Israel has been a reggae hotbed for some time, but the past year has seen the genre's superstars performing here in droves. Ziggy Marley, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Mad Professor, Matisiyahu and the Gladiators have all made landmark appearances on their recent tours, and this weekend kicks off the three-gig mini-tour of the U-Roy and Junior Murvin show.
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One of the godfathers of the Jamaican roots reggae sound, U-Roy became involved in music in 1961, when he made a name for himself as a "sound system" DJ with his hands on the controls of the popular portable parties that made their way around Kingston. U-Roy's early-Sixties collaborations with King Tubby were among the first incarnations of the dub sub-genre's echoed-out groove experimentations. He went on to record some of reggae and dub's classic singles under producers like Lee "Scratch" Perry, Peter Tosh and Keith Hudson. U-Roy's best-known album, 1975's Dread in a Babylon, sported a cover photo of the artist's head submerged in pot smoke.
With his signature falsetto, dancehall reggae's Junior Murvin also made a name for himself through collaborations with Tubby and Perry, starting his career in the mid-Sixties under the moniker Junior Soul. His best-known song, 1976's "Police and Thieves," has been covered by Boy George and The Clash.
This is a rare round of concerts for Murvin, who prefers to rest his voice and remain sheltered from on-stage posturing and the touring lifestyle. "Music is a spiritual vibe, you know - not a thing to boast over," he explained to Step Forward magazine a few years ago.
Murvin and U-Roy come to Israel with an 11-piece band ahead of an extensive tour of France, Switzerland and Spain in February.
Wednesday, January 24 and Friday, January 26 at Goldstar Zappa, Rehov Raoul Wallenberg 24, Tel Aviv, with doors opening at 9:30 p.m. and tickets at NIS 170; Thursday, January 25 at the Maabada, Derech Hebron 28, Jerusalem, with doors opening at 10 p.m. and tickets at NIS 150. For reservations, call Goldstar Zappa at (03) 649-9550 or the Maabada at (02) 629-2000.