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Thanks to Alex Bluffield of Italised Sounds for this report.

Reggae Sunsplash, Italy 2003

Greetz all,

As well as being my first time in Italy, this was my first time at a European festival & first time at a specifically reggae festival too! What can I say? Wicked! Roots gone truly international - I met so many nice people from all over Europe. I didn't realise how big reggae is in Italy - it's massive - so now I know. The setting was beautiful in Rivellino Park, hemmed in by the mountains - a perfect setting for reggae. Lots of people hung hammocks between trees in the camping area, the atmosphere was very relaxed during daytime :-) During the day there was always a sound playing in the Fresh Yard tent, I suprised myself by getting into some of the dancehall that was playing there & had a good bogle! Also stalls, bars, food places, couple of record stalls, there was a nice meditation area & in the evening drumming & didge workshops. A happy likkle reggae village, the funniest place was the Pizzeria Di Elfi - 'the elf people', friendly hippies with bread ovens where you could make ur own pizza & they did some wicked savoury breads with figs & walnuts etc. Yum.

I guess people want to hear about the reggae, of course! I arrived Saturday evening & saw the Sistas on the one main stage who were awesome (someone tell me more about them 'cos I hadn't heard of them till now). Then after the main stage finish, Jah Shaka played a rocking set till dawn. I asked Shaka b4 his set why there isn't a UK Sunsplash any more & he said it was down to business. The Shaka set was unusual with a fair amount of dancehally stuff & some Marley-like Rastaman Vibration. Sunday on main stage was Seeed, wicked German dancehall act mixing up styles - they know how to get a crowd going. Later Misty In Roots - as great as ever. That nite I also discover the Smile Jamaica Bar & their Rum Punch :-) 10 stamps to enter a prize draw for trip to JA - I got them by the time I left on Wednesday so fingers crossed!

Ok, Monday, Buju Banton. The Sunsplash comperes were like Eurovision Song Contest presenters by the way!!! Fairplay to them, they did a good job. I'm not a big fan of Buju & found some of his tracks overly commercial/cheesey, but loved that one 'The fool has never been told' - so mixed feelings about his performance, his backing singers & band were excellent. Burning Spear headlined that night - he is the grandfather of reggae & such a magical presence on stage, all the Spear classics, played his heart out on those congas. The highlight of Monday night for me was in the dancehall tent starting around 2am - Nyabinghi Sound from Barcelona - they played excellent tunes, excellent toasting 'Fuego!!!' and had the tent packed out - fiesta-style atmosphere, whistles, horns etc, they were shit hot!

Tuesday was Junior Kelly, who was wicked - he can growl and sing, so versatile, his backing singers were fantastic too, I went wild when he played 'If love so bad...'. He was followed by the legendary Jimmy Cliff who leapt about the stage like a 21yr old. As well as playing his classics he did some nice covers - 'I can see clearly now the rain has gone'! and 'Oh baby baby it's a wide world - hard to get by just upon a smile girl'! (who did this originally? I only remember the Aswad version!). But the finale was beautiful - the band & Jimmy took up their drums & the audience hushed into silence. Starting with Bongo Man A Come they went into a whole Nyabingi session, also did By the Rivers of Babylon. Awesome!!! Unfortunately the dancehall tent was terrible that night, nonsense DJs think the sound was Bashfire (Italy) the guy wouldn't shut up - so my friend Sheila passed a sign saying Less Talking, More Music! in Italian & English to him!! She showed it to the crowd first & they seemed to agree. Unfortunately this was my last night at Sunsplash as I had to leave early evening on Wednesday b4 the music on the main stage kicked off, but just being amongst so many reggae-loving people brought a warmth to my heart. That evening we went to an African restaurant were they played reggae, so it was a light come down from the highs of being at the festival.

Next year I will go for the whole 8 days & would recommend it to everyone. There are many other reggae fests in Italy & one in Croatia, Sicily, Greece (next weekend!) and probably more I don't know about. PASTAFARI!! Lots of love, Alex.

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