With Jah Cure, Capelton, Mr Vegas
Jah Cure

If you want to know how to do a reggae festival, ask the Dutch. Von Rast is the laidback bassist of Amsterdam-based roots band Punky Donch and he’s seen a few. But this one’s special he tells me.

He’s right - it’s certainly a whole lot livelier, and a whole lot sexier, taking place as it does in a city where, before the gig, punters can go to a coffee shop at five and buy the weed they’ll be smoking at ten. I only observed of course but them’s firm foundations for a night of good dancehall music.

And these are interesting times in dancehall. The phrase “Free Buju Banton” is on everyone’s lips, the peace breakout is only eight months old, stars’ lyrics are strongly disagreeing with each other, again, the capture of Dudus in Kingston was only last year, the dancehall industry’s getting used to suddenly earning big cash, and travel’s getting harder and harder for the biggest artists because of the authorities.

But at a Dutch reggae festival edginess and wildness are part of the pleasure. Who’d expect any different when headliner Jah Cure is someone who was in jail for eight years. Now he’s back and make no mistake he’s giving us vibe and sexiness that Bob Marley would have been proud of. The audience seemed to know the lyrics of every song.

At the other end of the running order, our Dutch friends Punky Donch kicked off the evening with a set including new single ‘Sweet Sexy Girl’. The big stars will have enjoyed sharing the stage with these guys and I for one will look forward to seeing them again. Not to mention the fun everyone has trying not to call them Donkey Punch.

Next up and naughty Jamaican rudeboy Red Rat got the dancehall vibe going with his hits 'Oh No' and 'Tight Up' and, wearing his producer hat, gave the crowd a taste of his sexy new protégée Pascalle.

Mr Vegas then exploded into the evening with a collection of his hits from 'Heads High', 'Nike Air' and 'Tek Weh Yuhself' to 'I Am Blessed' and his latest 'Sweet Jamaica'.

Mavado showed his usual strut. 'So Special' got the crowd going crazy, the guys all sang along to 'Nuh Bleach Wid Cream' and 'Anger Management' and he ended his set with 'On The Rock'. He’s had a gruelling schedule recently and word was he’d lost his voice but no-one could tell from his set.

Veteran Rastafarian star Capleton then took the hyped up crowd to another level. Singing tracks from his latest album 'I Turnal Fire', not a soul in the place was stood still as the fire king dropped track after track, screaming “Umsterdam! Umsterdam!” between each song and bouncing round the stage like a superball on speed.

It’s impossible to think of headliner Jah Cure without thinking about Bob Marley. Not just the physical resemblance but the unmistakable emotional power on stage. At this point the crowd was happy to take it a notch down as they coupled up and sang along to 'Unconditional Love', 'Call On Me' and 'Longing For', the night finishing with passion, not simply in the sex sense, but for life.

Lucky us that Amsterdam’s Reggae Festival happens twice a year.

Words by Reshma B (www.reggaegirlabouttown.com)

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