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By Richard Johnson—
Observer senior reporter


IT’s been nearly 40 years since Nadine Sutherland burst onto the local music scene. And despite a successful career, she had never performed in continental Europe — until last Saturday.

The singer made her debut at Rototom Sunsplash — Europe’s largest reggae festival held in Benicassim, Spain.

“It was pretty incredible,” said Sutherland, who is known for hits including Until, Young One Like Me, Action, and Anything For You.

Nadine Sutherland at Rototom

Nadine Sutherland at Rototom

“It was utterly amazing on so many levels. Yes, there is the performance and me standing there in front of thousands at this stage of my career. I’m nearly 50 and in an age where there are so many young, fresh acts, to have this experience is wonderful. But personally, one of the great takeaways is just seeing the gamut of Jamaican culture on display and how it was made into a commodity that was being consumed by persons with a voracious appetite. The entire festival was like a great menu of Jamaican culture and persons could pick and choose what they wanted to consume, and they did,” she continued.

Sutherland was also struck being one of the panelists at one of the daily reggae university sessions.

“I thought they wanted me to present, but what I didn’t realize is that I was the one being presented. I clearly got it mixed up when I got there; I realized that Beenie Man and I were the ones who would be on show. The presenters did their research and knew everything about me and my music, so when they spoke about my early years they immediately played Starvation on the Land — my first tune. They knew all my music. Unlike what happens here where people don’t talk about the work I have done after the 1990s, this European audience was asking about current stuff,” she remarked.

Beenie Man, Nadine at Reggae University

Beenie Man, Nadine at Reggae University

She was concerned with ensuring that her audience was treated to a strong set. However, getting ill was not factored in.

“I don’t know if it was the long journey to get there, but I was really sick by Saturday. My breathing was off and my voice was not 100 per cent. But I just kept taking myself through it. There was no way I was going to make it to Spain, on the largest reggae festival on the continent, and not perform… it was just not gonna happen.”

“I got a great outfit from a stylist in London and just before I went on stage, the shoes started feeling uncomfortable, so I just kicked them off and did the entire performance barefooted. Hearing the more than 20,000 persons in the venue singing your songs with you is an amazing experience. I had 25 minutes to perform so my set, including Wicked and Wild, Babyface, Inna mi Blood and thanks to choregorapher Michael Holgate, I could incorporate some of great moves during the drum interlude.”

On the final night of the festival Sutherland shared the stage with fellow Jamaicans U-Roy, Big Youth and Luciano. Other Jamaicans booked for the festival included Chronixx, Shaggy, Ky-Mani Marley, Toots and the Maytals, Christopher Martin, Raging Fyah, Aidonia, Turbulence, and Lutan Fyah.

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