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Israel Vibration in San Francisco

Israel Vibration in San Francisco

Israel Vibration in San Francisco

By on - Photos by Lee Abel - Comment

Israel Vibration and fans singing the Same Song.

Sampler

On Feb. 19, Grammy-nominated roots/rock/reggae duo Israel Vibration, backed by the Roots Radics band, played to a packed house at the Independent nightclub in San Francisco, CA.

Those who have been proclaiming that interest in reggae music is waning might want to reconsider. The Independent is one of the city’s trendiest venues, having hosted acts such as John Legend, Dave Chappelle, Damian and Steven Marley and the Mighty Diamonds to name a few. The fact that Israel Vibration, affectionately known to their loyal supports as I-Vibes, drew such a massive crowd on a Tuesday night, and on one of the coldest nights of the year, spoke volumes.

Israel Vibration

Since the 1970s, Israel Vibration has championed for the physically challenged; and they have proven that it is possible to overcome any kind of adversity. Afflicted with polio as children, lead vocalists Cecil “Skelly” Spence, Lascelle “Wiss” Bulgin and former member Albert "Apple Gabriel" Craig met at the Mona Rehabilitation Clinic in Jamaica. Since the group was formed, they have released more than 20 albums and have performed internationally at large-scale festivals such as Reggae on the River, the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival and Rototom Sunsplash. These wise men have taught the world how to skank (dance) on crutches. In 2012, Israel Vibration received their first Grammy nomination for Best Reggae album for their recording “Reggae Knights.”

Israel Vibration’s show kicked off with opening act Pure Roots, a seven member multi-racial, multi-generational reggae/dub ensemble from Santa Cruz, CA. Amongst the new talent showcased that night was a soulful young singer named Briana Kai, also from Santa Cruz (affectionately known as "Rasta-Cruz" in the San Francisco Bay Area), who performed an original song called “Day by Day.” Kai’s majestic voice was reminiscent of Janis Joplin and Joss Stone; she listed her influences as Bob Marley, Sam Cooke, the Beatles and the reggae music of the sixties and seventies.

After a short break, MC Rocky Bailey introduced the night’s headliners. The Roots Radics band held a steady groove; and back-up singers Bunny Brissett (an accomplished singer in her own right who is currently promoting her solo album “Perspectives”), and Nicole “Nikki” Burt, (who has worked with Buju Banton as a backing vocalist), provided the sweet harmonies reminiscent of the I-Threes. Israel Vibration’s set  included some of their most popular songs including “Brother’s Keeper,” “On the Rock,” “Jail House,” “Highway Robbery,” “Back Stabber,” “Walla Walla,” “Master’s Will,” “Licks and Kicks,” and their 1978 breakthrough hit, “Same Song,” a testament to Rastafarian unity.

“Whether you are a Bobo Shanti/or whether you are Orthodox/If you want to be a Binghi Natty Dread/or whether a Twelve Tribe of Israel/We’re all gonna sing the same song.”

Caught skanking in the audience was the show’s promoter, Fenton Wardell.

Israel Vibration

Before Skelly and Wiss took the stage, I caught up with them for a brief interview in their dressing room.

“We love to give as much as we can, to make the audience really love it, but our time (on stage) is limited; and within the time frame, there’s just a certain amount of music that we can do,” said Skelly. “We mix it like we always do, with some old songs and some new ones here and there.”

“Let’s just say that we perform the songs that the people really come to hear,” said Wiss.

I asked Skelly and Wiss how their name, Israel Vibration, originated.

“The name is really a Bible concept; a spiritual concept,” said Skelly. “We read about the children of Israel.”

“Jacob had 12 sons and he called it the House of Israel,” said Wiss.

Here’s the scoop: Skelly and Wiss mentioned that I-Vibes will be going back into the studio to record very soon. Stay tuned.

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