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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND

Beach-Bred Band Makes Own Waves With Reggae

Big Mountain, from San Diego, headlines the annual Sunsplash show of Jamaican- inspired music.

July 25, 1996|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Santa Barbara County Bowl will host the mother of all reggae gigs Saturday evening when the 5 1/2-hour Reggae Sunsplash provides the soundtrack for mellow, mon.

Headlining this year is not a bunch of Jamaicans, but a bunch of Californians, the San Diego-based Big Mountain, perhaps best known for its smash single a few years ago, "Baby, I Love Your Way."

The Reggae Sunsplash is an annual, lengthy tour involving a revolving cast of bands adept at making the dread heads dance real slow. Although reggae music originated in Jamaica in the early '60s, it is not restricted to its place of origin.

Reggae is everywhere, according to Big Mountain's one-named lead singer Quino, and he seemed pretty darn happy about it during a recent interview.

"The radio has pretty much dried up, but we're busy, he said. "I give thanks because we get to go around and give this beautiful message to beautiful people. But we pretty much work abroad.

"Lately, we've been to Japan, Australia and Brazil. There's reggae everywhere. It may've started in Jamaica, and we speak the same language that they do, but we put our own outlook on things."

Reggae, an amalgamation of African rhythms, jazz and American R&B, is really a catch-all term for Jamaican popular music. Ska (upbeat dance music), rock steady (the familiar one-song, one-beat, one-week thing) and dance hall (reggae meets rap) are different forms of reggae music.

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One thing all forms of reggae have in common is the message--and it's the good stuff of love, peace, happiness, liberation, truth and unity.

"Reggae is the international music, the music of liberation for all peoples," said Quino. "The struggle of the black man can be interpreted to fit the situation of all oppressed peoples."

Big Mountain's big hit was not about liberation, rather it was a wimpy love song. It was such a big hit that, well, here they are headlining the Reggae Sunsplash tour. So are they tired of playing "Baby, I Love Your Way"? No just yet.

"Sure, a superficial rinky-dink love song can make the Top 40, and it had its pros and cons for us," he said. "The song has allowed us to do things we couldn't have done before. Like I said, we just got back from Japan and Brazil and now we're on the Reggae Sunsplash tour."

Formed 10 years ago in San Diego, the members of Big Mountain didn't exactly have to fight their way out of the inner city. Their major struggles more likely involved the fortunes of the Padres and finding parking at the beach.

"It's true we didn't struggle--we all grew up in little suburban California Disneyland," said Quino. "Some may think we're watering down the message and that white boys can't play reggae--before they've seen us. We've been militantly trying to turn that one around for 10 years. It's no secret, that two of us are white and I'm half Mexican and half white."

Despite missing out on the legacy of hard times, they do espouse the party line. "Reggae already has changed the world," Quino said. "There was the world before Bob Marley and the world after Bob Marley. Reggae has guided me in my world views.

"But I became inspired to take up the struggle and dedicate my life to this. I know it may sound suspicious, but the money is not the thing for us and we are dedicated to our views. We want to see this music change others as it has changed us."

DETAILS

* WHAT: Reggae Sunsplash featuring Big Mountain, Dennis Brown, Common Sense, Capleton, Sugar Minott, Judy Mowatt, Skool Band.

* WHERE: Santa Barbara County Bowl, 1122 Milpas St.

* WHEN: 4 p.m. Saturday.

* HOW MUCH: $29, $25, $21 or $19.

* CALL: 568-2695.

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