JAmusic: How long have you been working with Rototom?
SK: More than ten years, I started when I was a teenager and my first experience was helping cleaning in the Rivellino Park of Osoppo (the place where the Festival used to be before being forced to move to Spain), and then step by step going through the kitchen and the info point now I’m at Media Office.
JAmusic: And in the Media Office how long have you been?
SK: I started as a collaborator working with some selected media four years ago and then the collaboration got bigger every year and for this year’s Festival I worked for the whole year promoting Rototom and working with the media. I mainly work with the specialized Reggae media, which are the main part of the media here, but also with the local and national general media with which we have some good relations.
JAmusic: You are from Osoppo and started working at Rototom there, how did you deal with the moving of the Festival to Spain?
SK: Well actually I have been really lucky because I was already attending the University here in Spain, in Salamanca, three years before they moved to Benicassim. So we can say I was kind of blessed (laughs), ‘cause I didn’t have any cultural shock, I knew the language already and most of all I already knew the Spanish Reggae scene. Plus, I was born in Osoppo but I’ve always dreamt to live near the sea, so to be able to live and work here wasn’t a problem at all! (Laughs)
JAmusic: Can you tell us what were the some of the reasons why Rototom was forced to leave Italy and move to Spain?
SK: Mainly what made the Festival move was a deep narrow mindedness in Italy. And when I say narrow mindedness I mean a few different things: I’m talking about the process that the President of Rototom, Filippo Giunta, had to sustain because he was accused to facilitate and support the use of drugs just because he organized a Reggae festival – and by the way it happened under a law, the ‘Fini – Giovanardi’, which has recently been declared as unconstitutional by the Italian Constitutional Court, so this process doesn’t even deserve more words – then I’m talking about the general political situation in Italy and in the Region of Friuli (where Osoppo is, edit.): we were in 2009 with the Berlusconi government, and if it’s already difficult to promote culture in a country like Italy, it is even more difficult when you have a government made of people like those.
JAmusic: I noticed that here in Benicassim there are a few more stages compared to how it was in Italy.
SK: Actually there were a few stages in Italy too. We had the Showcase Stage in Osoppo as well, but it’s true that it didn’t have the relevance that it has here. What is totally new is the Ska Club because it’s a style which is really loved in Spain and so we thought it could have been a good way to give an opportunity to the lots of Spanish ska bands – but we have also several international bands - to show themselves. Plus ska is something that perfectly fits into the philosophy of the Festival and with the Jamaican music and culture.
The Dub Academy definitely grew bigger as we went from the Dub Room in Osoppo to the Dub Station to this year’s Academy. And last but not least the Dancehall area is one of the most interesting stages of the Festival.
JAmusic: How was the festival for you this year?
SK: Personally it went great, definitely the best edition so far. And I can easily say that the whole organization is very happy regarding how everything is going. Every department of the organization works well together with the others and we didn’t have any problem at all; I think we can say that after 21 years we are a well-organized Festival. And not only that: the feeling we got from the media and from the artists that both in person and in the press conference have always thanked us and said we have showed that we are the best Reggae festival in the world. Busy Signal, Aplha Blondy, Junior Kelly and many more said that, and whoever comes to the Sunsplash from they put their feet out of the plane is well assisted and followed. There’s a good vibe here and that’s our trademark and what differentiate us from other festivals: the chance to be part of a community sharing a positive energy that we all feel when we’re here and when everyone does his best to be in harmony with the others and to make sure everyone else is feeling good. And you can see this either if you stay with the audience, in the media press or backstage with the artists, and that’s what really makes us different, the way we deal with each other.
JAmusic: And indeed a lot of artists choose to remain here for a few days, Kabaka for example, it’s a week that appears on every possible stage.
SK: Yes! And Chronixx told us that it was very exciting to be here because they were exactly as they are in Jamaica: him, Kabaka, Jesse Royal, Jah9, Infinite they all said that. And we are happy because we offer them the chance to come to Europe and see and live a different thing while maintaining a familiar environment for the artists.
JAmusic: You had on stage a band from Venezuela, who came here after winning the Latin Reggae Contest, can you tell us something about the idea of the contest and how it is spreading to South America?
SK: The Reggae Contest idea was born 11 years ago and at first it was for the young Italian bands. Then it became a European Contest with six zone’s contests and a European final with the winner of every zone. This year we had the final in Bordeaux in collaboration with the Reggae Sun Ska Festival and it was won by the Wailing Trees band. One of the main aims of the Contest, for us, is to create links, both for the artists and the promoters. For South America we brought there this concept and it’s having a huge success; the Latin Reggae Contest is organized exactly like the European one, and we managed to create there lots of links with the bands and the promoters. Most of the events are free so that more people can get familiar with the music and the young bands can have a bigger audience. We have to say that in South America the whole idea has been adopted in a very ‘fresh’ way because the Reggae scene there is growing very fast and it’s amazing to see that at Rototom events we fill big arenas. Lots of people are bringing on the message of the Festival in South America and at the same time we are getting a lot of new ideas back, which is always something important.
JAmusic: During the years here at Rototom you’ve had all the biggest names, last year Damian Marley, this year Lauryn Hill, who you’d like to see that hasn’t been at Rototom yet?
SK: Since we have Lauryn Hill this year, next one I’d love to have Erykah Badu. And for the Jamaican contemporary music, honestly, after Damian Marley last year I don’t know if I can ask for anything more! I wanted to see Chronixx last year and he came on this edition so… The artistic department works very well and they always manage to make everyone happy with an eye open not only for reggae music but also for contaminations, and rightly so.