Review: Sunsplash reggae festival, Benicassim, Spain

By Chrissie Daniels

Arriving at Sunsplash Reggae Festival through a sea of dreadlocks and red, yellow and green was an experience I will never forget.

Photo used under Creative Commons by uvafragolo

In the town of Benicassim, Spain, the ten day August festival boasts reggae stars from all over the world.

With the 40-degree heat burning our necks my boyfriend and I, as festival virgins, gingerly approached the entrance with anticipation. What greeted us was delicious smells from stalls selling spicy chicken and fish, African women trying to persuade me to have my hair braided and of course the sound of the reggae music we both love.

We weren’t sure whether camping would be for us so we booked a hotel for our first night to be on the safe side. This was the best decision we ever made. The campsite was packed, crammed full of people high as kites looking more familiar with a bottle of vodka than a shower.

Ziggy and Rita Marley headlined the first night, Rita was Bob Marley’s wife and Ziggy is their son. Ziggy’s sound is more electric than his father’s, captivating the audience with his guitar skills. The real treat was Rita joining him on stage to sing Bob Marley classic One Love, the crowd raised their fingers and lighters in appreciation. It was a poignant moment, a reminder of what a legend Bob Marley is and an insight into how many people still adore his music today.

Former UB40 frontman Ali Campbell performed on night three. As massive UB40 fans we muscled our way to the front. Ali performed UB40 hits, including Cherry oh Baby but the crowd pleaser, unsurprisingly, was Red Red Wine.

The final night brought the performance we looked forward to the most. Ken Boothe, reggae legend was headlining. His set was by far the best of the festival. Ever the entertainer, Boothe danced and jumped around; pretty impressive for a man of 63! He sang perfectly, seeing him live enforced how strong his voice is. My favourite, Crying Over You, had the crowd singing along and when Artibella came on the feeling was electrifying. Everyone was dancing, including Boothe, and it was a great way for us to end an incredible experience.

We boarded our Easyjet flight back to Gatwick and began reflecting on the festival. Then a familiar face walked on: Ken Boothe. Starstruck, we both sat shaking not knowing what to do when he sat a row behind us. I gently pulled at his shirt as he placed his bags in the locker and exclaimed, “We are your biggest fans!” To which he replied, “Then that is why I am on the plane with you today”.

After take-off we got his autograph, he was very humble and happy to meet us. After we landed, we took photos with him and he left for Jamaica while we drove back to Hastings. It was the perfect end to a perfect week. Will we go again? Yeah, man!


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