wailersIt’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.


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DJ Isuru is a music journ­al­ist and broad­caster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series fea­tur­ing the best in Asi­an Under­ground, the next party will be on March 24th Ven­ue TBC.


DJ Isuru is a music journalist and broadcaster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series featuring the best in Asian Underground, the next party will be on March 24th Venue TBC.