KAUAI, HAWAII — Aston Barrett Jr. just returned to Florida from a Wailers reunion tour in Brazil, but the Jamaican musician is gearing up for another show and he said he’s looking forward to a little love from Kauai.
“The reunion tour was wicked, some of the original guys were there,“ Barrett said. “And on Kauai, it’ll be peace, unity and aloha. It’s going to be good.”
Barrett is just one of the artists that will be coming together for the second annual Reggae for Life music festival, set to take over CJM Stables on Saturday. He’s part of the band Reggae Force, which is one of four groups that will grace the stage.
Reggae Force is a relatively new group, comprised of roots veterans Junior Jazz, Peter
“Pan” Williamson, Barrett, and Alaina Reed. They’re currently wrapping up their first full album, Unincorporated.
He decided to join Reggae Force as a way to branch out from his work with his father Aston “Family Man” Barrett and the Wailers. Barrett Sr. played with Bob Marley and the Wailers until Marley died in 1981. He and Barrett Jr. still work with the band.
“Once my father retires, than they want me to take over the Wailers, but I want something separately as well,” Barrett said. “When I met Alaina she said she always wanted a band, so I said alright, let’s find a keyboard and a singer.”
Barrett said they found Junior Jazz for their vocalist and they started to record. The band will be debuting a few of the tracks on Saturday, including “Ja Calling ”, which he was finishing up on Wednesday.
“You’ll hear about five of the new ones, and the one that’s out now,” Barrett said.
Joining Reggae Force on the stage Saturday will be Kauai’s Mel Bel Grey and the homegrown roots band Revival, as well as Maui’s Marty Dread, who will be celebrating his birthday the same day.
“When I found out they were bringing Reggae Force and Junior Jazz over, he’s a hero of mine, well I said oh my god, I should just fly over and see it,” Marty Dread said. “My friend from Mana Moon (which is one of the groups sponsoring Reggae For Life) said, you should just play. I said set me up.”
Marty Dread has 17 albums out and has recently been touring with Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young, and he said he’s looking forward to a Hawaiian show.
“It’s been a huge blessing for me because these guys have welcomed me into their lives and their careers,” Marty Dread said. “I’ve been more of a touring musician recently, though and I want to reestablish with my people.”
He said last time he was scheduled for Kauai – about two months ago for a show at Rob’s Good Times Grill in Lihue – he got stuck at the Oahu airport and missed his gig.
“So I want to apologize for the no-show, but I feel like this show has another important underpinning – besides getting to play with Reggae Force,” Marty Dread said. “It’s for a good cause and it’s like the Relay for Life, but with my genre of music.”
And that’s what the man behind the festival, Phillip “Angel” White had in mind when he put together this year’s event, along with Mana Moon Productions. A percentage of the festival’s proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society, to cancer research projects at the University of Hawaii, and to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Written for The Garden Island Newspaper, published June 4, 2016. Photo by Jessica Else.