Saturday, June 10, 2006

Reggae Great to Join Marley Sons on Tour

Friday, June 09, 2006
Jake Coyleap

NEW YORK — Bunny Wailer, the reggae great who was one of the original Wailers with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, will tour with a new generation of Marleys.

Wailer will play alongside Marley’s sons, Stephen and Ziggy, for the Roots, Rock, Reggae Festival, a monthlong tour that will open Aug. 6 in Redway, Calif., after a one-year hiatus.

The 59-year-old Wailer, whose real name is Neville O’Riley Livingston, said in a phone interview from Jamaica that he considers it his "responsibility and duty" to tour with the Marley family.

"I’m the foundation of all of this stuff," he said. "And I remain; someway, somehow I’ve been sustained to be here. And there’s a new generation that’s now being established musically that’s coming from the Wailers’ family."

Stephen, 34, and Ziggy Marley, 37, will headline the tour, which will make stops including Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Ozomatli will also perform.

Wailer, who last released the album Communication in 2000, is the lone surviving member of the Wailers. Marley died of cancer in 1981; Tosh was murdered in 1987.

While Stephen and Ziggy Marley have combined new musical styles to fit their father’s reggae, Wailer also fused genres through the 1980s and ’90s and plans to continue to do so.

"A lot of people have been hearing Bunny Wailer singing reggae music, but they’re not aware of other musical cultures that Bunny Wailer is inclined to present," he said. "I have to at least let (the new generation) know that I’ve been listening."

Reggae Vibe Rocks the Holy Land

photo by Emilio Morenatti / Assocaited Press
Israeli reggae fans take part at the second annual Spring Festival at Kibbutz Tseelim in Israel's Negev Desert on April 8, 2006. Kibbutz Tseelim, a tiny community in Israel's Negev Desert, welcomed 1,600 reggae fans to its second annual Spring Festival -- an increase of 25 percent over last year's crowd.

Israeli reggae fans take part at the second annual Spring Festival at Kibbutz Tseelim in Israel's Negev Desert on April 8, 2006.

article by Laura Resnick / Associated Press

TSEELIM, Israel -- Young Israelis sporting dreadlocks and wool Rastafarian caps rocked to the beat of homegrown Hebrew reggae bands at a recent music festival, a sign of reggae's steadily increasing popularity here.

Kibbutz Tseelim, a tiny community in Israel's Negev Desert, welcomed 1,600 reggae fans to its second annual Spring Festival-- an increase of 25 percent over last year.

"In a country like Israel, with all the stress, this music -- the message and the melody -- makes people more relaxed," said disc jockey Tal Grubstein, aka Dr. Reggae, who helped run the sound system at the festival. "When these people all get together at a festival like Tseelim, you can feel the vibe. There's no pushing, no aggression, no violence."

Grubstein became a reggae fan in the late 1970s after hearing some imported records while serving in the Israeli army. He soon made a mission of spreading the sound among Israelis. During his years as an Egged bus driver, he played Bob Marley and other reggae artistes to his passengers. With the help of his children, he founded the Official Israeli Reggae Site on the Web. The site currently hosts the only nonstop all-Jewish reggae online radio show in the world.

While the connection between reggae and Judaism may not seem self-evident, Jewish reggae artists are a growing phenomenon in the United States as well as Israel.

Matisyahu (born Matthew Miller), who has recorded three albums, is an observant Hasidic Jew in New York who sings Hebrew prayers in a reggae style. He divides his time between his yeshiva and the stage, where he plays to sold-out crowds. An American band called Adonai and I performs roots reggae based on Hebrew prayers, melodies, and psalms. King Django is a ska hipster from Brooklyn who combines reggae rhythms with Yiddish lyrics.

"This kind of music is about the message," said Grubstein. "Don't give up, look ahead, stand up, peace, respect your brother. People get the message and they like it."

Kibbutznik Udi Barak is one who got the message. As a teenager, he attended a concert where reggae giants Alpha Blondy -- from the Ivory Coast -- and Ziggy Marley performed. Along with other members of Kibbutz Tseelim, Barak became a fan.

The kibbutzniks discovered that when they played reggae at their communal pub, The Well, more and more people came to listen. So they decided to invite a band from Jamaica to perform there. Since then, their little pub in the middle of the Negev Desert has been a popular reggae spot, known to hipsters, Rastafarians, and bands all over Israel.

Eventually, the kibbutz decided to host a reggae festival.

Barak says that reggae artists came from all over Israel for the first festival and played for free to help make it a success. Eight Israeli bands played this year, including the group Tmimay Deim, which means "Of the Same Mind."

"Our message with our music is mostly about harmony," said Tmimay Deim's co-founder Yoav Ben Yaakov. "We try to make people understand that you don't have to believe in war, and you don't have to fight for peace. You can try to find the middle way, based on a pure, simple understanding that love unites everybody."

As the midday heat rose, Tmimay Deim's lead singer cried out to the dancing crowd, "Shabbat Shalom," wishing them a peaceful Sabbath. Then the band launched into a song that opened with the distinctive strains of klezmer music before transitioning into a familiar reggae beat.

While the easy slide from a klezmer riff to a Caribbean tune may seem startling, reggae is often fueled by traditional Jewish themes, such as the exile in Babylon and the longing for Zion, the homeland -- whether this means Israel or Africa.

Both ultra-Orthodox Jews and Rastafarians observe strict dietary laws and require married women to cover their hair. The men have distinctive hairstyles, whether sidecurls or dreadlocks -- which Rastafarians say come from the Nazarite Vow in the Old Testament (Numbers 6:5), "There shall no razor come upon his head."

However, another disc jockey who worked at Tseelim's festival this year, Ras Kulcha, thinks it's a stretch to relate Judaism to Rastas.

Shirtless in the desert heat, his face and shoulders framed by an impressive set of dreadlocks, he says he embraces Rastafarianism as a philosophy rather than a religion.

"The message I get from reggae as an Israeli is about fighting capitalism, fighting racism, fighting fascism," Ras Kulcha said. "There are so many streams, it's hard to say exactly what 'reggae' means, but it's about delivering a message."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Reggae SumFest Update

Reggae Sumfest takes Manhattan
Observer Reporter
Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Multiple Grammy-winning reggae artist, and Marley family scion, Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley, is one of the major acts announced to perform at the 2006 Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest later this year. Marley has been riding a wave of success for his acclaimed third album, Welcome To Jamrock which in addition to winning two Grammys has been a fixture on music charts and playlists around the world.

Marley's addition to the stellar line-up for the July 16-22 festival was announced by Johnny Gourzong, executive director of Summerfest Productions, at the New York launch of Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest on Tuesday, May 23, 2006.

A large crowd of Caribbean and US media, Jamaican entertainment industry professionals and well wishers gathered at the Blue Mahoe on 14th street in Manhattan for an evening of Reggae, good vibes and flowing Red Stripe.

Gourzong disclosed that Marley will perform on the final night of the festival, on July 22. Gourzong urged the more than 100 attendees of the Big Apple kick-off launch at the Blue Mahoe restaurant, to become more involved in the build up to the festival and invited those present to visit Jamaica for a world-class event and a true Jamaican experience.

He added, "The media in the US plays a critical role in the success of Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest. Without the music industry press and the travel media embracing Jamaica and its culture, Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest would not be the success that it is."

Chairman Robert Russell also extended his thanks to all participants, while Marketing Director Jomo Cato promised a continuation of world-class acts to keep the festival as the world's greatest reggae show.

Marley will perform along with Bajan pop sensation, Rihanna, Beres Hammond and Buju Banton among others. He is set to thrill fans with old and new hits, includingthe Bobby Brown collaboration Beautiful, Road to Zion and of course the title track Welcome To Jamrock.

This year, Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest is being presented under the theme, Jamaica's Greatest The World's Best, and will be staged in the Vibes City, Montego Bay, from July 16- 22 this year.

Among the other artistes set to perform at Sumfest 2006 are the Poor People's Governor Bounty Killa and the self-proclaimed King of the Dancehall and Grammy award winner Beenie Man as well as Capleton; Buju Banton; Beres Hammond, Elephant Man, Baby Cham, Macka Diamond, Busy Signal and Wayne Marshall, Sizzla, Richie Spice, Mobb Deep, Chuck Fenda, Mr Vegas, Leftside & Esco, Voice Mail, Gyptian, reggae legends, John Holt, Gregory Isaacs and Pam Hall, Yellowman, Admiral Bailey, General Trees, Pinchers, Frankie Paul, Charlie Chaplin, Peter Metro, Courtney Melody, and Flourgon.

Summerfest Productions has budgeted over $100 million to be spent on Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest this year in addition to the expenditure by the event's major sponsors.

"Our investment in Western Jamaica is quite significant and translates into hundreds of jobs, new business opportunities and several other economic and social spin-offs. As organisers of Jamaica's greatest and the world's best reggae music festival, we are proud to know that Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest is contributing to the development of Montego Bay the Vibes City and the country's overall economic progress," Marketing Director Cato said recently.

Carlo Redwood, marketing manager of Red Stripe, said that he was quite pleased with the signing of Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley, alluding to the fact that the artiste inclusion would be an asset to the show.