Wake up and live!
Life is one big road with lots of signs
So when you riding through the ruts
Don’t you complicate your mind
Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy!
Don’t bury your thoughts
Put your vision to reality, yeah!
The legendary Wailers, to Moonshine Ink’s surprise and delight, recently blessed our Tiny Porch project with an acoustic set. In a special recording session held on the roof of Crystal Bay Casino’s parking garage roof — a venue not used before as far as we know (thank you, Bill Wood!) — the ‘songs of freedom,’ the band’s smiling faces, and the resultant waves of peaceful vibes radiated the messages that Bob Marley carried the world over, decades ago: Peaceful ways hold sway and unity in humanity is still a worthwhile goal. Rest assured, the Jamaican rebel spirit lives on.
However, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. After dealing with an issue on their touring bus, which almost had them cancel their show that night at Crystal Bay, the band rolled in with barely enough time for the Tiny Porch session. Then as they headed to the roof, the band brilliantly decked out in deep red, green, and gold, it became apparent they thought we had instruments for them. The hours of preparation and the audience waiting for them on the rooftop hung in the balance. It was quiet for a moment, then Aston Barrett Jr., drummer and an infectiously positive spirit, said, “No matter, we’ll make it work. We’ll clap and slap our legs. Let’s go!”
The band — drummer Aston (son of original Wailer Aston “Familyman” Barrett), keyboardist Andres Lopez, guitarist Junior Jazz, rhythm guitarist Owen “Dreadie” Reid, and lead singer Joshua David Barrett — played Wake Up and Live and Redemption Song, under the Sierra sky with a Lake Tahoe backdrop. At the close of a impassioned Exodus jam, the band exchanged fistbumps and beamed. The audience beamed back.
With his long, dreaded hair in a Rasta beanie, a youthful gleam in his eye, and an easy smile, lead singer Joshua effortlessly serenaded the rooftop crowd with spoken word and songs of praise. He was channeling the great Marley, sure, but his serene energy is all his own. The New Jersey native grew up listening to The Jackson Five, Bon Jovi, Lauren Hill, and Queen Latifa — he’s seen the world after the hopeful ’60s and ’70s. Yet the talented musician, who joined the Wailers in 2014, seems intent even now on being kind, authentic, and humble. No doubt, his personalized blend of experiences will continue to brew and he’ll be a musician making waves worldwide for years to come.
We had the honor of asking Joshua a few questions about carrying Bob Marley’s torch, his relationship with music, and what Rastafarianism means to him.
Short on time during the day of their performance, he sent me an audio recording from Russia, on their European tour, answering the questions I had for him. In this must-listen-to-understand recording, his soothing and genuine voice teaches us about Jah’s blessings, the history of the movement, race, religion, learning from musical greats, and so much more. So find a comfy chair, put your feet up, and bask in the light that Joshua brings to everyone he meets.
Yes, greetings and blessings love, this is Joshua David of the Wailers saying big up to Tiny Porch crew. Yes. So, we’re here live and direct to answer some of the questions of those who are Wailers supporters from beginning and until now.
The first question is: What was it like to take on the lead singing role of the Wailers and carry on Bob Marley’s torch?
I will say first and foremost that it is a blessing and a privilege because in traveling the world and from my own personal experience, this music means a lot to people, you know? On a daily living level, where Bob Marley and the Wailers music, it speaks you know and touches upon every aspect of life, just about, you know? So most can find something that can uplift you or inspire you in ways toward peace, love, unity, and righteousness, you know. And really to see the impact that that music has upon the world is a joy and is a blessing, and I count it a responsibility as well because, it’s a life where, like Bob said, it’s a life where you live for people to help people. So we must put our self in the background and put God first so that we can be effective and in that way, you know, is a blessing and an honor to see how it effects people and bless and uplift them, while at the same token, it uplifts and inspire we, see.
When you first met Aston “Familyman” Barrett in 2003, could you imagine you’d end up being the lead singer of the band one day?
No, I never imagined it, you know. When I first seen the Wailers you know, it was at The Apollo and I started me ask to study to learn from the greats kind of thing, to learn from the top mind and the Wailers’ music inspire I and I toward Rasta, so my thought and my heart of the matter was, with respect to the Wailers, Bob Marley and the Wailers legacy, you know, was to create I own music, you know, reggae music talking from I and I personal experience to add a contribution to the struggle and to Rasta liberty and the culture. So I never really imagined it that way, it’s like I can’t say there were things that Jah did show I and I in time that kinda make me know in certain ways it would be a part of the journey, but it’s far beyond my thought or imagination. To Jah be the glory, no?
I know you sang in choruses and played in a few different bands growing up, how does your diverse musical background inform and inspire your work with the Wailers?
Well yes, growing up in church and in school singing chorus and playing bands and you know. As we get older to the inspiration of seeing live musicians, you know, it come to a point I remember in high school where I seen a band playing, and it was a brajung in particular bassist named Mike Grio, playing. He was backing up one sister and when I saw him playing bass, I was a young and aspiring bassist at the time, and I said, “boy, I can do this for a living as a man, take care of myself and my family.” And wow, just to see a big man do it you know just gave me inspiration.
And you know, up until long time my inspiration was the Jackson Five, I watched Jermaine and, you know, the Jacksons are an American dream, so that really inspired me seeing young youth play music at my age, saying, “wow, most can do it too.”
And true, at church we get a whole different schooling although we never consider it schooling, it was just church, experiences you know? But my Auntie did lead the choir and so we had to go to choir rehearsal and we had to sing with children’s choir and all that. And playing bass, I started playing bass in church, and having the elders guide and lead me along the way, you know, give way critique and pointers you know. It’s them, my community where really grow I musically and growing up in New Jersey, amongst musicians, young, the great catalogue of musicians that come from New Jersey, New Jeruse, Bon Jovi, Lauren Hill, Bruce Springsteen, Queen Latifa, Naughty by Nature, all of them, great people, you know. And many, many, many, more.
Everyone has their own style but it’s great to learn from everyone, how they approach the music, and also learning from their wealth of knowledge because all these musicians I’ve been privileged to grow up around, they love music and they’ve been, they’re a product of their school and surroundings too. You know I hear Q Tip talk about his father who played jazz music for him, and that sound, that sound from a Tribe Called Quest, that sound revolutionized hip-hop, R&B, and music as a whole. Today you can hear that sound you know and growing up I remember in middle school first hearing Wailers, which was my introduction to reggae music. I grew up with my mother singing ska music, My Boy Lollipop, Jamaica Ska, so when I get to middle school now and we start listening, my brother starts playing Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Legend” for me and we was drum and bass, so that mash up in my head was like a whole new sound and at dem time I never really penned the lyrics or listened to dem up close. He was intrigued by the fact that it’s Barrett playing drums and bass, you know? So we did learn and study and soak in all of those styles from great ones. Meeting legends like Markus and Vik, you know the great Weldon Irving, who co-wrote [To Be] Young, Gifted, and Black with Nina Simone, was one of my first Jah’s improvisation teachers, you know, so I can talk about that part all day — the musical heritage, but I just give Jah thanks to grow up in a time when instruments and music was encouraged for young people.
What does Rastafarian mean to you?
Rastafarian culture, liberty, is for I and I growing up in the western hemisphere, give way back to where our identity is, as African ascendants, same way Marcus Garvey did to the Rastafarians, you know, and to Martin Luther King and to Malcom X and all those who were inspired by him. Growing up in the west, they don’t teach you about where you come from and the most they teach about our history is from slavery standpoint as if we have nothing, no contribution to history before that.
And you know, as a young lad, we grow up love superheroes, Superman, Spiderman, so when you get to understand that the real superman is a man (Emperor Haile Selassie I) who saved the world during WWII and who fought against the fascist powers, fascist Mussolini and Nazi Hitler, then it give me confidence because Africa we look to his majesty and realize say from the land of creation, that make all of your brothers and sisters God return, and give we a platform for world peace, and how to live in these modern times with these ancient laws and principles from the beginning of time, you know, to children of Israel and to all the knowledge we get in Africa.
So everything comes back full circle to Rasta, you know, and the Rastafarian movement suffered and was persecuted. The early Rastas and still now, for our religion, for bon herb, for read the bible and chant down Babylon and bon the queen, bon in the pope, and for a long time Jamaica was colonized.
So we deal with I and I oppression, see, and me being born now in North America, of what we call Cherokee and part Jamaican heritage as well from my mother’s side, is like it connect me to that agency you know. So we can know we history and have confidence in know we have a bright future because this history, when you talk about Rasta, we are living in the days of our Emperor Haile Selassie I, and that is the strength of Bob Marley and the Wailers music because, when you understand the part that his majesty play a role in history we understand why he was needed. Because the world would go aflame if his majesty never came, so we all owe him one and it is a joy for I and I to sing his praises and there’s much more work to be done.
You know, Rastafarianism gives we a platform, “Rastafari” is God, the “ian” is we the people and “ism” is the aims and objectives, the ism is the naked clothed, the hungry fed, the sick nourished, the age protected, the infants cared for, and the ignorant instructed. So we are cut off and his majesty does his part and it is an honor to be in any way play a part to even be a doormat to his majesty. Especially now, so God, in these days a Rasta temple in earlier time Rasta would have to trim, police would trim them, government would trim them, kill Rasta, all kinda things, persecution, empires lasted first is our God and king and savior.
But now looking, now in 2019, Rasta have a temple. We have a cathedral in Jamaica, the church of Haile Selassie the First, we have a school, see. So we have a place now that Rasta can practice and express our religion through the works of the great, honorable Abuna Foxe, and those who served alongside him, brothers and sistren, to give us a platform outside of the cultural realm. So Rasta to I mean more than just the reggae music, that is you know, our tool and the method of propagating this liberty, but there is more people that play the part in the struggle and we give honor and homage to all of those people you know. Especially to Abuna Foxe because Rasta legal now in Jamaica, and that’s because of the efforts of Church of Haile Selassie the First, and the imperial Ethiopian World Federation, which is still working with the crown council and, you know, men like the Abuna is made the official liaison for the Rastafarian movement.
So we have more than what we had in Bob’s days and we are honored because we can carry it further and we don’t have to deal with all of the oppression like what they went through which means they did a great job, you know, and we hope to make it better for the coming generation, so that there will be peace on earth and when we return in the future, it’ll be Jah kingdom on earth we return to.
Which songs and lyrics that you perform are particularly close to your heart? Why?
Well, me love Rastaman Vibration, me love Thank You Lord, me love “Get Up, Stand Up,” me love “Exodus”. I love them all, you know. It’s like in our reasoning. I notice many, many a times, and I’m not the only one experience this, but Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Carly, Beverly, Cherry, Dream, everybody, you know, past, present and future, especially those who gone before us, can feel their energy, you know? And it’s like in our reasoning, sometime you can talk a thing and a song will come up talking about the same thing. So we know saint and brother Bob Marley is with us, and those songs and lyrics have, like me said earlier, have a song for every occasion. So, when we start out the night, we love to give Jah thanks and praises and sometimes a natural mystic. We just prepare the minds of people or ease a skunk and light ya spliff and get ready for the Rastaman Vibration, and up from there, Jah set the stage, if God is for us, who can be against us?
What we are fight and propagating for, is truth and rights, peace, love and unity. So, we love War/No More Trouble because that song is the speech of Emperor Haile Selassie the first to the United Nations in 1963 after already speak to the League of Nations in 1936. So those songs are crucial because them songs there, like his majesty said, if those who profess Christianity really live like our Christ did, there should have been peace on earth long time ago. So now I would say to this generation, if we Rasta and those who hear the message and say amen, if we were to really follow the words of his Imperial Majesty, there must be peace on earth. Because all of the world leaders hear from his majesty personally, because his majesty traveled the world as the most traveled world leader. So everyone gets a chance. We don’t want everyone to convert to Rasta, but they get a chance to hear his majesty say, “Under the kingdom of God, there is no kingdom above or next.” Now Rasta say God, what he represents is law, Moses’ law, but we can make a law to govern ourselves in this time of high technology and all of these things that make man get beside themselves. But God bring us back on a level where we consider our heavenly estate.
So we give Jah thanks for the inspiration to this music, to the Rastafarian movement, and the generation that Bob grow up with because he was a product of his surroundings as well and there’s so much great music that come out of Jamaica, especially from Rasta that in many ways when you hear Jamaica and reggae music, you think of Rasta. So much so, when no one see the Ethiopian flag, green, gold, and red, with the Lion of Judah, many people think Jamaica flag, see, and when people hear reggae music, Bob Marley and the Wailers come first to people’s mind. But now, we are honored because as a generation having heard the words sung, we are honored to be able to carry that message to them. So Jah has to first be praised. Yes, to all of those who have paved the way, we give thanks, Aston “Familyman” Barrett, we give thanks, you know, to everyone who fight the struggle upon the front line, working together. Jah works. And thanks to Tiny Porch for have we. More love, peace, blessings, and unity. Blessed be, Jah! Rastafari.
[FEATURE PHOTO, JOSH DAVID BARRETT: Barrett commands the stage with his Marley-like sense of peace and unity. Photo by Renan Yudi]