In the past year The Blue Note Hawaii has brought an incredible amount of quality reggae music to Hawaii. The likes of The Wailers, Morgan Heritage, and Pato Banton have been welcomed by local music lovers. In conjunction with Island radio 98.5 the reggae series continues with Jamaican reggae legends Black Uhuru.
The band, formed in 1972 in Jamaica, worked extensively with legendary produces Sly and Robbie, producing a string of hit singles. This collaboration produced a roots reggae style of heavy bass and drums paired with razor sharp keyboards with heavy guitar action creating heady instrumentals. The band was most successful in the Eighties after signing with Island Records. The albums Sensemilla, Red, and Chill Out are all reggae classics. The bands album Anthem was bestowed the first Grammy Award for Best Reggae Recording in 1985. Throughout the years the band lineup has changed. Former members Don Carlos, Michael Rose, Junior Reidd, Garth Dennis, and Puma Rose have all left their mark upon the band. Despite these changes the band has always stayed relevant with its lone mainstay Derrick “Duckie” Simpson.
But enough about the past! The current lineup which includes Simpson (vocals), Andrew Bees (vocals), and Frank Stepanek (guitar) a thirty year veteran of the band visited Hawaii to promote their latest release, the Grammy nominated As The World Turns. Fans were treated to an opening three song set by the female vocalist, Onesty. The Belgium native’s style combines reggae, soul and R&B. Her soulful presence primed the crowd for Black Uhuru.
Right from the start Andrew Bees was front and center singing lead vocals on Black Uhuru classics such as “Great Train Robbery,” “I Love King Selassie,” “Plastic Smile,” and “Whole World Is Africa." Bees’ silky voice combined with his buoyant energy was infectious upon the crowd. The vocalist dancing and skanking around the stage created a soul stirring, feel good, get on your feet performance.
Towards the middle of the set Duckie Simpson took control of the mic. “Jamaican Herbman” and “Chalice” off the band’s latest release featured Simpson’s deep, gravelly, but still melodious vocals. Simpson’s voice and message sounded as buoyant and pertinent as ever. Although members has come and gone, after forty seven years in existence the band continues to retain the quintessence of the Black Uhuru sound: bass and drum heavy roots reggae. Themes of social consciousness and protest combined with spiritual harmony are as pertinent today as they were in the past.
Bees regained control of the mic with “Solidarity” and the hypnotically head bobbing beat of “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.” This classic had everyone up on their feet responding in unison “Natty Dreadlock!” The evening ended with the crowd dancing and singing to the anthem “Sensemilla.” Once again Black Uhuru and Blue Note Hawaii satiated the island’s reggae fans.