This post contains my complete running coverage of this annual festival ...
© Tulsa World
To Third World, It's Not Fans, It's Family
By Thomas Conner 06/23/1995
When the interview started, Bunny Rugs had just dealt his daughter
the second hand of a Jamaican card game called Three Card Peter
Pat. The young girl had just fleeced her father and was giggling in
anticipation of another rout.
Rugs is a family man, he said, just like Third World is a family
band — with family all over the world.
Rugs, a stage name for William Clarke, is the lead vocalist of
Third World, one of the featured bands at Tulsa's Reggaefest '95.
The Tulsa show will be the band's first gig on its summer tour.
A lot of bands strain under the rigors of cross-country touring.
But for Bunny, it's one big family reunion.
“I don't call them fans, I call them family,'' he said, after his
daughter won another hand. “Each year we look forward to meeting
our family all over again. There are so many people that we know in
Japan, in America, in Europe, especially in Jamaica, and touring
gives us the opportunity to see them all again.''
Rugs loves the road. He can't wait to get on the road again each
time, he said.
“It's not good for family life, but it pays the bills,'' he said.
“I love hotel rooms. My (two) girls come along sometimes when
we're going places they've never been before. I'd like to have them
with me more, but it's hard. Still, I love going out.
“You have to have that built-in chemistry to love the road. It's
hard to keep your energy up, but when the curtains go up, somehow
you find the strength, especially if you're doing something you
“Once, when we were in Europe, I was really sick with hepatitis. I
would lay in the bus until time to go on, drink a jug of ginseng
and go on, and I'd be just fine until the curtain went down. It's
the music that's just keeps me going.''
Rugs has his own music and his work with Third World keeping him
going. This summer's tour will support Third World's recent
release, “Live It Up,'' and Rugs just released his own solo effort
called “Talking to You'' on a small indie label in New York,
Shanachie. It's his first solo effort in more than two decades.
The solo work was produced by popular Jamaican producer Jack
Scorpio. “Our relationship turned out really well,'' Rugs said.
“It's a little different from the music with Third World, only in
terms of production. It's a little more dance hall, and I've got
some different styles from the different people working with me.''
“Talking to You'' reached No. 16 on last week's Black Echo chart.
The last time Rugs cut a solo recording was before he joined up
with Third World — in 1973. The members of Third World are most of
the original members of pre-Jacob Miller's Inner Circle. When four
of the members broke away to form Third World, Rugs went to see
them at New York City's Bottom Line club. “And I've been with them
ever since that night,'' he said.
Third World, however, is more than just another reggae act. The
lyrical sensibility is the same — lots of peace, love and harmony
— but the music worms its way through all kinds of styles, from
Caribbean into rhythm and blues and finishing with true funk.
“Third World's music has its own sound, sure,'' Rugs said, “and
the message is one of peace and harmony. We really haven't changed
over the years. The instrumentation might have changed, but we are
always singing about the same things — peace, world harmony, love
between man and woman. It would change if we were singing about
guns and violence, I guess, but we're on the other end of all that,
you know ...''
“Goodness, she beat me again,'' he said. “She's got me down
His daughter giggled triumphantly in the background.
“Next time we're playing for money.''
Goin' Solo: Reggae's Rose Makes a Comeback
By Thomas Conner 06/23/1995
Guess who's coming to Tulsa.
After a 10-year hiatus from visibility in America, reggae's great
uncle, Michael Rose, comes back ashore this summer, starting with
Tulsa's Reggaefest '95.
“This festival is like my big kick-off,'' Rose said this week in a
telephone interview from his doctor's office in Jamaica. “I'm jus'
tryin' to get healthy and put together my tour.''
And what a kick-off.
Since leaving Black Uhuru, the kingpins of reggae, 10 years ago,
fans of Rose's unique style and sound have been chomping at the bit
for a new album. Rose was Uhuru's chief songwriter, scoring such
hits as “Shine Eye Gal'' and “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner,'' and
he left the band right after its “Anthem'' album was awarded the
1985 Grammy for Best Reggae Album.
“It was just that we couldn't work together anymore,'' Rose said
of his departure. “There were no bad feelings. We just didn't have
anything verbally, and we couldn't do business anymore.''
As a soloist, Rose began to release singles intermittently --
material he had written and recorded between Uhuru tours. In 1990,
he released an album called “Proud,'' and in 1993 another called
“Bonanza'' (with the delicious hit “Ganga Bonanza''). Since then
he's tossed out several singles recorded from sessions with Sly and
Robbie, the infallible rhythm section that was the core of Black
Uhuru. None of this material, however, was released in the United
This year, Rose's first major-label, self-titled solo recording is
on American shelves. Released on Heartbeat Records, “Michael
Rose'' is a high-production addition to Rose's string of hits, if
not the monumental recording Black Uhuru fans have been itching for.
Rose, still fumbling for a solo voice (and control of his trademark
locks), tries a few stylistic experiments, but he sounds best when
he plays it straight, as in the disc's opener, “Too Hard a
Hearing,'' and the powerful “Warning.''
The album's first single, “Badder Than You,'' jabs at the
young'uns who have not only imitated his unique vocal wail, but
have downright copied him without any credit. He sings: “I can do
it better than you / I can do it best / You know that I'm badder
“I'm not really angry at no one,'' Rose said, “but some of these
guys don't give me credit. They never say they like me or nothing;
they only try to discredit me. Look at Snow. He took everything
Still, Rose is hunting for new young reggae stars. He and his
brother have launched the Jamaica-based Image label to focus on
Rose had his own influences, though. The most notable was
reggaemeister Dennis Brown, who Rose calls his “godfather.'' Rose
also cites — surprise — Bob Marley, as well as other actual
surprises like Billy Paul, Marvin Gaye and the Temptations.
“When we got started in Jamaica, we used to entertain tourists on
the streets, you know,'' Rose said. “That was the only opportunity
to get into music. Some of that old soul music attracted people to
Rose said he idolized Brown, but soon forged his own style.
“You can't be like someone else the rest of your life.''
He now is certainly his own man. Rose relishes some of the freedoms
he has now as a solo artist. “Working with myself, I'm my own boss,''
Dancehall Days: Yellowman Makes Tulsa Debut
By Thomas Conner 06/23/1995
Long regarded as the most important dancehall player in the reggae
universe, Yellowman has overcome great odds to make it in music.
Born in Jamaica an albino — with no skin pigmentation --
Yellowman was forced into institutions and special schools.
Dropping his real name, Winston Foster, he embraced his nickname,
Yellowman (because “I'm yellow, like cheese''), and turned it into
a winning moniker. And only recently, Yellowman won battles with
throat and skin cancer.
This summer, he returns to the road on the heels of his
latest solo release, “Prayer.'' With more than 25 albums to his
credit, Yellowman still pours on nutritious grooves in simple songs
like “Africa'' and “Reggae Music.'' The title track is a blend of
sweet vocals and a dancehall-style chanting of the Lord's Prayer.
He also collaborated with reggae greats like the Mighty Diamonds
and David Folkes on this album.
Yellowman's music ranges from the political to the spiritual.
His lengthy list of hits includes “Soldier Take Over,'' Mad Over
Me,'' “I'm Getting Married,'' “Jamaica a Little Miami'' and “Me
Kill Barney'' (which has nothing to do with the famed purple
dinosaur). Yellowman is the best-selling reggae artist since Bob
Wendy Shaw has a long history in reggae music — a genre not
exactly brimming with talented women. She started fronting an
all-Rasta women band called Jahdeeda in the mid-'80s, and now she's
causing quite a buzz in the record industry in southern California.
Her first album, “Praise His Majesty,'' came about after
lots of work recording and exploring in reggae's heartland,
Jamaica. After a show at the Sunsplash festival, she met Rita
Marley (wife of Bob). Marley encouraged her to come to Tuff Going
Music, which ended up distributing Shaw's first singles. She made
her debut in 1990 at the 9th Annual Bob Marley Day celebration in
Long Beach, Calif.
Her latest record, “Passing Through the Flames,'' continues
to speak a message of love and peace in a special style only a
woman could add to the reggae vein. Her spirituality dominates much
of her lyrical subjects.
“Rastafari is a way of life to live and be free from the
hooks of Babylon,'' Shaw has said. “All of my songs so far have
touched upon this theme.''
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.