On January 12, 2002, history was made in New Zealand as Raglan hosted its very first outdoor Eco Reggae Festival, “Soundsplash.” From all over the island, reggae fans came to experience and participate in what was being called ‘a spiritual celebration for the nation….a conscience rhythm for Gaia to resonate.’ Representing the conscience vibes were some of the countries finest Roots/Reggae/Dub artists who kept the people’s spirits high through the lightening, rain, and sunshine for the two-day fest.
Set on the untamed West Coast, two hours south of Auckland, Raglan is famous in New Zealand for its legendary surf break. Only five hundred meters from the festival site, surfers could be spotted from dawn till dusk ripping it up at the National Surfing Competition, which was held the same weekend. Raglan, or Whaingaroa as it is called by the Maori indigenous people, has an obvious spiritual presence. The site draws a large community of musicians and artists who acknowledge the importance of living in harmony with the elements. A place of creativity, Raglan generates an energy ideal for Soundsplash and its vision.
A clear eco-friendly message was expressed throughout festival. Organic cuisine, coffee and fresh juices dominated the food stalls. Hangi, a traditional Maori style of cooking food in the earth, was available from local board riders club Te Ngaru Roa A Maui. They were fundraising to promote the idea that those who participate in Tangaroa’s (god of the sea) environment should respect and understand it. Banners, merchandise and flyers were seen everywhere promoting a clean, green and G.E.-free New Zealand. The slogan, ‘Keep it in the lab,’ could clearly be seen on the T-shirts worn by Wellington group Trinity Roots.
The main stage was sheltered from the sea, positioned within a naturally shaped amphitheatre. Opening the show were local bands Native Sons and Katchafire. Their jazz and funk-influenced reggae rhythms filled the arena with a contagious vibrant energy. As the lush green grass in front of the stage quickly turned into a dark brown puddle of mud, the concert-goers dropped their pretenses, kicked their shoes off and everyone surrendered to the mud and the music. People continued to pour into the arena after the sun had set and the clouds cleared exposing a deep star filled sky. Hip-Hop/Reggae artist King Kapisi rocked the crowd as well as household name Che Fu on tour with his band The Krates promoting the release of his second and much loved album “Navigator.”
Hot new talent Trinity Roots, The Black Seeds, and Fat Freddy’s Drop played in the early hours of the morning, representing Wellington’s distinct new reggae style. Mixing jazz, rock and blues with deep dub and raw roots, their richly textured sound is spiced with a large dose of spontaneity and originality. Filled with emotion, the singer/guitarist of Trinity Roots, Warren Maxwell, performs with a passion similar to that of Ben Harper. The soulful freestyling of Fat Freddy’s Dallas Tamaira, accompanied by trumpet, saxophone, guitar and DJ Mu’s homemade beats, kept the crowd moving until dawn.
A spectacular rainbow stretching across the harbour in the soft morning sunlight welcomed the beginning of the day. Tired but rejuvenated, those left standing marvelled and gave thanks to Gaia.
Many thanks to the vision and hard work of the presenters, The Motherland collective, and all the other artists spreading the positive musical vibes at Soundsplash: David Papa Levi & Statement, Selector X, Jules Issa, Capt Silva, Weave, Eight, Sonar, Druloks, Rainbow Country, Lionheart, Cornerstone Roots, Unity Pacific, Sgt Benji/Tuffy Culture, Nandor and Bassteppa Sound System. To find out more about New Zealand New Reggae visit www.newzealandmusic.com.