Reggae is a genre of music that takes hold of some people and refuses to let go. These are people who eat, sleep and breathe reggae, people like Gracie “Bassie” Kruse, “Rasta” Stevie Smith or Koral Delatierra.
Kruse is a Durango-born bass player, now living in Denver and reared on the long-running Friday night reggae show heard on local radio KDUR, hosted by the aforementioned Smith, whose tenure as a reggae DJ extends back to Telluride in the early 1980s; Delatierra is the frontwoman of the Telluride-based reggae band Niceness.
Niceness, along with Gracie Bassie, Mr. Kali and Blood Preshah, will celebrate reggae music Saturday when they perform a benefit concert for Smith at Animas City Theatre. The event, “A FUNdrasier Benefit for His Health Attainment Fund,” is a concert to financially assist Smith for the growing costs of his cancer treatment.
If there’s been a reggae show in this area in the last 25 years, it’s likely Smith has had a hand in its booking or promotion, as he has created what Kruse has called a “reggae snow globe” in the area. Smith’s contributions to fostering a local or regional reggae scene are recognized nationwide.
“He has done backflips for the reggae community throughout the country for so many years,” Delatierra said. “He’s so willing to bend over backwards for people in the movement.”
The night’s headliner Niceness formed out of the Telluride bands 8750 (which featured Smith on drums) and Bredren. Delatierra never really “joined” the band; it was more like she was recruited, a serendipitous encounter for someone who would sneak into see Bredren play when she was a teenager.
“It was kind of random and was truly a blessing come knocking at my door,” Delatierra said. “A friend posted a video of me singing and freestyling over his ukulele. Someone from the band heard it, they reached out to me and said they were putting together a project and asked if I liked reggae. How can you say no? Reggae has been such a big part of my life, and this felt like an amazing opportunity.”
The common bond with people’s love of reggae remains in the underlying message. Beyond the music, it’s a genre that remains positive, expresses open-mindedness and influences a conscious awareness of the world around you. That’s what rang out to a young Delatierra when she was digging into Sizzlah or Bujo Bonton, and that, in addition to the grooves, is what continues to draw her to the music.
“It woke me up to being more conscious of our spiritual selves, our connection to each other and rising up and standing for what we believe in,” she said. “It really resonated with me. It’s just some of the best music, it feels worldly and can reach everyone.”
Niceness currently has one record under their belt and they were recently in the studio in San Diego laying down more songs. They are heading back into the studio in the fall. What type of musical package to be released is at the moment undetermined; what remains on the books is a common awareness that they make music that celebrates the world around you with an attitude that it contributes to the common good; helping out someone like Smith falls under the mission statement.
“We have a common vision as a collective, and I feel like that’s what give us the strength to keep going. Of course, we love having fun and it’s always a party, but why not remind ourselves how blessed we are when we come together to celebrate, and just cultivate that sense of oneness and respect for one another,” Delatierra said. “We’ll keep planting the seeds of niceness and just hope that the music will have a ripple effect out into the world and have a positive impact on our listeners.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.