Jamaica in January? Reggae, That Is

By Bill DeSanctis

My wife and I are reggae fans, so when we heard that Louisville Homefront Performances had scheduled the Baltimore-based reggae group Uprising, plus Serpent Wisdom, a Louisville world-beat group, we decided to go out and hear them, even though as parents of three little ones, it would require some arranging.

We arrived late as usual, but this night the Homefront radio crew was also running behind because of technical difficulties, so we didn't miss anything.

The high-energy Uprising warmed themselves up and set the audience's mood with a very smooth and radiant version of John Lennon's "Imagine," ending the song with a segue into "Give Peace A Chance." This reminded me right away of the reason I've enjoyed reggae music so much: it's uplifting even when dealing with such important moral issues as war, civil rights and the relationship between man and his environment.

For the next half hour, my wife and I tapped our feet and clapped our hands while others danced in the aisles to Uprising's energetic rhythms. The percussionist kept the crowd entertained by playing several instruments not commonly played in the States. The bassist helped keep the dancers in the mood by maintaining a strong and steady beat and his facial expressions added encouragement as well. All seven members of the group stayed in the groove and keep the SRO crowd happy.

The second half of the radio program featured Serpent Wisdom, a trio comprised of vocalist Jak Son Renfro, guitarist Ken Lucchese, who plays an amplified 12-string guitar, and Musa Uthman, who beats a variety of African drums. With songs about love, sharing, ending hatred and the struggles of life both here and abroad, they shared their vision and let the audience hear their messages.

Lucchese is quite a guitarist, managing to fill out the sound with only a twelve-string, and Uthman's drumming is well-respected around town.

Renfro has a stage presence that has to be seen to be appreciated.

The next hour we had a repeat of the first, as is the Homefront practice. As the evening ended, we wished we could have the chance to hear the reggae sounds of Uprising more often. It's also refreshing to know that such groups as Serpent Wisdom are still sharing their messages.

Thanks again to Homefront for a nice evening.

Next month, Homefront will bring singer-songwriter Fred Koller to town. Koller is the author of several hits for Kathy Mattea, including "Life As We Knew It" and "Going Gone." Appearing on the show with Koller will be the reunion of NoZmo King, the "swing grass" group that made a splash in Louisville in the mid-Eighties. Fiddler Rusty May, now married and living in Canada will be joined by guitarist Tom Flood. There is also word that mandolinist John Goodin will join them. Flood and Goodin are currently working together in a group called der Vision.

(Bill DeSanctis is a computer teacher at Crosby Middle School. He was coerced into writing this story by one of the LMN publishers.)