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Rototom Sunsplash in Benicassim -- The Love Edition | FESTIVALPHOTO

Rototom Sunsplash in Benicassim -- The Love Edition


The days following a festival are always a tell-tale for me. I use them as a way to observe myself and determine what kind of affect the festival had on me, and the ways in which my festival-life-mentality has carried over and infiltrated my “normal life.” Rototom Sunsplash in Benicassim, Spain, officially ended on Sunday, but in my heart, it is still going. That is a really good sign.

The 20th Edition of Rototom Sunsplash, which took place from August 17-24 on the eastern coast of Spain, was deemed The Love Edition. This name couldn’t have been more perfect for the festival. Every person that I interacted with, from the officer telling us where to go to pay and check in for parking, to the person who took the payment and gave us the sticker for the parking, to the ticket window workers, all the festival staff, wristband checkers, info point people, and everyone in between were all smiles and hello’s. But in an atmosphere of that kind, how could you not smile?

I was in Benicassim for 10 days, and in those days, I was given a chance to live at one with such a wonderful variety of the earth’s creatures, and I am so grateful for that. The festival itself was seven days, but there was so much to do and see, that I know we all needed more time to do, see, and Be.

During the day, the schedule of activities, workshops, presentations, talks, and demonstrations was extensive. You could find anything and everything to do during the day from yoga and meditation classes next to the beach, Tai Chi classes, slack line demonstrations, didgeridoo workshops, cooking lessons, African dance workshops, shopping, eating, sleeping by the sea, or just enjoying a solid wander around the festival grounds with no plan in mind. The world was our oyster, and we could do it all! There were so many people to learn from, listen to, and interact with, that the entire week I was conflicted.

On the one hand, I wanted to spend my days in the festival, going to the talks and workshops, or walking around and talking to the vendors, but on the other hand, I wanted to spend my days at the beach, taking the classes, soaking up the sun, swimming in the sea, or going to the Rototom Beach of the day to enjoy music and dancing in the sand. The days were so full of good things to do, that they had me considering every single night if I would go into the festival for the concerts, or just get a good night’s sleep so I could really take on the next day feeling fresh.

One of the best days I had in the festival was by myself just walking around. I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I decided to walk around and look at all the things that were being sold (I think I had 5€ baskets full of clothes on my mind;). I ended up spending the afternoon with different vendors, and got to see the festival from a completely different side. It was such a blessed afternoon, full of culturally rich exchanges, conversations, and witnessing a generosity from human-to-human that left me feeling so inspired. The people that come to this festival to work and/or sell could potentially overshadow all the other great things it has to offer. And that is such a good thing to be able to say and share. It all reflected the overall festival culture that Rototom cultivates – to give, to live, to love.

But of course, to continue on and on (which I could) about all the great activities that happen during the day, the fact the beach and supermarket are walking distance from the festival grounds, and all the awesome people there are to meet and share some earth time with, would be neglecting what could arguably be the biggest draw of Rototom…the music!

Rototom Sunsplash is one of the top reggae music festivals in the world. The list of talent at this festival is so long, to even list a quarter of the names would be too much. The entire time I was there I was dancing. Whether it was in transition from one stage to another, or unintentional grooving because I just couldn’t help it, my body was moving in this way or that. And don’t even try while you’re there to say, “Yeah, I am pretty tired, I think I will go back to camp and call it a night.” Because I can promise you, no matter how much it’s been in your head that you’re going to bed, because you have held on for an extra half hour from the first time you realized how tired you were, that as you are going back to camp, you will pass by a music area that makes you stop, and you will keep dancing. So you might as well just stay in the moment, stay with the beat, and dance, dance, dance, even if your feet aren’t moving and it’s all in your mind!

Old talent, new talent, big names, and unheard of bands, all could be found in the Rototom line up. Damien Marley was undoubtedly one of the festival’s biggest names this year, but truth-be-told, I didn’t enjoy his set nearly as much as I did others. His performance didn’t quite give me what I was looking for, but I did love knowing I was standing so close to the same blood that ran through the legend himself, Bob Marley. I also loved to see the change the festival underwent this night. Damien performed on Saturday of the festival, and during the week, there had been a pretty steady flow of people coming with each passing day. But on Saturday, oh my goodness, the flow of people coming in did not end! It was crazy to see how many people were arriving just for Saturday night. After his set was finished, I loved to watch the people who had likely only gone for his set, settle into a new rhythm, of a potentially new style of music, they hadn’t enjoyed before. I myself left the festival with a healthy addiction to ska that I plan to celebrate often.

Some of the performances that stuck out in my mind came from the likes of Dub Inc (probably one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen), Nneka, Skatalites, Roy Ellis, and Jah Tubby’s ft. Professor Natty and Gregory Fabulous ft. Macky Banton, just to name a few. The festival was dripping with talent from morning to night, and I am sure I will spend many weeks trying to recall all the epic sets that I saw.

When I think of Rototom, I think of thousands of beautiful people walking around everywhere, coming together to share their love of reggae music and learn and share the Rasta culture. I think of a culture and society that has been created to bring people together from all over the world, so they can live in harmony with one another, and break down the barriers that are created between us in the outside world. I think of good food, good music, and great times. And I think of friendships and family that were formed, friendships that were explored and deepened, and friendships that were missed, remembered. It was an overall, really beautiful experience, and I am so proud to have spent my time there. I cannot wait for the next edition of Rototom Sunsplash, so I can go home and just let my freak flag wave with the best of them once more! Thank you Rototom for all you do, and all you are, we love you!

Writer: Allison Fedor
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