Sunday, 10 May 2020


One of Europe’s most popular reggae festivals has become another casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic, joining the list of arts events that have had to cancel their 2020 presentations or move to a virtual format because of the global health crisis.

Ziggy Marley performing at Reggae Sun Ska in 2019.
(Photo courtesy of the festival.)
The festival, Reggae Sun Ska, held annually for 22 years in France’s Médoc wine region, announced that it would not take place this year but would be back in August 2021. It also launched the hashtag #SunSkaSoonCome.

“This is usually the time when we count the days before the doors open… when the excitement of organizing this festival so dear to us becomes palpable, and when we look forward to hearing the bass reverberating on stage and festival-goers rushing to the entrance with their smiles,” stated the organizers.

“But after growing uncertainty… we must resign ourselves to cancelling the festival this year.”

The three-day event is known for bringing together music fans to enjoy reggae, calypso, zouk, dancehall and other forms of Caribbean music now performed globally.

Singer Tiken Jah Fakoly at Reggae Sun Ska 2019.
(Photo courtesy of the festival.)
In 2019, some 27,500 spectators traveled from far and wide to see internationally renowned artists such as Jamaica’s Buju Banton and Ziggy Marley; Trinidad’s Calypso Rose; France’s Dub Inc; Brazil’s Flavia Coelho; and Ivory Coast’s Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly. According to participants, the shows were some of the best put on by the festival, the largest event of its kind in France.

The 2020 line-up was to have included young Grammy winner Koffee, Zouk pioneers Kassav and legendary UK band Steel Pulse. But despite remaining “mobilized to move forward”, organizers said the decision to cancel was “inevitable” when the French government announced that public gatherings would be restricted after the end of lockdown on May 11.

Still, the festival has got used to dealing with setbacks over the years, surviving criticism and debates about what Reggae Sun Ska means for the Médoc region and having to relocate from one venue to another. The organizers say they are determined to guarantee the event’s “longevity”, and, alongside the music, they now offer a range of well-being activities, including outdoor yoga and dance.

A poster announces the 2021 Reggae Sun Ska dates.
“Sun Ska is a spirit, it's a family, it's a way of life, a way to think, a philosophy, and this state of mind is nothing Utopian,” said the event’s director Fred Lachaize, following the success of last year.

“Living together, learning together, co-building, recalling the essential values that make up our education and our daily life. This is the basis of our … collective gathering,” he stressed.

Lachaize and his team said the festival would “overcome this new obstacle to offer an unparalleled edition in 2021”.

Acknowledging that the arts sector is among the hardest hit by the pandemic, the festival organizers also called for support in ensuring that cultural events continue to exist, and they expressed concern for the vast numbers of people who’ve contracted Covid-19 as well as for workers on the frontlines.

“We often talk about ‘well-being’ and ‘living well together’ at Sun Ska, so let's take care of ourselves and others,” they urged. – SWAN

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