BY BASIL WALTERS Observer staff reporter
ONCE again, there are indications that Jamaican music is at a crossroads. The latest signal has to do with the relocation of the Rototom Sunsplash and the reason behind.
After 16 years as one of the major summer reggae festivals in Europe, Rototom Reggae Sunsplash, has moved from Italy to Spain because the authorities (in Italy) have accused the organisers of promoting the use of marijuana via reggae music and Rasta culture.
"The excuse is that we facilitate the use of ganja because we are promoting reggae music and Rasta culture. So Rasta culture and reggae bring the people to smoke marijuana," publicist/art director for the Rototom Sunsplash, Sabrina Trovant Sunday Observer in an exclusive interview after the launch of the festival at the Ashanti Restaurant at Hope Garden in Kingston last Tuesday.
However, this, Trovant pointed out, came as a result of a change in the political climate in Italy. "The far-right conservative party won the election in 2008. They are more closed to immigrants ... people who are not Italians. So the festival is the symbol of completely the opposite. It is multi-cultural. We promote peace, love and unity between people. No matter your culture, your religion or your tradition, anything. We are one blood," she explained.
The Rototom Reggae Sunsplash is a big event wherein more than 100,000 people for more than a week with 120 different nationalities in the same place. "In a place where there is no riots, between them, y'know," Trovant stresses.
"It's not just a music festival, it's much more than a music festival. It's a reggae university. The singers, journalists, producers come to the festival to meet other people to learn about the history of each other. During the days we do meetings, debates, workshops, picture exhibitions," booking manager Giovanni Vinci explained.
"It has become a meeting point for intellectuals, politicians. We talk about life", added Trovant about the sponsor-free event. "Our sponsors are the people. The people buy the tickets six months before and we usually sell around three thousands tickets six months before because the people trust us. It's more a European congregation of the reggae people than simply a festival of stage production. The movement of a community," she said.
It was the second time the Rototom Sunsplash was launched in Jamaica. Three years ago, it was launched at Strawberry Hill. "On that occasion we brought European journalist to let them learn the culture of Bob Marley. They spent five days here visiting the Bob Marley Museum, Tuff Gong Studio, Nine Miles, etc. This time, we are meeting with the Jamaican press because here everything was born. For a reggae festival, the centre of the world is Jamaica. Without Jamaica there would be no Bob Marley and without Bob Marley there would probably be no reggae in the world. So, for this reason we came here to meet with the Jamaican media and the minister of culture, Ms Olivia Grange," Vinci said.
"This year we are changing country and language. This idea that who promote reggae is promoting ganja, so to promote reggae is a crime, is totally stupid. Spain is more opened to integration between different culture, more democratic," declared Vinci.
The Rototom Sunsplash has been taking place every summer at Osoppo, in the province of Udine, Italy. The new location for the 17th edition will be in Spain in the town of Benicassim, situated on the Mediterranean coast in the province of Castellon.
"Spain is certainly a more liberal and welcoming country. The local authority in Spain is very happy that we are there. And also they also have a different attitude towards the festival because they recognise the festival can bring economic results," Trovant said about the week-long festival slated to run from August 21 to 28.
The line-up so far includes Alpha Blondy, Aswad, Alborosie, Fantan Mojah, Bob Andy, Big Youth, Glen Washington, Anthony B.