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MUSIC ONE LOVE VIBRATION : Rastamen : The roots reggae band has been around for only a couple of years, but has the cumulative experience to be old.

January 03, 1991|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It was a weird scene even for a bar--even for a bar in Santa Barbara. Some team was skating circles around the Kings on the big-screen television that was mounted on the stage. The Kinks' "Paranoia" blared over the sound system.

And the Santa Barbara reggae band, One Love Vibration, was setting up for the evening's gig at The Long Bar. Funny, but Wayne Gretzky never struck me as a reggae fan. Does Ray Davies like hockey?

And why was a hard-core roots reggae band playing in a yup-scale Mexican restaurant?

First, the big-screen Kings went away, ruining a unique photo opportunity to capture a reggae band performing in front of a hockey game.

Rodney Dangerfield would have had to alter his famous one-liner from "I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out" to "I went to a hockey game and a reggae concert broke out." Anyway, the Kinks were next to go, leaving the four-piece roots reggae band.

Reggae's got The Beat. One beat. If you like it, you're in there; if not, you're in the wrong place.

It's really basic--one band, one beat, one song, one set, or so it seems.

A Kings game is shorter than a reggae song, but One Love Vibration plays better. The band has been around for only a couple of years, but between the members, they have enough cumulative experience to be old.

The front man is the one and only and very busy Ras David. He sings, he plays guitar, he writes the songs. He has dreadlocks longer than three hockey games. Antoine Richardson from New York City is the drummer; Jim Epping plays keyboards, and Lion Sandford is the bassist. Sandford, for example, has been playing for 15 years and was trained by the most famous bassist in Jamaica, Robbie Shakespeare.

In an interview between sets over some crummy Mexican beer, Ras David discussed the life and times of One Love Vibration.

How's the tape doing?

It's progressing. It's getting some airplay up here in Santa Barbara on KJUC. We sell them at our gigs--we play at least three times a week. This is what we do. We don't have day jobs.

Why reggae?

Reggae has always been my music. I was born in London, then lived in Africa and traveled a lot. I really got into reggae when I was traveling in the '70s. Reggae is heartbeat music; it comes from the heart with a love vibration. Reggae is the pulse of the people. It seeks the good in everyone. Reggae spreads the word that there's hope--the good news.

According to your bio, you're a Rastafarian. What is that?

Well, when I walk down the street, people say, "Hey, Rastaman," and I respond. They don't say, "Hey, Irishman" or anything like that. And you don't have to be black--there are white Rastas in Jamaica--I've seen them. Rastafarianism is a set of beliefs that are very old--they are taken from the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, and everything that has happened since. Rastafarianism is inspired and dedicated to the Emperor Haile Selassie. Some say he is dead. But is he really dead? Is Jesus dead? Is Bob Marley dead? These people are messengers. In Jamaica, there are certain Rastas that live in the hills and smoke the Lamb's Bread--that's weed or ganja to you. Anyway, all these people had was the Bible and the ganja and they studied the Bible very intensely. People misunderstand the herb. We only have one goal--to overcome the negative. We don't like no heroin, no cocaine, no crack, no silly man-made chemicals.

How did the band get started?

I was traveling and I just ended up in Santa Barbara and I met the other guys. We've all been in other bands before and played with a lot of different people. We have a lot of experience. We do a few covers, but mostly all originals.

Describe One Love Vibration music.

It's roots rockin' reggae; it's rub-a-dub, you know?

What would your dream gig and your nightmare gig be?

Our dream gig? Maybe playing with Ziggy or something. No nightmare gig--we don't look at music like that. Some people think we're really weird, others love us. Sometimes we play and the place is packed; other times, there's only a few people. It's always different.

What's the best and worst thing about being a musician?

Well, I get to do what I like to do--this is our life. The worst thing, maybe, would be if this recession gets so bad that all the clubs close.

Can or should music change the world?

Music is a contributing factor to change. The right music in the right place in the right time can definitely change things. We're anti-apartheid.

What's next for One Love Vibration?

What we're trying to do is to convince people that there is something more than all this gloom. They have to make room for all the other ideas on this planet, that peace and love is the solution. And we attract all sorts of people to our gigs--yuppies, the homeless, families, everyone else in between. I think maybe we'd like to get an agent or something, not so much a record company because we enjoy our freedom.

What's the most misunderstood thing about reggae?

The rhythm of reggae is not indigenous to this land, and it seems that America is always on the verge of accepting reggae. It's time to take reggae seriously. It's not the enemy. It can help the system.

* WHERE AND WHEN

One Love Vibration at The Long Bar, 111 State St., Santa Barbara, today at 9 p.m. Cover charge is $2. Call 564-1215.

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