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13th Annual Bob Marley Remembered Weekend (Friday and Saturday, February 5th and 6th, 2005, The Cabooze, Minneapolis)
Lynval Jackson and the International Reggae All-Stars at the Cabooze. Photo by David de Young (click for larger version)

By Helen Blodgett

This past Sunday would have been Bob Marley’s 60th birthday. While the Marley Family and reggae stars pilgrimaged to Ethiopia to celebrate, people in the Twin Cities descended on the Cabooze for the 13th Annual Bob Marley Remembered Weekend.

There were even a few bikers from The Joint next door present in the diverse crowd of Rastas, college students, African immigrants, hippies, and a few grandparents too. On Friday night, the crowd was very accepting of all dance moves and united in appreciating the power of the dance-inciting truth that Bob Marley sang.

I arrived as Innocent was singing the last few songs of his set. I would have liked to see more of him because I was struck by his melodious, gravelly voice leading us in a group chorus of "Redemption Song." He seemed driven to get his message across and that the message came from very deep in his chest. He was born in Iringa, Tanzania, and came to the U.S. in 1989 where he formed the group Les Exodus and has been touring successfully since.

Lynval Jackson and the International Reggae All-Stars took the stage and stayed there for a while, playing two sets both nights. After their break on Friday night, something happened. I don’t know what, maybe people had that last necessary beer or just set themselves free to ride the rhythm. But Jackson set things off with sweet fire with the only song not by Bob Marley, “Jah is standing by my side.” He took remarkably smooth flights up into the stratosphere of his voice. And with him enjoying the song so much and the band bouncing off the thunderous bass, they found the resonant pitch with the people.

The band kept starting a song then stopping and I couldn’t decide if they just hadn’t planned a set list, if they were messing with us, or if they were seducing us to a higher level, to make us demand they keep playing, put some spirit into it.

Lynval Jackson created the group in 1992 or 1995 depending on your sources, bringing together musicians from Venezuela, Minneapolis, and Jamaica. Jackson has been sharing his “golden voice” with the Minneapolis reggae scene for years. Previously, he sang in the band World Citizens (started in 1987), later Les Exodus with his brother, Prince Jabba, Innocent, and various other musicians. Now, in addition to making live music, you can also find him on the airwaves of KFAI (90.3 Mpls/ 106.7 St. Paul) Friday afternoons 4-5:30. Tony Paul, the percussionist of the group, has the Shake and Bake Show on KFAI every Monday afternoon 1-3.

Lynval Jackson and the International Reggae All-Stars at the Cabooze. Photo by David de Young (click for larger version)

So to Saturday night, eh?

The New Primitives opened up the show on Saturday night. They honored Bob Marley that night not by playing his songs, but by releasing an incredible energy inspired by Marley. They featured the whole band. Everyone worked together so well. From front man Stan Kipper, whose dancing during the rests communicated as much as his soulful timbale-playing and singing...To Jeff Kartak, the gray-haired flutist/saxophonist who occasionally gave the songs a WAR feel, and always a high melody as a counterpart to all the complexity of the percussion…To the guitarist Javier Trejo, with Latin-pop phrasing in his singing and solid guitar playing…To Chico Perez, who animatedly played the bongos/congas/sleigh bells/cow bell/anything else you can think of…To Tom Peterson tying the beat together on bass…To Joel Arpin tapping it out on the trap drum set…everyone up there was loving the music. You could see this in their faces and the way their bodies moved and in the DJ. Even though he had few responsibilities during the middle of the songs, he was so happy about the music and went over to pick up Stan’s drumsticks when they fell: to make it a good show.

Their last song was amazing. Each musician abandoned his instrument to pick up a cowbell. The rhythm grew faster, with each transition unfolding to reveal a new pulse, 6 revealing 3, revealing 4, revealing beautiful precision and energy with all of them standing at the edge of the stage.

I’d like to thank all the musicians for providing us with some beautiful music and a chance to think about how we can create the truth, love, and justice of Bob Marley’s songs with our lives. We have a long road to realize Innocent’s hope “…to bring people of all races and cultures together, to raise their consciousness and have them stand together both spiritually and physically”(www.mplsreggae.com). And we can all work toward that in our own way.

A couple standing in front of me was having a great time dancing and enjoying the crowd. Later, I noticed that they were signing to each other and couldn’t hear. They were definitely feeling the vibration, and clearly reggae has become a universal language of love and justice.

Helen Blodgett is h.blodgett@gmail.com