I have always been curious about the draw of reggae music.
What is it that pulls lots of fans from communities like Durango? Communities with residents who have never been forced to leave the country of their birth, been oppressed by a government, and may or may not be able to find Jamaica on a map?
Dont get me wrong; I like reggae, just not as much as some of you others. Maybe youre like me and the music of Joe Strummer taught you something about reggae. For others, maybe listening to Ska made you delve into the genre. You hippies could have been turned onto reggae via Jerry Garcias affinity to cover Peter Tosh or Jimmy Cliff. Maybe youve seen the Peter Tosh/Mick Jagger video, or maybe an older sibling turned you onto Bob Marley, explaining to you what reggae is through bloodshot eyes.
I do know the difference between dancehall and dub; I can name all the original Wailers and can point out Jamaica on a map. Thats about it. I first saw the Bad Brains in 1985; does that count?
Boston-based reggae band John Browns Body will play at the Abbey tonight and also features all of our reggae locals Im proud to call friends. Opening the show will be DJ I-Gene, followed by A Dub Rock Band. The night will be hosted by reggae emcee for life, Rasta Stevie.
John Browns Body formed as a reggae band in 1996. Since then, theyve had numerous lineup changes and their sound has progressed; using reggae as a base, they also incorporate elements of funk, ska, electronic, dub and dub step, an amalgamation that the band refers to as future roots.
The current lineup is Elliot Martin on vocals, Tommy Benedetti on drums, Nate Edgar on bass, Mike Keenan on guitar, Jon Petronzio on keyboards, Scott Flynn on trombone, Drew Sayers on saxophone and Sam Dechenne on trumpet. With eight members theyve got their bases covered; there are plenty of instruments, horns included, that enable them to roll through all the sounds that make up a future roots band.
Bands like JBB enjoy playing Durango because the numerous mountain communities enable them to set up tours that take them just about everywhere. Its easy to book two weeks worth of shows in Colorado. Reggae DJ Eugene Salaz aka I-Gene sees the mountain communities love of reggae as an underlying appreciation of culture.
People tend to bring the influence of their own personal culture with them, which is usually rich in small mountain towns, Salaz said.
Reggae is a music that is rich in culture, filled with lyrics of rebellion, revolution, struggle, testimony, thanks, praise and standing up to those who try to use fear as a power to control minds, a message popular around the whole globe and in towns rich in culture because the whole human race can relate to it on one or all levels.
Salaz is right, but the answer could be that religion, politics and oppression aside, reggae is simple, feel-good music thats down to earth and easy to dance to. We should all be fine with that.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.