By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

California has a thriving reggae music scene, and the Bay area is no exception.  A recently released CD, “Skankin’ Cali Style,” released by Represent Music, showcases 20 of California’s best reggae bands, and features all varieties within the genre, including old school dancehall and ska as well as more modern variants such as ragga and various crossover styles.  Particularly notable is the influence of California’s Latino community, with several bands such as Dub Congress combining Latin beats with reggae’s lilting, Caribbean-tinged sounds.  Skankin’ Cali Style was put together by a Salinas resident, Jason Hobbs, and two bands from Salinas are featured on the compilation.

Cali Nation is a Salinas based band which has over the past three years established itself as one of the most popular reggae acts in the local area.  The band was formed by guitarist and vocalist Andrew Nack, a Minneapolis-born musician whose family relocated to Salinas when he was a young boy.  Nack attended Salinas High School, where he formed a band with drummer Jason Rader.  This band would eventually involve into Cali Nation.

The members of Cali Nation (Nack and Rader are joined by Mikee Rosas on vocals and Anthony Parker on bass) bring a diverse range of musical influences to the table.  Their original music combines elements of blues, hip-hop, heavy metal and punk as well as reggae and ska, and the band has gained many new fans when opening for local bands such as The Expendables and Risby’s Nickel.  Cali Nation’s musical diversity is well illustrated by considering a highlight of recent live shows, a cover version of the Eagles’ “Hotel California” which morphs into Tupac Shakur’s “California Love.” The band has penned an ode to its members’ hometown in “Salinas,” which makes observations on the violence that is commonplace here.  Rather than commenting or passing judgement, said Nack, “It’s just about growing up in a town that harbors hostile youth.  It’s just my outlook on my surroundings.”  The track is featured on the “Skankin’ Cali Style” CD.

Cali Nation hopes to record a CD of its own this year, as well as extending the range of its touring radius.  The band has already played at venues in Monterey, Salinas, Santa Cruz and the San Francisco bay area.  If you’d like to catch Cali Nation live, the band’s next show is on January 29 at the Lava Lounge in downtown Monterey.

Also appearing on “Skankin’ Cali Style” is A Step Beyond, a new band that has only been together since mid-2004.  The four twenty-something musicians in A Step Beyond again all hail from Salinas and cite influences as diverse as Bob Marley, Pink Floyd and Eminem.  The band is gaining a growing reputation for its local live shows and will be releasing a four-track demo CD in the near future.

“Skankin’ Cali Style” is available from local record shops, at featured artists’ shows and from Represent Music’s web site.

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, January 20, 2005

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