Jah Rules at Santiago's Vibration Festival

Expect some big dubby beats to be booming off the mountains this coming weekend as Santiago’s eastern suburbs stage the third Vibration Festival, one of Chile’s biggest reggae events, and surely the perfect spot for some late summer, open air roots and rhythms. The event in La Reina, a short distance from the arid trails and panoramic city views of Parque Mahuida, is headlined by Gondwana, main players on the South American reggae scene, and Californian dub-fusion maestros, Groundation.

Groundation (image courtesy of Vibration Fest.)
Groundation (image courtesy of Vibration Fest.)

Gondwana have been around for some 25 years, with big, anthemic tunes such as ‘Armonia de Amor’ and ‘Sentimiento Original’, and a catchy style that has brought them much success in Spanish-speaking countries. There is a radio-friendliness that has helped their mainstream appeal, a rounded slickness which may not be to the taste of all dedicated dread-heads, and musically they take influence from the eighties reggae sound of bands such as Black Uhuru and Third World. To this observer, Gondwana lack the multilayered depth that gives much modern reggae its scope, and is evident in more accomplished, but lesser-known, Chilean bands such as 12 Tribus or Kitra. Frontman Quique Neira has, however, been involved in a number of interesting collaborations and the band’s popularity and undeniably heavy rhythms should ensure that there’ll be a bouncing crowd for their show.

Chile's Gondwana (image courtesy of Vibration Fest.)
Chile's Gondwana (image courtesy of Vibration Fest.)

In comparison, Groundation play contemporary reggae as it’s meant to be: theirs is a sound fused with elements of jazz, soul and African blues allayed by a fearsome moodiness to the music, while singer Harrison Stafford´s distinct vocal rasp is laced with the sufferation that is such a key aspect of reggae’s darker, more introspective side. Live performances are renowned for giddy levels of musical improvisation that opens up new dimensions to the band’s sound and marks Groundation out at the forefront of today's progressive reggae sound (have a listen to 'Head Strong' or 'Freedom Taking Over'. This will be the first time they’ve played in Chile and comes as part of their ‘South American Bob Marley Tribute’ tour, in which the first half of the band’s set will be from their ten-album back catalogue, while the second part will be comprised of re-workings of old Marley tunes.

Poster (image courtesy of Vibration Fest.)
Poster (image courtesy of Vibration Fest.)

Prior to the headliners, the Vibration Festival hosts the final of the Chilean section of the Reggae Contest Latino, a snappy title that refers to a continental project to promote new bands, as well as artistic and cultural initiatives through Reggae music. It also focuses on the intrinsic qualities of the genre, universal themes of peace, tolerance, respect and nature, and aims to showcase to young people the importance of social conscience. There will be six Chilean bands taking part, with the winners being sent to the South American finals in Argentina, and the overall winner from the participating countries of Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay and Chile playing the main stage at this year’s Sunsplash Festival in Spain. It promises to be a great chance to check out the emerging sounds of the Chilean reggae scene.

The scene in Chile is home to a number of bands that merge the loping rhythms and surging basslines that provide the fundamental core of the music with distinct Latin influences to inject Chilean reggae with a new lease of life. Reggae remains relatively underground in Santiago, with only a couple of venues firmly dedicated to the music but, as well as some innovative musicians, there are a fair few sound system crews putting on parties in the city. If you’re keen to find out more, the Chile Rastafari website is an excellent place to find out what’s going on.

The Vibration Festival takes place this Sunday 17th March from 3pm at, La Aldea de Encuentro, Avenida Larraín 9750, La Reina

Tickets ($10,000 - $15,000) are available from the following stores: Irie Concept (Galeria Dos Caracoles, Providencia); Soma (Jose Miguel de la Barra 454, Santiago Centro); Seed’s Bank (Av. Providencia 2594 and Av. Irarrázaval 3283, Ñuñoa)

To get to the festival, take the metro to Plaza Egaña (Line 4), from where you can catch a bus (numbers 403, 422 and D8 all go to the venue) in the direction of the cordillera. Alternatively, there are cycle lanes from Ñuñoa along Simon Bolívar, La Reina and Larraín.

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