By Jim Dar – After Five Magazine
When it comes to reggae music, there are literally no bigger shoes to ﬁ ll than those of the legendary Bob Marley. Yet, in a sense, that is where Josh David Barrett has found himself as he fronts The Wailers, the iconic band that long backed Marley and collaborated with him to help shape much of reggae’s most recognizable music.
The Wailers will perform at Redding’s Cascade Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 17. The Northern California reggae band One Sol will open the show, which starts at 7:30 p.m. Barrett, who was born in New Jersey of Jamaican descent, doesn’t feel pressure to be anyone other than himself while performing Marley’s music with The Wailers.
“It’s a blessing to see ﬁrst-hand how the fruits and labors of Bob Marley and The Wailers have paved the way for I and I,” said Barrett, referring to the Rastafarian phrase for oneness between God and people.
“We understand that the music is bigger than us. It’s liberation music that comes from on high. It’s for everyone who loves justice and hates oppression, for those who love truth and rights.”
Speaking to After Five in a phone interview from the island of Malta where the band was performing a European tour, Barrett says that his bandmates are his true heroes. The band includes Aston “Familyman” Barrett (not related to Josh), the co-founder, bassist and musical director of The Wailers since 1969.
Nearly 50 years ago, Familyman Barrett and his brother, drummer Carlton “Carly” Barrett, were invited by Marley to join a lineup that included luminaries like Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. The Wailers would go on to record 10 albums for Island Records, including classics like Exodus and Rastaman Vibration. As Bob Marley and the Wailers, they would perform before millions in a series of worldwide tours.
Familyman Barrett’s son, Aston Barrett Jr., is the band’s current drummer. Guitarists Jullian Junior Marvin and Donald Kinsey have both been with the ensemble since the mid-1970s. The rest of the lineup includes vocalists Shema McGregor and Hassanah, rhythm guitarist Owen Reid, and keyboardist Javaughn Bond.
“The youthful energy and the golden age are both alive and well,” said Josh Barrett of the band’s lineup. “Yes, indeed, we want to carry on from generation to generation.”
Josh Barrett, who has recorded or performed with the likes of Mary J. Blige, Common and Quincy Jones, has been recording with the band since 2014 and fronting the group since 2015. He’s certainly aware of the massive legacy of The Wailers with Bob Marley. The image of Marley on posters, T-shirts and everything else is ubiquitous in pop culture. Videos of children singing the music continually go viral. The music continues to make its way into mainstream ﬁ lms and every other type of media.
Night after night, audiences continually respond to the deeply familiar catalog of songs.“It’s surprising with the new generations who have never heard Bob Marley or The Wailers’ music before; now it feels like we’re introducing and reintroducing (the music) to a new generation,” Barrett says. “It’s a responsibility. We see that they’re still responding to it as if they were there when this music was created.”
Barrett recalls a popular YouTube video of an infant boy crying as a father carries him into a car. Once the stereo is turned on and the music of Bob Marley plays, the boy calms down, smiles and bobs his head to the beat. In a larger sense, Barrett has witnessed that same effect on listeners of all ages. In continuing times of geopolitical strife, it’s incredible how fresh and clear the music of Bob Marley and The Wailers continues to be, he says.
He adds that he hears the Rasta message more and more worldwide. Not that people are converting to Rastafarianism in mass numbers, but they’re responding, as Barrett describes it, to “the spirit and the message and the essence of ‘one love.’”
In continuing on with The Wailers, Familyman Barrett has kept with a promise he made to Marley before the singer’s death from cancer in 1981 at age 36. According to the band’s bio, Marley wanted the group to continue to tour and play the music that has been so widely accepted and loved.
In addition to The Wailers, Marley’s music is also carried on in some form or another by many of his children, including Ziggy, Stephen, Sharon, Cedella, Jullian, Ky-Mani and Damian Marley. Many of the current Wailers have collaborated with the Marley offspring.
Tickets for the Sept. 17 Redding show range from $29 to $35. For more information, call 243-8877 or visit www. cascadetheatre.org.
Josh Barrett says Northern California audiences should expect a full evening of fun from the renowned band.
“Come early and stay late,” Barrett said. “We’re bringing the roots rock reggae to the people.”