It goes without saying that the spiritual home of reggae, and the place that still plays host to its most revered festivals, is the Caribbean (Jamaica in particular).
But that’s not to say there aren’t any options for the European reggae fan. In fact, the continent has a rich offering of festivals that celebrate the music and the culture, bringing together stars of the scene from the Caribbean, from Europe and from across the globe.
So here’s a selection of the very best, to give you a flavour of what’s on offer without the need to book flights to Jamaica.
Headliners: Marteria, Gentleman, Ziggy Marley
Since 1985, German festival Summerjam has been one of Europe’s most respected reggae festivals. Although the lineup now also encompasses hip hop (Ty Dolla Sign, MHD), the primary focus remains on reggae, and the program is consistently packed with the genre’s leading lights.
When & Where: 6-8 July 2018; Cologne, Germany
Headliners (2019): Mad Proffesor, Lee Scratch Perry, Dub Pistols
Seasplash Festival shares a home with celebrated bass music festival Outlook, and while the latter celebrates soundsystem culture, it ventures more into dubstep, drum & bass, grime and garage. Although not afraid to explore some of these areas, Seasplash Festival is more firmly rooted in the reggae, dub and ska of the culture’s origins.
When & Where: 18-19 July 2019; Sibenik, Croatia
Reggae Sun Ska
Headliners (2019): Ziggy Marley, Dub Inc, Morcheeba, Calypso Rose
There aren’t many reggae festivals in the world, let alone Europe, that regularly boast lineups as impressive as Reggae Sun Ska. From scene veterans and revered soundsystems to exciting modern talent from the newest generation of reggae stars, the festival showcases the very best that the scene has to offer.
When & Where: 2-4 August 2019; Vertheuil, France
Uppsala Reggae Festival
Headliners: Jimmy Cliff, Alborosie & Shengen Clan, Tarrus Riley & The Blak Soil Band
Scandinavia’s biggest reggae festival returned in 2017 after some time away. The scale is now slightly smaller than it once was, but it retains the spirit of the festival that has previously welcomed hundreds of reggae icons from all generations.
When & Where: 27-28 July 2018; Uppsala, Sweden
Headliners (2019): Ziggy Marley, Chronixx, Busy Signal, Queen Ifrica, Israel Vibration, Marcia Griffiths
Calling itself theEuropean reggae festival, Rototom Sunsplash is a week-long celebration of reggae music and culture. Workshops, forums and seminars compliment the hugely impressive lineup, all united in promoting a message of peace, love and solidarity.
When & Where: 16-22 August 2019; Benicassim, Spain
Headliners (2019): Ms. Lauryn Hill, Chase & Status (DJ Set) & Rage, Jo Mersa Marley, Elephant Man, Nneka
Although it may not be the first place that springs to mind when thinking about reggae, much of central and eastern Europe has a rich appreciation for the culture. Slovakia’s Uprising Festival is not afraid to explore reggae’s ongoing influence, showcasing drum & bass, jungle, dubstep and dancehall alongside the more traditional roots sounds.
When & Where: 23-24 August 2019; Bratislava, Slovakia
Ruhr Reggae Summer (Dortmund & Mülheim)
Dortmund Headliners:Patrice, Beenie Man, Macka B
Mülheim Headliners: Alpha Blondy, Protoje, Ky-Mani Marley
The Dortmund edition kicks off the summer for European reggae festivals in style. The second part of the region’s annual reggae celebration shares the passion for the culture with its sibling festival, but the lineup is completely different; meaning German reggae fans have even greater opportunity to celebrate the music that they love.
When & Where: 31 May – 2 June and 10-12 August 2018; Dortmund and Mülheim, Germany
Dub Camp Festival
Headliners (2019): Mungo’s Hi Fi, King Shiloh Sound System ft. Black Omolo & Red Lion
Situated in France’s northwest, on the edge of a man-made lake, Dub Camp invites a expansive lineup of soundsystems, singers, selectors, deejays and more to the picturesque rural site. What’s more, the festival has a firm commitment to environmentalism and an eco-friendly approach.
When & Where: 11-14 July 2019; Joué-sur-Erdre, France
Headliners (2017): Jah Cure, Steel Pulse, Christopher Martin
The oldest reggae festival in Europe, Reggae Geel has been held each year since 1979. In that time, countless legends of the scene have made their way to the Belgian city, each year further confirming the festival’s status as a European reggae institution.
When & Where: 3-5 August 2018; Geel, Belgium
Nomade Reggae Festival
Headliners (2019): Alborosie, Sinsemilia, Israel Vibration
Organised by a charitable organisation, proceeds from the festival go towards building a medical centre in the rural Malian community of Sanankoroba. And even without the appeal of the admirable work they do, the lineup boasts true legends of the genre across three days in the southeast of France.
When & Where: 2-4 August 2019; Frangy, France