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Rocking reggae shakes Germany
published: Wednesday | June 18, 2003

The 'Gargamel', Buju Banton, crashed through hit after hit before treating the crowd to a few choice excerpts from his new album in Germany recently. - File

HISTORY CAME full circle last weekend as the cream of the reggae fraternity descended on Germany to celebrate selector David Rodigan's 25th anniversary in the reggae business.

Buju Banton, Ward 21, Stone Love, Killamanjaro and Bass Odyssey joined thousands of dancehall fans from all over Europe at the Hahn airbase, which is about 50km outside of Frankfurt, to salute Rodigan's enormous contributions to the reggae industry during the past quarter of a century.

Besides the Jamaican contingent, dozens of sound systems from across Europe and America lined up to salute Rodigan, the man who gave many of them the initial inspiration to enter the sound system business.

The festival 'vibe' was nice from the start, and an indication of how far reggae music has managed to penetrate Europe. Classic sound clashes blasted out from the tents and cars scattered around the festival site, with copies of Rodigan's classic showdowns with Barry Gordon being snapped up as if they were recorded yesterday.

Saturday saw a mighty performance from Bass Odyssey, with Squingy scaling the speakers and drawing a big response from the fans. Stone Love was certainly at its best, Rory getting 'forward' after 'forward' with selections of classic hits and Stone Love anthems.

However, the weekend was all about Rodigan. The man was on fire from the second he took the stage to a rapturous reception, soaking up the adulation and giving 110 per cent in return.

The crowd loved it, even though most of them would have been in diapers when some of the most popular dubs were first cut. Jamaica may be thousands of kilometres away, but 'clash' tapes sell like hotcakes in these parts and half the time the crowd seemed to know the songs as well as the selectors themselves.

It was an emotional moment for Rodigan, who later admitted to being 'extremely touched and honoured' by the effort all involved had gone to on his account. Instead of basking in his own glory, the 'rudeboy gentleman' lived up to his name and turned the spotlight on the artistes, producers and selectors who have given him so much inspiration over the years.

As his set came to end, Rodigan held up some songs and asked the crowd to pick his last one, "One from the '60s, one from the '70s and one from the '80s, choose one." Seconds later the Treasure Isle classic Carry Go Bring Come came barrelling out of the speakers and the place went ballistic.

Sunday saw a torrential downpour, but it would take more than that to dampen the crowd's enthusiasm for Buju Banton, who flew in to join the celebrations.

The 'Gargamel' crashed through hit after hit before treating the crowd to a few choice excerpts from his new album. The crowd loved every minute of it, Buju doing a wicked Beres Hammond impersonation on My Woman Now and backing singer Little Bird, stepping up to replace Nadine Sutherland ­ who missed her flight ­ for an energetic What Am I Gonna Do.

Buju capped the performance with a stinging indictment of the war in Iraq, which the German crowd ­ whose government was one of the war in Iraq's bitterest opponents ­ lapped up. The only downside came when Buju exited the stage, leaving thousands of adoring fans crying out for an encore that never arrived.

The Saxon sound system from London, England, kept the vibes flowing nicely and Germany's top sound Pow Pow followed up with a string of dub plates. Half-way through the set, Rodigan strolled on-stage in a grey raincoat and light green polo neck sweater, a good 20 years older than anyone else on the bill but still more than able of teaching them a few lessons about how to whip up a crowd.

It was another energetic performance from Rodigan but by 2 a.m., people were bracing themselves for the arrival of the mighty Killamanjaro, which could be heard blasting out around the campsite long before their plane touched down.

Despite some fierce battles over the years, Rodigan made a point of bigging up Kilamanjaro. Freddie and Genius looked a bit shy at first but eventually turned in one of the best performances of the weekend, cranking the atmosphere up to fever pitch with a selection of 'Jaro anthems followed by a string of Capleton and Sizzla dubs that left the crowd begging for more.

Rodigan, Jaro, Saxon and Pow Pow saw the night out playing half-hour for half-hour sets, capping the weekend with a musical feast that was, as Mr Rodigan was eager to point out later, blissfully free of the profanity and nastiness that mars so many sound clashes these days.

"The whole event was a magnificent salute to the power of reggae," an emotional Rodigan told The Gleaner. "I think it is important for Jamaicans to know how popular reggae has become in Europe."

"Jamaicans should be proud of the fact that their music is so popular internationally," he added. "The work of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh was not in vain."

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