Interviews: Back To Africa Festival 2013

April 7, 2013

For the second year running United Reggae was present at Mad Professor’s Back To Africa festival at his compound in the coastal village of Batukunku in Gambia. With many of the logistical teething problems from 2012 solved the three day programme ran smoothly, with only Winston McAnuff’s appearance on the Saturday being cut short by speeches from local dignitaries and a brief powercut on the Sunday holding up proceedings.

There were fewer foreign visitors and the lineup was considerably scaled back from 2012, with no live band. But the festival concept and demographic had shifted more to bringing UK based artists to Africa for the benefit of the local people, who gathered in their hundreds when night fell.

Lively up-tempo deejay appearances by General Levy on the Friday and Dego Ranks on the Saturday were particularly well received by the African youth, yet singers and mellower sounds also had their place. Highlights included an extraordinary performance from Dennis Bovell – using just his voice, a sampler, Black Steel and Lady Dread on harmonies and Professor’s son Joe Ariwa on the decks – and the lovers rock beach party where a mix of dreamy UK and JA romantic classics and the soul covers that inspired them were accompanied by scorching sunshine and steel drums.

When Prof played his dub set dwarfed by towering pylons and the charismatic sky his music, a more mechanised reggae than Bob Marley’s, seemed at home in the mixture of beautiful countryside and industrial growth of modern Africa. United Reggae asked various singers, deejays, players of records and instruments and festival goers what the concept of Back To Africa meant to them. Here are the answers they gave.

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