Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Kenya: Reggae Festival to Go Live With Israel Vibration

The Nation (Nairobi)
May 21, 2006
by Fred Orido

Jamaican reggae trio Israel Vibration will be in Nairobi for the annual Reggae Summerfest. The threesome, Skeleton (Cecil Spence), Apple Gabriel (Albert Craig) and Lascelle Bulgin (Wiss), are expected to fly in for the festival, scheduled for September 7.

Members of Israel Vibration group on stage entertaining fans in one of their many live shows. The group will grace this year's Reggae Summerfest in Nairobi. "The event, organised by Showbiz Promotions and Shashamane International, has in the past brought in reggae greats from Jamaica."

The event, organised by Showbiz Promotions and Shashamane International, has in the past brought in reggae greats from Jamaica including Joseph Hill of the Mighty Culture group, Gregory Isaacs and Glen Washington who graced it in 2004.

Speaking exclusively to Lifestyle , events promoter Evans Ombajo promised better organisation and security during the shows. "Insecurity has been a major issue, but this time around, we have invested heavily in ensuring security is tight," he said.

Mr Ombajo said that they settled for Israel Vibration after many reggae fans voted for the trio in a poll conducted by Shashamane International over the past one year.

Members of the group overcame adversity, illness and poverty to become one of the finest roots groups in Jamaica's history. All three had been afflicted by polio and first became acquainted, albeit briefly, at Kingston's Mona Rehabilitation Clinic.

Singing sensation

Of the trio, Bulgin appeared least likely to emerge a singing sensation. He spent much of his childhood at a variety of rehabilitation centres. In his teenage, he began working for a tailor. In contrast, Craig initially did seem destined for a musical career and for a while attended the famed music school - Alpha Cottage School.

However, he found the tough discipline and rigid atmosphere oppressive and ran away at 14 into a life of homelessness and poverty.

After an equally bright start, Spence's life also took a severe down-turn. Before his teenage, he played xylophone in a youth band with whom he appeared on national television. Although physically disabled, he was a gifted athlete. In his teenage, he was selected for the Jamaican Wheelchair Basketball team.

But his conversion to Rastafarianism put an end to all that in 1969. He was dropped from the team and returned to Kingston where bumped into Craig soon after. As fate would have it, the pair established contact with Bulgin.

Before their union, the three teens had all individually converted to Rastafarianism. Their shared faith and childhood experiences helped them forge a strong friendship. Leaving behind their old lives, the trio spent most of their time together, busking for money around Kingston.

They spent the next six years singing for their suppers and by 1975, Israel Vibration was a vocal force to reckon with. However, their initial attempt at recording was abortive as the one track they did, the Ernest Hookim-produced Bad Intention, was never released. The following year, an answer to their prayers came through members of the Rastafarian religious group, the Twelve Tribes of Israel, who agreed to finance a single by the trio.

The group recorded the single Why Worry and a new version of Bad Intention for its flip. The group's exquisite dread sound and militant cultural themes made an instant impression and the three found themselves on stage curtain-raising for the likes of Bob Marley and Dennis Brown.

Stunning proportions

In 1977, Israel Vibration began work on their follow-up, The Same Song, with producer Tommy Cowan. By the time they were done, the group had another hit song and a debut album of stunning proportions, which was titled after the single.

The trio's deeply devotional songs, cultural themes, inspirational lyrics, and original take on the roots style had struck a chord with reggae fans around the world. Thus, it was a surprising decision that Israel Vibration recorded their next album, 1981's Why You So Craven, with legendary dancehall producer Junjo Lawes.

After the cross-over success, the three attempted solo careers but only Bulgin made it to a recording studio. His Mr Sunshine album paired him with the Freedom Fighters Band.

In 1987, the three decided they were stronger together than apart. They reunited and approached the RAS label. Although label head Doctor Dread had shown no interest in their solo efforts, he was enthusiastic about their reunion and quickly signed them to RAS.

The trio settled down for the long haul, and although their sound was no longer on the scene's cutting edge, they continued putting out strong sets.

In 1996, the group released their first single in years, the infectious Feeling Irie, taken from their new album Free to Move.

Israel Vibrations' career shows no signs of slowing and the group has firmly carved a secure niche out of what once seemed an impenetrable surface. Their popularity seems assured and they remain a vibrant live act and an all time intriguing studio group.

Original posting location: http://allafrica.com/stories/200605220250.html

1 comment:

Darren said...

Amazing band, love reggae and all of the history behind this music.

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