The story of international reggae group Israel Vibration’s success starts out with their humbling beginnings as children in a Jamaican rehabilitation center, battling polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system, producing muscular atrophy and often death. The whole island of Jamaica had an outbreak of this epidemic in the 1950s after a shipment of used clothing from England was found to contain the polio virus and many of the islands poor people could not afford to raise these children.
After spending several years at the Mona Rehabilitation Clinic on the outskirts of Kingston, Lacelle Bulgin (Wiss), Albert Craig (Apple) and Cecil Spence (Skelly) began to exhibit interests in music playing piano and other instruments that were laying around at the clinic. They also became very close friends and as they became teenagers they started to adhere to the teachings of Rastafari. This caused some consternation with the administrators of the clinic and they were ordered to trim their locks, stop preaching to the other patients about Jah Rastafari or they would be asked to leave. Steadfast in their beliefs they were unable to eschew their religion and were eventually thrown out of the clinic.
With no money or family to care for them, these three soldiers found themselves sleeping under trees in a field at night with only cardboard as their bed. Sometimes passersby would give them some food or money to help them get through another day. This sufferation caused them to begin writing songs and creating harmonies where each member took a turn singing lead, with the other two providing a type of harmony where their voice would vibrate. This distinctive style lead to them taking the name Israel Vibration since they has become members of a Rastafarian organization known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Eventually word of these homeless singers spread and noted Jamaican producer Tommy Cowan brought them to a studio in Kingston to record what would become their first LP “The Same Song”. This was picked up by EMI in England and their fame now became worldwide. Even Bob Marley picked them as his favorite group and had them play with Bob on a number of shows in Kingston. Jamaica. Their next album, “Unconquered People” was recorded at Bob’s Tuff Gong Studio and featured many of the Wailers as musicians.
As was typical with many producer/artist relationships in Jamaica in those times, the band was never fairly compensated for their work and they decided to split with Cowan. Their frustration with the music business and the difficulties of living in Jamaica with polio led them to come to Brooklyn, New York and like so many other Jamaican immigrants they settled into this community which was almost like home.
Living in America did not solve their problems and the group did not record for several years. In fact they began to drift apart and were trying to launch careers as solo artists. Around 1987 some of them approached Doctor Dread from RAS Records to see if the label would be interested in signing them as solo artists. Doctor Dread was firm in his response “Marcus Garvey always said that Unity Is Strength and if the group would re-unite, that RAS would be willing to undertake re-launching their career as Israel Vibration”. The rest is history.
In 1988 RAS recorded “Strength Of My Life” and went on to produce another seven albums by the group. RAS also was instrumental in touring the group all over the world. To see three polio victims come on stage with their crutches and perform for over two hours straight hours was a very powerful message and audiences the world over became mesmerized by the sounds that the Roots Radics (their backing band) and Israel were creating. Things kept growing and growing for the group until 1988 when Apple Craig decided to leave the group to again pursue a solo career. He released a solo project for RAS in 2001 and lives in Atlanta now.
Skelly and Wiss continue to record and tour as Israel Vibration and have released two albums for RAS and the brand new “Fighting Soldiers” CD. Their careers are peaking again as they have taken both Europe and America by storm and their legion of fans continues to grow. Headlining many large reggae festivals the worldover, Israel Vibration are the torchbearers of the roots, rock reggae movement popularized by Bob Marley. And their flame is burning brighter than ever!
Live On Stage:
Nothing beats some good reggae at a festival to put you in a good mood, and these guys have been doing it since the late '70s. Here's African Unification...
Wasn't expecting to find a music video, but here's Rudeboy Shufflin....
For more info on Israel Vibration head on over to their official website.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008