The second day of Uppsala Reggae Festival offered lots of great roots reggae and it was almost a veteran get together. The third and final day was a more mixed bag of artists and range in quality.
Saturday in Uppsala is grey and drizzling. When I walk into the festival area about 6pm, the area is much muddier than the day before. But it is not raining, not yet anyways.
When teen favourite Jah Cure enters the main stage about half an hour late the rain has both started and increased in strength and many people are soaked. But several defy the weather and attend the concert. In particular girls, who are heard loud when Jah Cure sings some of his languorous ballads, which are gladly enough mixed with heavier songs such as King in This Jungle and Sunny Day, a tune that turns into heavy dub excursion. The shrilling cries increases when he starts to undress – from black jacket and white shirt, to a white tank top, to bare chest.
When Alborosie performed at the festival in 2008 he ran into legal complications that led to the song Operation Uppsala. It’s therefore probably no coincidence that he starts off with two songs about drugs – No Cocaine and Herbalist. He of course also plays Operation Uppsala. To get extra strength behind the message, he sings parts of the verses a cappella to great applause. The audience is caught on during the show and if it wasn’t so muddy because of the rain, I would probably have had knees up to my chin during the entire performance.
Busy Signal at Uppsala Reggae Festival 2010. Photo by Stefan Gunnarsson/Reggaefoto.se
Dancehall superstars Busy Signal and Mavado makes one fifty-minute concert each. Busy Signal is up first. He jumps onto stage backed by a lonely dj and tears of a veritable hit song extravaganza with favourites such as Unknown Number and Wine Pon the Edge. Best is Hustlin’ on the heavy Baddaz rhythm. The crowd sings the entire chorus in Hustlin’ as well as in the Commodores cover Night Shift, a song that Busy Signal does not really do justice. He seems to have throat problems and when he sings it doesn’t nearly sound as good as it should. But it certainly doesn’t seem to bother the crowd when he takes off his sunglasses and wiggle his hips.
One that also has problems with his voice is Mavado. He makes a Busy Signal with throat problems sound like Celine Dion. Many had looked forward to see him live, but he did not do any of his hit songs justice. He moves back and forth across the stage and sings randomly to pre-recorded material. He makes less than a minute of each song, which helps the energy. But it hardly helps when both pre-recorded parts and live singing is so false it’s embarrassing.
When I leave the rainy festival area to the sounds of World A Music by Anthony B the bass echoes over the outskirts of Uppsala. This year was the tenth anniversary and hosted a magnificent line-up. Hopefully the festival will live on at least a decade longer and that this is only the beginning of a proud Swedish tradition.