Rototom Sunsplash is a large European reggae festival, which takes place every summer in August at Benecassim, a few miles north of Valencia in Spain. The festival imitates the original Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica. Originally hosted in northern Italy, the festival has migrated to the resort-town of Benecassim. Lasting a whopping 8 days, the festival brings some of the biggest names in roots reggae, dancehall, dub and Ska to the sunny shores of the Spanish coast.
A bit of background information on the area it is held in. The festival is located in Benicàssim a beautiful Spanish town with stunning beaches situated between Barcelona and Valencia. The nearest airport is in Valencia but there are also direct transfers from Barcelona so if you are coming to this incredible festival why not take the time to relax after the festival whilst exploring one of these great cities.
I combined this festival with a beach holiday which was perfect for hearing great music and chilling by the beach. As all music aficionados know July and August in England is the music festival season, the usual suspects, Wireless for your one day music festivals, VFestival for the more corporate dipping a toe in festival without getting to dirty and then you have your big boys Bestival in the Isle of Wight and the daddy of all music festivals Glastonbury.
With the end of summer the last bank holiday weekend signalling the culmination of Reggae and Soca on the streets with Notting hill Carnival As you may be able tell I am a bit of a festival aficionado. I have attended all of these over the last 20 years my absolute favourites being Glastonbury and Notting Hill Carnival. Having the opportunity to combine some reggae music with the beach seems a no-brainer as my son and I were in Spain on a family holiday I had to see what Spain could offer in regards to a Reggae Festival, even though feeling a little apprehensive. As one thing London has a handle on, is reggae music.
But for those of you who would like to combine the beach, a festival that is going to nurture not physically kill you and to return with a fantastic tan as you have been skanking on the beach Rototom has to be one to stick on the calendrer for next year. European festivals are
gaining more popularity in the UK due to too many festivals being rained off and becoming the obligatory mud fest. Rototom festival really have got the right balance between, music, relaxation, and picking up some extra knowledge in the many classes that are run at the reggae university on the festival site. For those who want to deepen their knowledge of reggae music and its history.
If you are attending for the first time, fly in to Valencia. You have the choice to camp on site, book into a hotel or drive up in a camper van. Fittingly for a reggae festival the atmosphere at Rototom Sunsplash is relaxed. The festival brings in a diverse crowd, from dreadlocked Rastafarians, to locals with families and children in tow. Try not to be put off by the sweet smell of Weed wafting through the air, no different than walking through the streets of Notting Hill during carnival, remember you are at a reggae festival and vibes will have to be maintained,
This really is the kind of festival where you can bring family members of all ages and kids and mix it up with a group of friends. You have the option to camp at the festival which I am completely used to and it has to be said that the festival is geared up for campers, with clean showers, clean toilets and they provide facilities to cook on if you bring your own food. Various dining tents are set up with tables and camping cookers if you wish to make it a less expensive affair. During the day you can mix it up by getting the beach bus to one of the various Rototom festival beaches for yoga, dance classes or just to relax and take in the cool festival vibes with Reggae music being played on the beach.
Gates open at 1pm this year, which is a good look for the festival attendees who like to familiarise the festival site during the day. Even if there are plenty of activities on Benicassim‘s beaches, it’s great to chill and hang around inside the festival. There are lots of activities that you and the kids can take part in. The Social Forum where you can reflect on the major problems of modern society with renowned speakers, Magico Mundo, circus skills for children and games, Reggae University bringing together artists, writers, journalists and members of the public meetings to reflect, discuss and analyse important aspects and moments of history and culture of reggae. The sessions usually consist of fans listening to an artist’s musical history with a Q&A for journalists and music fans alike with the said artist. So you could be asking Bunny Wailer or Lee Scratch Perry direct questions.
The festival area is spacious, and includes plenty of seats and tables around the food stalls, as well as hammocks and bean bag chairs where festival goers can relax. During the day there are shuttles that go from the festival area to the surrounding beaches, so that everyone attending can make the most of the sunny weather and the coastline.
The festival hosts five stages, each dedicated to a different style. After the headlining acts finish on the main stage, the other stages start playing usually until the early hours of the morning.
There is a little something for everyone. As well as the big names roots reggae, there is a Dub stage for the lovers of electronic music, a Dancehall stage, showcasing a genre of music that is growing increasingly popular in the UK, and a Ska stage for those who go in for a more punky sound, as well as a stage dedicated to new and emerging artist.
The first day of any festival is highly anticipated; most of the people who come to Rototom are here regularly, each year. It is an annual family gathering that is musically connected. This one was very special though as the great Don Dada, Super Cat, performed or the very first time at Rototom‘s Main Stage. After more than 20 years hiatus, he is currently on a short tour across Europe, and kicked off Rototom 2015 with an almighty start. It was wonderful to see such a true reggae legend still rolling with the punches. So many artists so little time. Junior Marvin and his Wailers, Bunny Wailer, Lee Scratch Perry, Jah Cure, Popcaan ripped up the main stage, musical sensation Hollie Cook is one to watch and a straight out of London, soulful reggae sensation. I stayed for 3 days before going back to our beach hotel but completely wished I had stayed for longer as the musical content at this festival is second to none. You are guaranteed to see some of the best greats and new shooting stars in the world of reggae at this festival. If you want to combine a festival with some great reggae music, and be beside the beach, I say Viva Espania with Rototom a five star festival,with five star music.
Written by Natasha Julien
The Itchy Feet Guide 2019