Rototom Sunsplash 2018 Main Stage
|Dates||Aug. 16 - 22, 2019|
|Location(s)||Benicassim, Valencian Community, Spain|
|Founded by||Associazione Culturale Rototom|
Rototom Sunsplash is a large European reggae festival, it takes place every summer at Benicassim (with beaches in the Mediterranean Sea), a few miles north of Valencia in Spain. Since 1994 it attracts thousands of reggae passionated from all over the world, thanks to to a vast cultural and musical program that lasts for a whole week.
Gaio di Spilimbergo, Province of Pordenone, in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. This small town in Northern Italy between Venice and Udine is the starting point for an adventure called Rototom Sunsplash. On 13 December 1991 the Rototom Cultural Association was born and out of it the nightclub of the same name, where everything happened, was created. An alternative music scene, an authentic sound lab, and a stop off point for some of the greatest exponents on the world music scene: from punk to rock, reggae, indie and electronic music. A fusion that that is explained by the instrument that gave it its name: Rototom, able to create different sounds, just like the atmospheres that were created in this venue. On moving in 1997 to what would be its second headquarters in Zoppola, the Rototom Club spreads all of these genres in three different rooms all connected to create a "city of music". One dedicated to rock, pop and rap; a second to reggae and African music where the typical sounds of the Sunsplash were and another dedicated to electronic music. Over the next nine years, it hosted shows by the Ramones (1993), Massive Attack (1998), Bad Religion, NOFX, Suede and Soul Fly; legends like the father of Afro beat Fela Kuti and reggae greats such as Burning Spear, Steel Pulse, Black Uhuru, Inner Circle, U-Roy, Yellowman, Itals, The Meditations, Junior Reid, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Misty in Roots, The Gladiators (band), Pablo Moses, Shaggy (musician), Buju Banton among many others.
The second phase of Rototom Sunsplash has but one name: the camping Girasole. Summer 1998. Unable to absorb the capacity, the festival moves to Latisana Maritima near Lignano, near the tourist resort town of Venice.
Sunsplash already had the structure that it evokes today: here it transforms a real reggae town with three stages and complementary cultural areas capable of housing thousands of residents: in this new headquarters the 8,000 festivalgoers from the last year in Gaio become 20,000. The event goes from three to four days and with more scheduled timetable. In Lignano the Rototom Sunsplash becomes a mass phenomenon, a pole of attraction for those beyond that of the music or to simply watch the live show of a certain artist, it married with a philosophy that is intrinsic to reggae: peace, love and respect.
The level that the festival reached is reflected in several anecdotes, like for instance that in its premiere in Lignano, the restaurants' stocks ran out the first day of the four day event. Or that the beer went from being measured in barrels, like in Gaio, to being measured in tanks. Also as a part of this explosive growth the festival include the first international broadcast of its concerts via streaming (1999 through Arcoiris TV), the launch of Reggae Train, departing from Rome and with stops in Florence, Bologna, Padua and Venice, along with a free 24 hour coach service from Lignano and a nursery for young audiences.
It is also here that the 'Italian Reggae Award' is first organised. The director of the Jamaican Reggae Sunsplash, Mr. Rae Barret, was invited to choose from the best Italian bands at the festival, to become the first group to represent Italy at the festival in Jamaica. Reggae National Ticket took the honours, and that marked the launching of the musical career on the Caribbean island of the singer, Alborosie, whose career is directly linked to the Rototom Sunsplash.
In the summer of 2000 the Rototom Sunsplash changed its surrounds once again and moved its headquarters to Osoppo (Udine). If Lignano represented its 'professionalization' and consolidation as a cultural and musical landmark event in Italy, Osoppo is crucial to its growth from national meeting to being a European festival. Its proximity to Austria, Slovenia and Germany expanded the boundaries of the event and balanced the handicap of its geographic isolation in a small town of 3,000 inhabitants.
In the 250,000 square meters of the Rivellino Park in Osoppo the festival assumes the dimensions that have accompanied it to the present. It is reconfigured as a holiday destination to spend four to eight days (and subsequently nine and ten days) with a clear differentiation between the festival with 'day' activities -the concerts are more spaced out- and night, with all its musical prominence. The Camping Area becomes a highlight, in the natural park at the foot of the Alps, which favours moments for meeting and socializing among the thousands of festival goers from around the world -150,000 people on average for ten consecutive editions in Osoppo- and helps forge a sense of belonging to the Rototom family. And to create the atmosphere of pacifism, tolerance and multiculturalism that define the event. The number of stages increase (Showcase, Dub Room) and the line-up to continues to add even more of the greats of the reggae scene, with exclusive events in Europe, and the rising stars of the Jamaican genre.
The extra-musical areas take shape, supported by the extension of the space: the Social Forum dedicated to conferences and debates with sociologists, politicians, religious representatives and intellectuals; African Village and Living Energy (Pachamama today) with sessions of capoeira, percussion and African dance courses; spaces for meditation and ones with seminars devoted to natural medicine and to Rastafarian philosophy; as well as areas with creative workshops for children. The Reggae University is also gestated, for the exchange of experiences between artists and audience.
Osoppo also represents a change in the organizational structure with more specialized equipment (the Media Office is developed) that include European partners and unquestionable international projection linked to an increase in foreign audiences. The web is translated into seven languages (English, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Slovenian and German) and bus routes are organized across several countries.
The promotion of reggae culture is reflected in initiatives such as the European Reggae Contest aimed at gathering talent emerging bands (2002-2015).
The self-management system of the Rototom Sunsplash project -based on obtaining income solely through ticket sales and the absence of effective sponsors- proves itself in this phase. In 2003, a decade after its launch, the festival zeroed debt. That same year leaves us a concert to remember, for its hypnotism and intensity, in the history of Rototom: that of Burning Spear.
The golden moment of the Rototom Sunsplash for music, public and projection refers to is darkened by the political and judicial persecution that it begins to suffer from the government in the hands of the right. The fusion and coexistence of cultures that the event promoted clashed with the policy of closing borders that formed a part of the nationalist discourse of Silvio Berlusconi and his Northern League partners. The situation became more complicated following the adoption in 2006 of the Fini-Giovanardi law, declared unconstitutional in 2014 and, which, among other things, proposed up ten years in prison for tolerating the use of drugs such as cannabis inside spaces with leisure and cultural activities. The law criminalized the event -of which it was acquitted in 2015- to the point that it was forced to move from Italy to Spain.
On July 12, 2009 the last edition in Osoppo ends and on the 24th of that same month an Italian expedition of five head to Spain. After seven months of searching and tours of Barcelona, Madrid, Salamanca and even to Galicia and the Basque Country, in February 2010 an agreement with the city of Benicàssim it is reached. The extensive camping area attached to the Benicàssim concerts venue is what shifts the balance. The town in Castellon, that summer hosted the first Spanish Rototom, the 17th in its history, and is where the event continues today.
Benicàssim represents the consolidation of the macrostructure formed in Italy, which continues to grow: more stages and extra-musical areas such as Rototom Circus, in a space of 500,000 square meters that doubles the reggae town created in Osoppo. Its public also grows, with an average of 230,000 people per edition and which has also seen its familiar and child friendly profile grow.
It represents a jump from European to world event. Spain opens the doors for the Rototom Sunsplash to Latin America and it becomes even more international. Proof of this is the celebration from 2011 to 2015 of the Reggae Contest Latino and implementation of festival's global presentation road shows.
Benicàssim adds to the festival's lure with beaches, which reinforces its format as a holiday destination during the event's week of celebrations. Anecdotally, it leaves the weather concerns of the pre-Alpine climate in Osoppo and the habitual wind and torrential rain of the environment in Friuli.
The new and current phase of the festival has maintained the principles and values that guide the actions of the Rototom Sunsplash, as an emblem of defending peace, environment, human rights and sustainable development. The slogan linked to the macro-event, another world is possible, is still alive in Benicàssim as is the community born around reggae and festival.
In August 2015, the festival took the political stance of disinviting the American reggae artist Matisyahu after he refused to state his personal opinion regarding the proposed two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Matisyahu is not Israeli, but he is Jewish.
Matisyahu stated that he never includes his own political views in his shows, he declined to clarify his previous statements in question. It was also reported that other musicians threatened to cancel their performances unless Matisyahu made the declaration supporting Palestinian statehood.
Many human rights groups and the Spanish government suggest that the banning had anti-Semitic overtones. The Spanish foreign minister said: "Imposing a public declaration (from Matisyahu), puts into question the principle of non-discrimination on which all plural and diverse societies are based." The concert included singer Capleton, whose lyrics call for murder of gays and lesbians, was not disinvited.
After strong reactions from various critics and the accusations of anti-Semitism Rototom Sunsplash admitted that cancelling Matisyahu's performance was the wrong decision. The artist was then reinvited to the festival.
In an official statement issued on their web page Rototom Sunplash said: «Rototom Sunsplash rejects anti-Semitism and any form of discrimination towards the Jewish community; we respect both their culture as religious beliefs and we sincerely apologize for what has occurred».