up The Fire‘ from his international collab with Major Lazer. Chronixx, who has been on his global tour virtually all year, gave it his all in this lengthy performance and demonstrated his incredible talent for his ever-growing and loyal fan base.

Lion Stage:

  • ✓Aptly named after Rototom’s mascot, the dread lion, the Lion Stage was the setting for some of the coolest shows at the festival.
  • ✓We didn’t hang at this stage so much this year, but managed to catch a bit of Nattali Rize who seemed very popular with the crowd.
  • Mungo’s Hi-Fi blew up the stage with their unique blend of dub meets garage meets dubstep and their MC guests including YT and Eva Lazarus wowed the crowd with their mad lyrical skills!

    IMG_9712
    Mungo’s Hi Fi on the Lion Stage, Rototom Sunsplash 2017
  • ✓Following Mungo’s was French West Indian Cali P, who hails from Guadeloupe (Gwada 971). We managed to get very close to the front for some of his show and were very impressed with his cool demeanour on stage despite being a relatively new reggae star.

    IMG_9725
    Cali P on the Lion Stage, Rototom Sunsplash 2017
  • ✗I would have liked to have seen Britain’s Got Reggae  winner  Claire Angel play but as her set didn’t start until gone 5am that night sadly I couldn’t quite stay up so late!
  • ✗We also missed the one-off Rototom x Ethiopia musical collaboration ‘Ethnopia‘ on the Lion Stage, whereby a delegation of Ethiopian artists put on two special concerts at Rototom Sunsplash this year.

Overall:

Every year the set up of Rototom is slightly different and the experience is never the same thanks to its special annual editions. This year, in its 24th edition, the festival shows no signs of slowing down, if anything it is expanding year on year and preparations are already under way for the festival to take place in Benicassim again next summer. As the closest experience to feeling that you are in the Caribbean whilst still being firmly planted in mainland Europe, Rototom will remain a firm fixture in my festival calendar and will no doubt continue to attract their cool, conscious and continental clientele while still embracing their philosophy of solidarity and peace, roots and culture.

BRING ON ROTOTOM SUNSPLASH 2018!!!!!!!!!!!!

The line-up for Rototom Sunsplash 2018 is already looking SA-WEEEET!

Sly and Robbie: The Best of Sly & Robbie in DUB albu cover Yellowman: Yellowman Album Cover Johnny Osbourne: Johnny Osbourne Buddy Bye Album Cover David Rodigan: David Rodigan Album Cover Alborosie: Alborosie Album Cover Tarrus Riley: Tarrus Riley Album Cover      Protoje: Protoje Ancient Future Album Cover Julian Marley: Julian Marley Album Cover Cocoa Tea: Cocoa Tea   Mo’Kalamity: Mo'Kalamity Hollie Cook: Hollie Cook Album Cover Skarra Mucci: Skarra Mucci

IMG_9797

DJ SKIRTBAG’S WHINE & KOTCH SHOW

Featuring the hottest dancehall riddims and trending artists, DJ Skirtbag’s Whine & Kotch Show is always guaranteed to get you in the party mood.

Listen back to the most recent episodes here:

DJ SKIRTBAG WHINE & KOTCH SHOW #1:

  • The FIRST EVER DJ Skirtbag Whine and Kotch show!
  • An EXTENDED of THE MOST WICKED DANCEHALL TUNES from SUMMER 2017!!
  • Includes tracks from Spice, Vybz Kartel, Don Andre, Gentleman, Sean Paul, Alkaline, Popcaan and MORE!   
  • This mix reached 50th in the Mixcloud #reggae dancehall chart. 

 

DJ SKIRTBAG WHINE & KOTCH SHOW #2:

  • A special ROTOTOM SUNSPLASH EDITION of the Whine and Kotch show!
  • This mix is JAM-PACKED, full of the best tunes from all of the hottest dancehall artists playing at Rototom Sunsplash reggae festival in Benicassim, Spain in 2017. 
  • Includes 26 TRACKS IN 28 MINUTES (!) from Beenie Man, Million Stylez, Aidonia, Bugle and features RIDDIMS such as Red Alert, Tropical Flava, Overproof, Chicken and Dumpling, Zen.
  • This show was 34th in the Mixcloud #reggae dancehall chart and 82nd in the #dancehall chart.

 

DJ SKIRTBAG WHINE & KOTCH SHOW #3:

  • An HOUR of the BADDEST, NEWEST & FRESHEST DANCEHALL tracks
  • In the mix by DJ Skirtbag
  • Playing 49 RED HOT TRACKS by Deizzle, Burning Kry, Vybz Kartel remix, Vybz Kartel, Charly Black and more.
  • This mix was 46th in the #reggae dancehall chart and 79th in the #dancehall chart on Mixcloud.

 

DJ SKIRTBAG WHINE & KOTCH SHOW #4:

  • A special SOCA MIX inspired by the NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL 2017
  • Bringing you TWO HOURS of NON_STOP PARTY VIBES in the mix to get you in the mood for CARNIVAL TIME!
  • Featuring FLOOR-FILLING SOCA ANTHEMS from Destra Garcia, Bunji Garlin, Alison Hinds, Machel Montano, Fay-Ann Lyons, Farmer Nappy, Hypasounds and more.

 

DANCEHALL MIXES BY DJ SKIRTBAG

DJ Skirtbag blends the most banging dancehall riddims with the newest releases from top artists across afrobeat, soca, moombahton, reggaeton, bashment and more genres to create upbeat megamixes to really bruk off yuh back to!

DJ SKIRTBAG’S MOSKATO RIDDIM MIX:

  • The FIRST EVER DJ Skirtbag mix from May 2016!
  • An EXTENDED of Rvssian’s popular riddim from 2016!!
  • Includes tracks from Konshens, Charly Black, Tifa, Vershon and Voicemail and MORE! 

 

DJ SKIRTBAG’S RADIO ROTOTOM SUNSPLASH 2016 MIX:

  • A special RADIO ROTOTOM SUNSPLASH competition entry mix!
  • Featured on the RADIO ROTOTOM SUNSPLASH Soundcloud page 
  • Includes bumper bonanza tracks from Vybz Kartel, Spice, Sean Paul, Charly Black, Mr Vegas, Aidonia, Demarco, Mavado and MANY MORE dancehall hits!
  • This show reached 38th in the Mixcloud #reggae dancehall chart and 93rd in the #dancehall chart.

 

DJ SKIRTBAG’S BEST OF 2016 BASHMENT MIX:

  • The best of bashment and dancehall bangers released in 2016 
  • In the mix by DJ Skirtbag
  • Playing tracks by Vybz Kartel, Ky-Mani Marley, Alkaline,  Mavado, Popcaan, Bugle and other top dancehall artists more.

 

DJ SKIRTBAG’S BEST OF 2016 DANCEHALL MIX:

  • The MOST PUMPING dancehall and soca tunes of 2016 in the mix by DJ Skirtbag!
  • A WHOLE HOUR of NON-STOP PARTY VIBES in the mix!
  • Featuring FLOOR-FILLING ANTHEMS from Shenseea, Spice, Konshens, Vybz Kartel, Chi Ching Ching, Mr Vegas, Beenie Man and Stylo G
  • This show reached 39th in the Mixcloud #reggae dancehall chart and 58th in the #dancehall music chart.

 

DJ SKIRTBAG’S FEBRUARY 2017 DANCEHALL MIX:

  • The TOP 20 baddest dancehall and bounciest afrobeat tunes released in early 2017
  • in the mix by DJ Skirtbag.
  • Featuring tunes from Spice, Masicka, Timaya, Patoranking and MORE
  • This show reached 44th in the Mixcloud #reggae dancehall chart and 70th in the #dancehall music chart.

 

DJ SKIRTBAG’S APRIL 2017 DANCEHALL MIX:

  • A three-hour mix of dancehall, reggaeton and afrobeat (with a bit of jungle dnb thrown in for good measure!)
  • All tracks released between January – April 2017, including the Money Mix Riddim, Crazy Glue Riddim, Shape Of You Riddim, Future Riddim and Caliente Riddim.
  • Featuring tunes from Stylo G, Charly Black, Vybz Kartel, Shenseea, Ding Dong, Jahmiel,  Masicka, Timaya, Patoranking and MORE
  • This show reached 50th in the Mixcloud #reggae dancehall chart and 86th in the #dancehall music chart.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑