Uppsala Reggae Festival streams live from Harry J Studios
For reggae artistes, the name Uppsala rings a loud bell that says touring and music. However, this year, the reggae festival, which takes its name from the place in Sweden, is embarking on a history-making trek from that Scandinavian country to Jamaica, the home of reggae. Originally scheduled for this weekend, the event fell prey to the global pandemic and has been pushed back to 2021. The promoters, however, have come up with a plan. The famous Harry J studio in Kingston will be flipped into festival zone on Saturday, and Uppsala will come alive on the virtual stage with a strong line-up of reggae acts.
The oldest reggae festival in Scandinavia, it is organised by Yared Tekeste, his wife, and his daughter. He told The Gleaner that this move became necessary owing to the dramatic impact of the coronavirus on music and culture around the world. “This is a way of filling the void that was created in our own hearts and the hearts of all reggae lovers. And we also want to spread some joy and hope that soon enough, we will be able to enjoy our beloved festivals that we might have been taking for granted,” Tekeste said.
Keeping Reggae Alive
From his home in Scandinavia, he and his team are busy liaising with persons in Jamaica, confirming acts, organising rehearsals, and ensuring that everything falls into place in their effort to keep reggae music alive and bring the best artistes of the genre to the people. “We have partnered with the legendary Harry J Studio in Kingston, where a substantial part of the legendary movie Rockers was filmed. This is a new experience – producing a festival and not being able to be there physically,” he said. “But I am happy that things have actually been working greatly thanks to the team in Jamaica.”
The artistes who will bring this virtual Uppsala to the globe include Lutan Fyah, Kabaka Pyramid, Jesse Royal, Chezidek, Sherieta Lewis, Samory I, Lukie D, Duane Stephenson, Dean Fraser, Mortimer, Chevaughn, and others. They will be backed by a live band, comprising some of the island’s best musicians. The Gleaner caught up with Samory I at rehearsal on Wednesday evening, and he was quite enthusiastic about meeting his fans in the virtual space. “I performed at Uppsala in 2018. and it was huge. Thousands of fans coming together in one space to enjoy reggae music. This time it will be a bit different, but it is always a joy to communicate with the people through music,” he said. He has been given 20 minutes to perform and will be doing a mix of new songs and favourites such as Rasta Nuh Gangsta.
Tekeste told The Gleaner that the response to the virtual event, for which there will be a cover charge, has been overwhelming. “A lot of people from Africa and Europe have showed appreciation that the timing of the performances suits them. And it was planned to be that way,” he explained. In recognition of the various time zones, and the fact that the festival is targeting a particular market, the live stream from Jamaica will start at 11 o’clock on Saturday morning and end at 7 p.m. For audiences in Europe, the time is 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
“We will broadcast the world’s best music via Pay Per View TV straight into people’s homes. Real good reggae music, played live and exclusively,” is how Tekeste describes it.
Pay Per View fees are €8 pre-sale and €10 regular on August 1. Harry J Studios urged fans on social media, “Let’s make this one something to remember!”