Reggae not dead yet

Reggae not dead yet

By Molly Fleming

By Molly Fleming

Staff Writer

Editor’s note: To all concerned, please excuse the late appearance of this review in our pages. The tardiness is no fault of the writer; rather this editor’s misconception of time and space is, not unusually, to blame. Also, Curly’s Bar and Grill deserves much praise for being one of the few live-music venues left in the area. Support them. We need more music of this quality!

Curly’s Bar and Grill of Machesney Park and Charlotte’s Web showed the Rockford area that reggae, unlike punk, is not dead. On Saturday, Feb. 9, Baaro “rocked the house” —literally. Curly’s was so full that the floor was shaking as soon as the music started. Finding a seat by 8 o’clock was a joke, but it was well worth standing just to be able to dance.

Originally from Ethiopia, Baaro played as Ziggy Marley’s backup band in the late ’80s. The Melody Makers, as they were called, added a fresh aspect of funk to reggae, as well as charting gold and platinum albums. Boasting a six-piece band that includes two extremely charming, attractive and charismatic female vocalists, Baaro has a high energy enthusiasm that is infectious. One never sees Rockford come together quite as much as when there are music-loving people and a people-loving band in a lively room.

Generous bartending and the Mardi Gras decor at Curly’s had a lot to do with freeing up the clientele for the evening of levity in these heavy times.

Reggae is a rather new form of music compared to other forms of pop. Technically, it is the folk music of Jamaica that frequently expressed revolution against white oppressors during times of political instability.

Reggae proceeded from ska, a quicker, older form of dance-hall. People familiar with Tommy McCook and the Skatalites, or Desmond Dekker, know that this style gives a particularly uplifting vibe with reinforcing positive melodies. Although at times ska can be a little tedious with its redundant rythum, it is a form of folk to be respected.

But reggae is all the good aspects of ska, with a little bit more rock-steady beat and a mellow feeling. Unfortunately, a long time has passed since I’ve even heard of a genuine reggae band, much less seen one.

Baaro fills the room with the old-school joy of Afro-Caribbean music without all the pretensions of the New Age smut going around that passes itself off as “reggae.”

Truly developed reggae was best made known by Bob Marley, who started out with a ska band, the Wailers, around the early ’70’s. His son, as well as his wife, and members of the Wailers continue to play his music after his death, as well as developed originals.

Baaro created a refreshing atmosphere. Although the room was too full to have an inch to yourself, the music made everybody patient with the lack of air. Stereotyped as “hippie music,” this reggae group brought in an eclectic mass of people—not just hippies.

The funk/blues aspects appealed to Machesney Park sensibilities, and some folks even brought their young children out. The Afro-Caribbean grooves appealed to just about everyone else. Jazz musicians came together with Rock N’ Rollers, and everyone just had a great time.

Playing everything from great reggae standards like “I Shot the Sheriff” to the ’80s hit “Hot, Hot, Hot!”, Baaro has a confidence and mellowness on stage that could make even the worst songs disappear into a good reggae jam.

Hopefully, Charlotte’s Web will bring them around again. If you want to hear fresh music and a tightly-bound band, you can purchase “Land of Genessis” and “No War” at most used/new CD stores, and you might want to check out some of Ziggy’s old stuff with the Melody Makers. If you like, remember or want to learn what reggae really was and is, then make sure you see Baaro next time around.

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