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Reggae Geel & RastaPlas ’24

This year the number is festivals I’m planning to attend are narrowed down to just two. In recent years this has become somewhat of a trend. The uptake is that the two festivals I’m planning to visit are carefully chosen because of the line-up, the atmosphere and the food. The first one is coming up this week and takes place at the peaceful lake “Zoetermeerse Plas”. This year’s line-up of RastaPlas is extra special for me seeing the return of one the best performers I’ve seen in a while together with a performance to commemorate the groundbreaking debut album Hebron Gate. A few weeks after RastaPlas, I will once again head south to Belgium for Europe’s oldest Reggae festival Reggae Geel with a killer line-up expanding its musical spectrum further than ever before. More about Reggae Geel will follow below.

Normally,  I always make a quick summary and cross reference the timetable between the different stages for my friends as a sort of cheat sheet during the festival. But why should they have all the fun while you can still enjoy the music even if you are not attending.

RastaPlas – 19th and 20th of July

This festival has been around since 2004 as has largely kept the charm and casual feeling of a small festival. Even though it has come a long way from the free, bring your own food and fenceless festival it once was according to hearsay but the atmosphere remains one of a kind. Next to the line-up, the beach, festival market, and food stalls, RastaPlas offers plenty of entertainment for kids. Below you can find a few acts that will grace the stage at this year’s edition.

Gentleman’s Dub Club

This band will bring out the sun (no matter the notorious Dutch weather) and invite you to dip your toes in their feel-good mix of Reggae, Dub and Ska. The eight piece band straight out of Leeds has build a strong reputation for their energetic live shows like the 2014 performance at Glastonbury. A band you can listen to all day and never have a single worry on your mind.

Marcus Gad and Tribe

Having seen Marcus perform at Reggae Geel for the first time I was already impressed, but it was his RastaPlas performance last year that I have etched on my memory like it was yesterday. The man hailing from New Caledonia put the audience under his spell, commanding respect in a way only a few can. His music, a spiritual journey, will sweep you of your feet feeling weightless as you float along the river.

Groundation

This band doesn’t need an introduction as they have been flagbearers of the red, gold and green for over 20 years and cited by many as one of the most influential contemporary Roots Reggae bands. Founding member and bandleader Harrison Stafford has carefully build their reputation drawing talented players to join his journey that knows little to no equals. The performance at RastaPlas will be their only festival gig in The Netherlands for 2024 and will be dedicated to the 20th anniversary of their most celebrated album Hebron Gate. Be sure to also give the dub counterpart, Dreaming from an Iron Gate, a listen. This is what I wrote about it upon release;

Reimagining an album that many would hail as one of the best Reggae releases in the last 20 years must have weighed down on the shoulders of French producer and dub mixologist Martin Nathan alias Brain Damage. He doesn’t leave anything on the table and turns these nine fabled tracks inside-out, adding snippets left from the original recording session, recomposing vocals, adding new arrangements to catch you off guard at every turn. Dreaming from an Iron Gate is a mind bending trip for all who remember Hebron Gate all to well and perhaps even more so for those who don’t.

Reggae Geel – 1, 2 and 3 of August

With a enormous line-up divided over 4 stages, Reggae Geel remains one of the top draws in Europe if you are looking for a two-day Reggae fest. I guess this would be the 17th time I will visit this festival and I have witnessed it grow to what it is today. Last year the founding members and organizers of Reggae Geel officially passed on their duties to a newer generation to take care of their precious festival for another 45 years. They made some slight changes in direction in order to make this festival as inclusive as possible without straying to far from its origins. Most evident is perhaps headliner Arrested Development. This act will be a good indicator for the organization to see how the crowd will react to this new direction. Reggae might be at the birth of Hip-Hop, especially toasting or deejaying over a rhythm predating Rap by many years, I’m curious how much the Hip-Hop collective will adjust their set and how it will all play-out. Being a regular at Reggae Geel, I can honestly say that there are a lot of festivals that can learn a thing or two as the organization is always flawless and the line-up top notch. Below some of the artists I will be looking out to.

Thursday

Since already a couple of years, Reggae Geel’s official kick-off to the weekend starts on a Thursday with the pre-party. For the first time this pre-party will take place on the festival grounds rather than the campsite. This year they have invited producer and Casio MT40 maestro Manudigital to take place behind the decks for an explosive set of bass heavy grooves.

Friday

Reggae Geel invited Julian Marley and the Uprising band to set the main stage on fire during the first day. I have seen Julian Marley perform at Reggae Sunsplash many years ago and was surprised by his showmanship and musical prowess. Only fitting he is the closing act on the main stage during the opening day at Reggae Geel. Having spoken about toasting and deejaying in the introduction you simply can’t get around Big Youth. This will be the second time he will hit the Reggae Geel stage and I’ll be sure to check him out. Alborosie is always a blessing to see no matter how many times I have seen him perform supported by this steadfast backing band The Shengen Clan. The next act named Postmen has seen several reincarnations from the original three-person Hip-Hop and Reggae outfit now headed by founding member Remon Stotijn and his wife Alyssa Stotijn. Mostly known for their groundbreaking work in the late 90’s heavily influencing the than early stages of what was to became a vibrant Dutch urban scene. Curious to see who remembers the lyrics of their hits or bounces along with their newest album “Royals”. Reggae Geel builds further upon the momentum they have created for closely related genres after Burna Boy, Davido and StoneBwoy took the stage in recent years. However Bnxn is a bit of a wildcard for me, I think the festival benefits from giving new talent a chance to prove their worth on a Reggae stage. From sharing the stage with legend “Lee Scratch Perry” in 2016 to now making the Dub Forest tremble on its very foundations for an unparalleled trip through the Pura Vida universe. Bregt de Boever, alias Pura Vida Productionz, will not only be performing a dub set on Friday but he will also transform the deep vibrations of the Dub Forest into living pieces of art during the entire weekend. Be sure to check it out. We stay in the Dub Forest just a little longer for perhaps one of the most well known names in UK Soundsystem culture, Iration Steppas. Mic duties will be taken care of by Macky Banton who approached every session as an unique experience and has deliberately chosen to never put his voice on record. For an eclectic mix of Reggae, Dub and Dancehall make your way to the Bounce Dancehall stage for Silly Walks Discotheque. They will set the place on fire!

Saturday

With last night still on your mind feeling a bit fuzzy perhaps there is no time to waist as another jampacked line-up is waiting to kick-off early afternoon. Make your way to the Gold Stage to witness Luciano ” The Messenger” and Christopher Ellis, son of the Godfather of Rocksteady, for a spectacular double header. Talking about one legend often leads to another as the multi-talented daugther of the of the crown of Reggae Marla Brown will bless the Gold stage with her presence. Second time around, I hope Stonebwoy can replicate the magic of his performance at BHIM in his native Ghana from last year. If so, I hope by than you are truly woken up from your day time slumber. Newcomer Jah Lil has some nice vibes going on and I’m curious to see if he is able to energize the afternoon crowd. His new album is just out and I have since taken a liking to it. I will definitely jump on the opportunity to see Dezarie’s deep spiritual performance as I missed out a couple of years ago at RastaPlas and have had to put up with the story repeatedly. The show will be far from over as we still have Arrested Development as mentioned in the introduction, King Original Sound riding high at the Dub Forest and perhaps I will catch a few seconds of the very much hyped appearance of YG Marley. Letting your guard down, having no expectations is sometimes the best approach to this thing we humas call “festival“. Therefore it might be that I throw overboard all I have planned for and join the rave at Yagga Yagga with performers like Gladdy Wax, Ras Digby and David Katz rotating the decks. However you are going to approach this, it will surely play out as another one for the books.

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