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24 September 2014

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Steel Pulse
Steel Pulse

Reggae Rockz

Review by Tom Edwards, photos by Sarah Loat, BBC
Thousands of people bounced along to the bombastic beats of Reggae Rockz at Centenary Square on Friday 9 September, in celebration of the start of Artsfest 2005.

family at Reggae Rockz
Family fun at Reggae Rockz

This evening of classic reggae, 2-tone and ska was a huge success last year and now it’s returned even bigger and better with 2 massive stages.

Centenary Square has been dramatically transformed and 7.30pm it’s up to ‘the man with the biggest bling’ – the Mayor of Birmingham – to kick things off with a short speech before the entertainment takes over.

Reggae Rockz Young All-Stars

Dancers with the Nechells Gospel Choir
Dancers with the Nechells Gospel Choir

First up is the Reggae Rockz Young All-Stars Youth Group. This is a special project born out of a 10 week summer school for local musicians, singers and dancers aged from 8 to 16 years old.

They combine sparkling vocal harmonies with fancy footwork and the audience lap it up. They manage to get things going with a bang and totally deserve the rapturous applause.

Our comperes tonight are the hilarious Amlak Tafari and bubbly Miss Pinky, who both do an excellent job of engaging the steadily growing crowd, with light hearted between band banter.


Neville Staple and Amlak Tafari
Neville Staple and Amlak Tafari

Next is TuffLuv who are here to play some of the best Lover’s Rock to come out of England. As the sun goes down, the lights come up and the people get into the groove. “Girl your love is like wild fire, spread it all over the world” indeed!

Neville Staple

By 8.30pm the square is absolutely heaving with bodies and for good reason – here comes the King of Ska from Coventry, Neville Staple of The Specials with his band.

Everyone’s loving it (especially the more familiar songs) echoing Amlak’s sentiments that reggae music is all about families coming together and having a good time.


The clear night air fills with the sweet aroma of ‘herbal’ cigarettes mingled with that unmistakable whiff of burger vans and we’re jammin’. The atmosphere is relaxed and peaceful despite being so busy – it’s a fun and safe environment all round.


From some dazzling trombone work, to the stripped down raw drum beats of the Nechells Fellowship of God Gospel Choir. This makes for a truly soulful interlude, albeit a brief one at that.


Dawn Penn
No, no, no.... it's Dawn Penn

After more than 30 years in the reggae game, Gabbidon is a veteran and a real master of slick guitar solos. He easily succeeds in getting the crowd into a frenzied groove – a passionate and polished performance. Spectacular stuff.

Dawn Penn

After that it’s left to the funky Dawn Penn straight from Jamaica, followed by the always impressive The Beat to deliver us towards the highly anticipated headliners.

Steel Pulse

The Beat
The Beat

They rose from Handsworth to become a major force in the reggae world and tonight they showcase material from their newly released and Grammy-nominated album ‘African Holocaust’.

As predicted, the legendary Steel Pulse are absolutely phenomenal tonight. It’s safe to say that the party will continue way beyond the 11pm finish time at least. Purely magical.


Steel Pulse
Steel Pulse

There’re hundreds of free events going on all over Birmingham this weekend. In Centenary Square alone there’s live music of all genres, including hip-hop, rap, folk, jazz, rock and classical. There’s also contemporary dance, DJ sets, choirs, a salsa workshop and even performances by the Royal Ballet and a bhangra band.

So get yourselves down to Artsfest 2005 this weekend and make the most of the largest free arts festival in the UK for the whole family.

See pictures of all the reggae and ska performers at Reggae Rockz - including Steel Pulse, Neville Staple, The Beat and Dawn Penn.
Reggae Rockz in pictures >

last updated: 12/09/05
Have Your Say
Did you see the Reggae Rockz concert? Are you a reggae, ska, or 2-tone fan?
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sean davey
wicked concert,steel pulse were irie!

Adam Yosef
Was there for the launch of Artsfest - The Reggae Rocks concert was fab. I ended up getting a Steel Pulse T-Shirt and look forward to listening to more of African Holocaust. Big thanks to my friend Paul Keene who helped organise the concert and took me backstage to meet Steel Pulse which was totally awesome! Well chuffed! : )

Excellent night, great music, massive thanks to the organisers, wonderful to see Steel Pulse back in their home city, belting out some great reggae. visit my webpage on the concert at: http://andybrouwer.co.uk/bham.html and thanks to the BBC for some great coverage on their website too.

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