It’s 2013, I am aged 24 and in the midst of my Bob Marley phase, an apparently common phase among men in their early twenties. I came to the phase through certain tracks being played by warm up DJs during Hip Hop gigs, ‘Get Up stand Up’ being a tune in point. Of course, the music was always around me growing up. My mum’s interested in Michael Jackson was mirrored by my dad’s fandom of Bob Marley and his constant preaching for me and my brother to be like Bob Marley and never give up. It is easy to forget how much of a political icon Bob Marley was to children of the 70s. The greatest hits album ‘Legend’ was a feature of my childhood with ‘Stir it Up’ and ‘Baby we Got a Date’ being stand out tracks.
Embarrassing to say it now but the Funkstar deluxe remix of ‘Sun is Shining’ was a favourite, it was played everywhere in the 90s and was my intro into dance music.
The ghost of Bob Marley haunted me during my journey into Dub. ‘The Sun is Shining’ and ‘Mr Brown’ produced by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry being favourite tracks of mine and the only Bob Marley tracks I could play in front of my Dub friends.
Bob Marley is also considered to be an early pioneer of Roots with the track ‘Selassie is in the Chapel’, considered to be the first Rastafarian record.
Now in 2019 and aged 30, I was in two minds about going to see The Original Wailers at Jazz Café. Bob Marley stopped cutting it for me after I had gotten into Roots and no reggae gig can compare to Jah Shaka dance. Not that the I felt that the music had turned bad, it was just that Bob Marley represented the mainstream face of the music and was too obvious to play out. However, Bob Marley and the Wailers were an iconic group and in tribute to my Bob Marley Phase I decided to check it out.
The five piece group consisted of only one member of The Wailers, the American guitarist and song writer Al Anderson who had written ‘No Woman No Cry’ and ‘Three O’clock Road Block’. This was on paper disappointing, in the words of Dr. Eddy George, “Can you really call it ‘The Wailers’ without the Barrett brothers?”.
Ashton ‘Family Man’ Barrett is incidentally still performing under a separate Wailers Band project.
The Original Wailers are also a band in their own right, founded by Anderson and Junior Marvin in 2008, Their debut album ‘Miracle’, received a Grammy nomination in 2013.
My main reason for going to the night was 90s Kiss FM DJ Robin Catto who along with the Birmingham based group Young Culture Band provided the support.
Catto, a collaborator with Nick Mannaseh played some really deep roots cuts that had me opening Shazam on more than one occasion and having to write out the lyrics in my notepad when unsurprisingly Shazam didn’t recognise the songs. The Dub siren he triggered did the job and gave the tracks an extra level of depth and power ensuing more skanking from the audience. The place was packed out.
Young Culture Band were really refreshing to see live and they are a band to look out for. The stand out tracks were, ‘Mash it up’ dedicated to the “Dome Crew”, ‘Herbalist’ and ‘So What’s it gonna be’ which had the crowd stomping over its instrumental made up of both Answer (Walk and Skank) and Sleng Teng riddims.
After some more songs by Catto, the five piece Original Wailers took the stage, consisting of a Singer Chet Samuel, Bassist Omar Lopez, Drummer Paapa Nyarkoh and a Keyboardist Adrian AK Cisneros with Al Anderson on backing vocals and guitar.
The chords of ‘Stir it up’ opened the show and blossomed into the full song. This obviously had the crowd singing along, the keyboard solo was joyous. ‘Stir it up’ appeared on album ‘Catch a fire’. The album was famously remixed by Island records to make it more palatable to UK audiences, adding more instrumentation and production values to the bare bone Jamaican originals. Dr. George had mentioned the sonic similarities between Roots and Trance and the impact of Reggae on UK Dance music needs not be stated again.
‘Sun is Shining’ played next and added some serious music head credentials to the evening. It was played in a jazzed up guise and along with the five band set up, got me thinking about the possibility of Reggae being an evolution of Jazz.
Samuel enticed the crowd, “Don’t be afraid to sing along if you know the words!”.
Sing along party anthems rather than bass heavy instrumentation would be the modus operandi of the evening.
Anderson then took the mic mentioning that he was glad to be back in London and asked if anyone else remembered the £4.54 meals at Chelsea Kitchen which he used to frequent with Island Records’ Chris Blackwell, Richard Williams and Bob Marley, to cheers from the audience.
‘Could you be loved’ then played and despite Bob Marley not being there, it was one of those moments where I though, live music is always better than the studio recording.
The call and response chorus of “Say something, reggae reggae, Say something rockers rockers” did however reinforce the feeling throughout the evening that this was just a nostalgia trip.
‘I shot the sheriff’ was on point and added more energy to the evening.
‘Remembering Marcus Garvey’, An original song by the group was then played and was dedicated to “My mentor ‘Burning Spear’”. The 80s vibe of the song was very reminiscent of the current Vaporwave genre of music and the instrumentation was trancelike.
Samuel then toasted over the end of the track in a way reminiscent of Ranking Dread’s ‘Wah we go Africa’.
‘Three Little Birds’ played next and was a crowd favourit, it was extended into a long jamming session. Samuel then espoused the medicinal properties of the music and of weed “Legalise it don’t criticise it, Jah created it.”
‘Is this Love’ got the crowd in full swing with the die hard fans singing the refrain of “I wanna love you” before Samuel had a chance.
‘Hypocrites’ was a crowded by more sombre affair with Samuel introducing the next song with “We are digging in the treasure chest, see if you know this!”
The early cut ‘African Herbsman’ played next followed by an extended version of
‘Jammin’ allowing each musician a solo to shine.
The whole evening was very mellow and I expected more of Bob Marley’s party anthems.
Naturally the show ended with the Anderson penned anthem,‘No Woman No Cry’. Everyone left happy.