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VALLEY WEEKEND

Performer Brings Reggae Music to a New Generation

Luciano will target a younger audience at Malibu show, his first West Coast appearance. He'll be backed by the Wailing Souls, adding a dose of tradition.

August 01, 1996|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Local reggae fans have already enjoyed a steady stream of formidable musical talent via the usual summer reggae festivals. But this Sunday's concert headlined by Luciano and the Wailing Souls at Malibu's Calamigos Ranch will have another beneficiary: children.

Not only will kids 12 and under be allowed in free to the day's "family style" event, with its sideshow of games, swimming, animals and a merry-go-round, but proceeds are slated to go to children's programs in both Los Angeles and Jamaica.

"The hospitals need a whole lot of equipment," says Lloyd "Bread" MacDonald of the Wailing Souls, talking of Bustamante Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica. "The equipment is outdated." (Programs at L.A.'s King-Drew Medical Center will also benefit from the concert.)

For concert producer Barbara Barabino, whose Ragamuffin Productions also organized this year's successful Bob Marley Day festival in Long Beach, the connection between reggae music and children's welfare is a natural one.

"A lot of the reggae songs push love and unity," says Barabino, a children's social worker who hosts a reggae show Sundays on KKBT (92.3 FM). "They also talk about loving your brother and sister. Children in the Jamaican culture are considered really precious gems."

Jamaican-born singer Luciano, who will be making his first West Coast appearance on Sunday, says the expected large turnout of young listeners will be a welcome opportunity to spread the messages of goodwill and brotherhood that dominate his songs. "I see my songs as being for the generations to come, and for humanity at large," says Luciano, 31. "The young ones are those we need to focus on. I am happy for a turnout of youngsters."

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Though Luciano is currently enjoying raves from fans and critics as a rising young reggae artist, the day's richest history undeniably belongs to the Wailing Souls, whose two core members began their careers alongside a young Bob Marley in the Jamaican borough of Trenchtown.

"They are very much a part of the foundation of reggae music," says Barabino. "They have established themselves internationally. They're great singers and excellent writers."

With 16 albums behind them, Bread and Winston "Pipe" Matthews now live in Los Angeles, feeding off the city's particular cultural mix. "You're exposed to the business and other types of music and culture here, which is very good for us," says Bread, who moved to the area eight years ago. "The more culture we can be exposed to the better."

But, he adds, "You have to go back to Jamaica every so often. That's still where we do our recording."

The band's follow-up to last year's "Live On" album is already half-completed, says the singer, and is aimed at recreating the spiritual vibe of their earliest days in Jamaica. "To us the message is really important," Bread explains. "Whether the rhythm changes or not, the message is always going to remain the same."

Featured on a bill that also includes the likes of Daddy U-Roy, Mickey General and Sizzla--along with the local bands Urban Dread and Boom Shaka--Luciano has been widely appreciated during this first U.S. tour, and has already earned comparisons to Marley.

Indeed, Luciano explains, it was the rich, spiritual reggae sounds of Marley and Dennis Brown, along with the pop of Stevie Wonder, that first inspired his own music. "I'm from a poor family," he says. "I've learned to appreciate the spiritual phenomenon of music and use it in a positive sense."

Helping to bring that legacy full circle will be sax veteran Dean Frazer, whose career has included work with Marley, Black Uhuru and Maxi Priest. Frazer is now musical director of Luciano's backup band, the Firehouse Crew.

"It's a kind of honor, really," says Luciano. "Frazer is one of the backbones of music in Jamaica. The pleasure and peace and comfort I get knowing he is my musical director is unsurpassed."

This weekend's overlapping of generations of reggae artists suggests the genre will only continue to grow, says Barabino. "I see reggae like I see jazz and country-western music," she says. "It's definitely here. It's not going anywhere. It's not a fad."

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DETAILS

* WHAT: Reggae at the Ranch, with Luciano, Wailing Souls, Daddy U-Roy, Mikey General, Sizzla, Boom Shaka, Jubbie, Norman Grant & the Tropics and Urban Dread.

* WHEN: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

* WHERE: Calamigos Ranch, Malibu.

* TICKETS: $22.50 in advance; $25 the day of the show.

* CALL: (310) 515-3322.

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