The Events Kahuna: The Sixth Edition of Reggae In The Sun

Reggae In The Sun 2018 Review 10

Vincent Liboso returns to Dunga Road’s best kept secret, The Go Down Arts Centre for the sixth edition of the 11-hour Reggae In The Sun event.

Nairobi Kenya – To hear some of the best roots reggae bands, artists and deejays to come out of Nairobi you have to drive on a Saturday morning to Dunga Road’s best kept secret, The Go Down Arts Centre.

As you drive, you watch Nairobi and her skyscrapers unfurl behind, eventually arriving not at a recording studio, but Over 10,000square meters of performance, rehearsal, studios and office space hidden in between the manufacturing and industrial go downs of Nairobi’s industrial area hub.

The Centre provides the first Kenyan multi-disciplinary space for arts and host organizations representing a variety of art-form and also residence programs. The Godown Art Centre brings artists and audiences together in ways that refresh, challenge and inspire. And towards end of this year, this old space is set to be demolished to pave way to a modern art space in a project dubbed #GoDownTransforms (but that is a story for another day).

After last year’s downpour, the set-up this year is a bit different. The food tents on one end encircle the crowd with the main stage on the opposite end. Inside the main stage arena where the live sessions took place, the deejays decks tower at the front room. Muzikal Sheriff is playing some cool reggae roots music even as MCs Princess Wakesho of Reggae Republic and Philipo rocking a red, yellow and gold t-shirt imprinted the famous quote by Bob Marley, “Get up, Stand Up” take the mics to welcome the revelers.

At the restaurant, Ras Benji, founder of Roots Connection Band, which will be backing four artists today, is enjoying his ‘Dawa’ cocktail (Commonly referred to as Dawa, which is derived from the Swahili word meaning “Medicine”, it comprises of hot water, ginger, lime juice and honey garnished). We make acquaintances again having first connected at Diani Beach Festival. An audience with the latter is quite an experience.

sipping his Dawa on intervals, he rhapsodises about the history of Jamaican Reggae Roots music, breaking off into poetic ruminations on the nature of life, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie and, his visits to UK and Ethiopia. Yet his focus always returns to the music.

Gravitti Band are first on stage. With their organic arrangements and gentle, meditative rhythms, they set the stage for what lies ahead. DJs, MCs and live acts perform in short sets, a little like reggae speed-dating. Exiting the stage, Gravitti Band give rise to Teargas The Entertainer. His Dynamq “Remember The Days In Nairobi” dubplate is a crowd’s favourite.

Out on the terrace, after giving out his mixtape CDs and exiting the stage, we catch up with Teargas. Short in stature but with an upbeat personality, he is quite shocked to realize we had already made acquaintances on the social media alleys. Nonetheless, the personal meet-up today for him is a blessing.

“Keep writing about the culture,” Teargas charges us. Representing a younger generation voice, Shamir is up next on stage backed by the Roots Connection Band.

Man a gallis. That is why I sing for the ladies,” Shamir is quick to explain – a term in Jamaican patois that refers to a man who loves girls. Softly spoken, we watch him lyrically put those words into practice, delivering a passionate performance.

Miss Ebony Selekta, the only female deejay on the lineup takes the stage after Shamir. Armed with another Dynamq dubplate, the towering speaker stacks once again tremble. She manages to entertain the crowd, smashing the dance.

Jah Lyric performance is up next. His entry is ceremonial even as one of his team members takes the stage first waving the Kenyan fag. With a huge army led by the Agugu Gaga sound sytem, Jah Lyrics music manages to put a packed crowd through its paces.

Reggae once again morphs on stage with DJ Patiz. A joyous celebration. Not even the rain drizzling outside is enough to kill this vibe. With one more last performance, Lavosti and The Roots Connection Band take the stage. And what a performance they delivered. With an unrehearsed request, the crowd charges Lavosti to do a Buju Banton cover amidst chants of Free Buju.

I bet wherever Buju is he might have heard that energy. And perhaps even smiled in admiration as Lavosti poured his heart out. Appreciating the beauty and calm of Reggae In The Sun, the event is perhaps key to understanding the appeal of reggae roots music in Nairobi, far away from its origins in Jamaica.

Muzikal Sheriff once again takes the stage but not for long. He humbly leaves the decks to DJ Brownskin, taking over the role of the MC now. After all, while DJs, bands and artists reunite, reggae’s roots still run deep, in love and in unity.

As we exit The Go Down heading to The Carnivore Grounds for the Rick Ross headlined, NRG Wave concert, the vibe is just right…

Writer: Vincent Liboso