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Rototom Sunsplash looking to J'can presence - World Contest set for Kingston during Reggae Month 2014

Published:Wednesday | July 24, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Beenie Man entertains patrons at Rototom Sunsplash.
Giovannio Vinci (left), booking manager for Rototom Sunsplash festival, and State Minister in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment Damion Crawford hold up a flag with the festival's logo. Photos Contributed

Melville Cooke, Gleaner Writer

Even as the organisers of the Rototom Sunsplash look forward to the festival's 20th staging from August 17-24 this year, they are anticipating a Jamaican presence during February 2014.

It seems a natural progression for a festival which, while maintaining and expanding its European home (first in Italy and now for the fourth year in Benicassim, Spain), has made a steady march outside the region with its Reggae Contest.

After starting in 2002, this year, the organisers say for Rototom Reggae Contest Europe, there are over 1,700 artistes and musicians from 29 countries. The finals will be held in Zurigo, Switzerland.

For Reggae Contest Latino (started three years ago), there are over 2,000 artistes and musicians involved. The finals are slated for Buenos Aires, Argentina.


During next year's Reggae Month, some of those bands will be coming to Jamaica as Rototom Sunsplash hosts two days of free concerts at Emancipation Park, New Kingston.

Giovanni Vinci, Rototom Sunsplash's booking manager, told The Gleaner that "the idea is to do the next step. And the next step after Reggae Contest Europe and Reggae Contest Latin America is the Rototom World Contest. So the idea is to do the Rototom World Contest here in Jamaica".

Plans are far advanced as Vinci said talks have already been held with State Minister in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment Damion Crawford.

Not only would the winning bands from San Andres Island (Colombia), Argentina, Chile, England, Spain, and Italy be invited to Jamaica, but so would three popular bands in Europe, and three from Latin America.

"In each country in Europe and also in Latin America, there are really popular reggae bands, not Jamaican, but local bands - really popular - pulling big crowds. So we want to bring here the bands who win the contests, which are usually up-and-coming bands, plus the best three European reggae bands and the best three Latin reggae bands to do something like a Europe and Latin awards," Vinci said.

Each concert would feature prominent Jamaican artistes.

Vinci linked the Rototom World Contest with Brand Jamaica and tourism, noting the long-term nature of the band competitions in Europe and Latin America.

"We start in October and end in June. So we have eight to nine months promoting Jamaica," Vinci said.

The Rototom Reggae Contest starts with a social media component, with persons (over 60,000 Vinci claims) voting. The voting pool forms a valuable database of persons deeply interested in reggae, and naturally, by extension, Jamaica - a situation which is not lost on Rototom's organisers in making the physical Jamaican connection.

The national semi-finals and finals are held live, the winners going on to compete for the regional title. The European and Latin American winners then go on to play the big stage at Rototom.

Still, having the Rototom World Contest in Jamaica is a milestone along a journey, not the terminal point.

There is also growth within continents as Brazil and Venezuela should be included in the Latin American leg for the next staging.

"We want to build a worldwide reggae community," Vinci said, pointing out that all the persons who work on the Reggae Contest project donate their skills and time - and that includes the Jamaican guests like Pablo Moses, Andrew Tosh, Bushman, Etana, Sophia Brown, and Junior Kelly, who have performed on Reggae Contest Latino.