‘Blond dreads and blue eyes everywhere’

I’ve listened to a lot of reggae music in my lifetime and I’ve never ceased to be amazed at how this music, native to a small island in the Atlantic, has spread its way across the entire globe. Even on the other side of the world in New Zealand, Logan Bell, lead singer of roots reggae champions Katchafire, found the music in the very same way that many of us did. “I think the first contact I had was probably Bob Marley, I mean there was others — Peter Tosh, Steel Pulse, Mighty Diamonds, Gladiators, but I think Bob had the first real impact on me. I didn’t even know it was reggae music. It was just Bob Marley. My friends around the neighbourhood’s parents, older brothers and sisters, that whole generation, grew up listening to Bob and listening to reggae music,” says Bell, speaking to me in the midst of their latest North American tour.

Since forming as a Bob Marley cover band in 2000 (even naming themselves after the legendary first Marley and the Wailers record, Catch a Fire), Katchafire has evolved into one of the biggest reggae acts working today, playing to adoring fans all over the world. “It’s huge. Reggae’s huge everywhere around the world. That’s kind of been our ticket so far,” says Bell. “When you have a genre that strong and a following that big, you can always count on fans coming out of the woodwork everywhere.”

Bell points out that New Zealand is a more fertile ground for the music than most would expect. “Reggae is one of the biggest genres in New Zealand. We’ve had a pretty big effect with reviving and starting a movement there with a lot of the bands coming through and loving it.”

So big is their impact and so international is reggae music’s appeal that the band has found success in some of the furthest reaches of the globe. “We went to Slovakia and a whole bunch of European countries where I didn’t know we had that much effect. People knew our songs, people that couldn’t even speak English or only had a lick of English, singing our songs with their eyes closed and it seemed to be sort of a universal reaction,” recalls Bell before laughing — “Blond dreads and blue eyes everywhere.”

Bell says it’s no coincidence that reggae continues to gain fans all over the world, as the entire planet moves to catch up to a quicker way of life. “I think in today’s day and age, with everything moving so quickly, it’s just a nice breath of fresh air. It’s real music. It speaks of issues of the heart and struggle. I think everyone can use some realness in their lives. And the music is a very chilled, relaxing and conscious vibe, you know, and the world needs it.”

Katchafire’s reggae stays true to the roots of the music, standing out with the use of an insanely underutilized weapon — harmonies. “I think it’s a lot to do with our culture. Maoris love to sing. We love to get together and harmonize with a guitar and each other. I definitely think that’s our culture shining through in our music,” Bell says of the impact the band’s ancestral culture has on their music. “It’s a different strain and we’re proud of who we are. We’re proud of being Maori. At home the culture is alive and well, the language is alive and well. We are a proud people.”

Veterans of the Victoria Ska Festival, Bell says Katchafire is always ready to play here in Victoria. “The vibe is awesome. The trip on the ferry is cool. We always have a good time up there, and they treat us well. Wherever there’s good people and a warm invitation, the Fire is down to play for the masses. This will be our third time. We’re excited.”

Katchafire will be sharing their bill with reggae-rapper J Boog, who the band has expressed interest in working with. When I pressed Bell if we might get to see the two acts collaborate on the 9one9 stage, he was momentarily silent. “We might. We might go off the cuff, do something impromptu.” Another moment of silence loomed before he revealed the exciting truth that only reinforced my idea that Katchafire’s set can’t be missed. “I’ll say yes. There you go.”

 

Katchafire w/ J Boog at Victoria Ska Fest

Friday July 12, Club 9one9

Tickets $23.50 or included in Full Festival Pass ($139.50 early bird) or Harbour Pass ($75 early bird)

Road to Ska Fest part two here: http://martlet.ca/2013/06/the-road-to-ska-fest-part-two-dub-fx/

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