Hard At Work

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

If you like classic, old-school reggae, Don Quixote’s Music Hall in Felton may be the perfect destination for a Saturday evening drive this weekend.  There, you can enjoy dinner from their full Mexican menu and then hear the music of Root Awakening.  The music of Root Awakening ranges from mellow island sounds to up-tempo dancehall numbers, and carries positive messages about peace and freedom.  The owners of Don Quixote’s will be clearing a big space on the dance floor on Saturday night, as they expect the joint to be jumping.

Since the band’s formation in 1994, Root Awakening has been building a solid reputation as one of the Bay Area’s best and most hard-working reggae bands.  Root Awakening plays music in the tradition of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Burning Spear, including original compositions as well as covers of reggae classics.  In addition to its own concerts, the band has provided backing for top artists such as Ken Boothe and Tippa Irie.

Although the band has been together for a little over a decade, the beginnings of Root Awakening lie in the 1970s.  Bass guitarist Herb Daly visited Jamaica during that time as an adult literacy teacher.  While in Jamaica, Daly got to meet and play with Jamaican reggae artists including Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare.

When Daly returned to the United States, he joined West Coast reggae band Roots of Creation and later the Rastafarians, touring nationally and becoming well known in reggae circles as a multi-instrumentalist and recording artist. 

In 1994, Daly founded Root Awakening with a group of like minded, reggae loving musicians including influential guitarist Vince Black, who has performed with Black Uhuru and Dub Syndicate among others.  John Nevin on keyboards, David Yusem on guitar and Caribbean-born Cedric Angila on drums and percussion round out the lineup, which is sometimes further enhanced by a horn section.  The band released its debut CD “Roots Tonic” in 1997. The album was named Number 1 Independent USA Reggae Release by Reggae Report magazine that year, and tracks from the album still receive radio play.  The band’s song “Hungry for Dub” was recently used as part of the soundtrack for a National Geographic Channel documentary.

As live performers, Root Awakening has a stellar reputation.  The band is equally at home in a small club such as Don Quixote’s as on a large festival stage.  In 1999, the band played at the International Sailing Regatta on the island of Bonaire in the Caribbean, and Root Awakening has shared festival stages with Steel Pulse, Gregory Isaacs and Toots and the Maytals among many others.

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, December 15, 2005

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