Grammy Winning Reggae Singer/Songwriter Mykal Rose Illuminates the Stage with Sly and Robbie at Yoshi’s San Francisco
Who: The Showdown Tour Featuring Mykal Rose Backed by famed Drum and Bass Duo Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare
When: 10:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20
Where: Yoshi’s San Francisco, 1330 Fillmore St., SF
Info: 415 655 5600, www.yoshis.com,
Story and Photos By Shelah Moody
Mykal Rose loves to sing. The former lead singer of the Grammy winning reggae band Black Uhuru said that he records at least five songs a day at his home studio in Florida. Known for his percussive tenor and his trademark “tu tu twang” and “ding ding woy” vocal riffs, Rose cannot discuss any of the Black Uhuru classics, “Shine Eye Gal” and “Whole World is Africa” without singing a few lines from each song.
Michael “Grammy” Rose is gearing up for a U.S. tour with his former Black Uhuru band mates, Sly Dunbar (drums) and Robbie Shakespeare (bass)—a mini reunion.
The “Showdown” tour hits Yoshi’s San Francisco on Friday, Sept. 20. Rose said that he is looking forward to performing at the upscale venue that has hosted acts such as Natalie Cole, Angie Stone, George Clinton and of course, Sly and Robbie, (multiple Grammy winners in their own right who have produced everyone from Dennis Brown to Grace Jones to No Doubt). Accompanying Mykal Rose and Sly and Robbie on the “Showdown” tour are acclaimed keyboardist “Bubbler” Waul and engineer Garfield McDonald.
Black Uhuru (a Swahili word meaning “freedom) formed in 1972 in Waterhouse, Jamaica. Rose joined the band in 1977; and together with Sly and Robbie, vocalists Puma Jones, Errol “Tarzan Nelson Duckie Simpson, became the quintessential protest band of the seventies and eighties, with revolutionary albums such as “Sinsemilla,” “Red” and “Chill Out.” In 1985, Black Uhuru made history as the first band to win a Grammy for Best Reggae Album for “Anthem.” With his deft songwriting skills and exotic vocals, Mykal Rose literally put Black Uhuru on the map.
“Reuniting with Sly and Robbie is the highlight of this tour,” said Rose, who left Black Uhuru in the mid eighties and established himself as a solo artist. “This is a show of the past, present and the future. After this tour, in 2014, we are going to do an album together.
“Each and every one, stand guard, because this is gonna be a great show,” said Rose. “This summer, we played the Garance Festival in France, to 60,000 people. If Europe is ready, let’s see if the west coast is ready!”
Mykal Rose was born on July 11, 1957, on what he described as a “Ben Johnson” day, a term commonly used by Jamaicans for days when the household has no money and food is scarse. Luckily, the circumstances surrounding one’s birth do not determine one’s destiny.
Before joining Black Uhuru, Rose recorded as a solo artist for Jamaican producers such as Niney the Observer and Yabby You. Rose is a man who is keen on keeping up with all genres of music. His dream is to duet with soul songstress Keyshia Cole. One of his all-time favorite albums is Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life.” Rose recently got a kick out of watching Bill Cosby dance to “Spongy Reggae” on the Jimmy Fallon show—which exemplifies Black Uhuru’s influence on popular culture. Last year, Rose recorded a version of “Beat It” for Easy Star’s “Thrillah: A Reggae Tribute to Michael Jackson” compilation. Although he never met Michael Jackson, Rose said that he is a huge fan.
“Yeah, mon, him great, oh Jah Jah,” Rose extolled in patois. “Michael Jackson went to the extreme with the music and gave the music justice when he sang. Yeah mon, him dangerous!” Rose could not resist singing a few lines from the Jackson/Paul McCartney duet, “The Girl is Mine.”
One interesting fact about Mykal Rose is that he is an expert on holistic medicine. Rose has herbal remedies for everything from staying fit to getting over a cold, to personal hygiene to fertility. For instance, he always carries fresh lemons, which he uses as an organic form of deodorant. Rose is extremely proud of his five children, one of whom is pursuing a career in nursing, another in civil engineering and another in music.
Like conscious reggae artists of his era, Rose aims to make the world better for the youth. Rose believes that Black Uhuru recordings should be available to students on college campuses for education and also for upliftment. His latest album, “Showdown Inna Bloody Town” addresses the global crisis of violence and gun culture. The album is extremely relevant in light of the recent Washington D.C. Navy Yard killings, the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut and other acts of senseless gun violence. For instance, producer Siahvash Dowlatshahi wanted to change the title of the Black Uhuru track “Youth of Eglington” to “Youth of Oakland,” due to the wave of violence in the city.
“It looks like not even mankind can solve the crisis,” said Rose. “It’s like war upon war, and people want blood. We have songs like “Gunfighter,” about people who come to a party and break it up. A man fyah and everyone run, gone, and the fun done. There’s a time for war, and there’s a time when people want to enjoy themselves.”
There are also some creative dub mixes on “Showdown” such as “Bloody Dub” and Ethio-Jazz Version.”
“This album is more Afrocentric,” said Rose. “It’s a different vibe for African brothers and sisters.”
On a lighter note, at the end of our interview, Rose gladly entertained a fan’s curiosity about his famous dreadlocks, which he usually keeps under a hat or wrapped around his head like a turban.
“When I let my hair down, it hits the floor,” said Rose. “It’s light as a feather, but heavy when it’s wet. That’s why I have to sleep on a king size bed—so that I can let out the whole of my dreads.
The Mykal Rose/Sly and Robbie Showdown Tour continues:
Sat Sept 21 Santa Cruz, CA – Moe’s Alley
Sun Sept 22 Santa Monica Pier
Tues Sept 24 Seattle, WA – Neumos
Wed Sept 25 San Juan Capistrano, CA
– The Coach House
Thurs Sept 26 Solano Beach, CA – The Belly Up
Fri Sept 27th Denver, CO – Casselman’s
Sun Sept 29thNew York, NY – B.B. Kings
Mon Sept 30th – Asbury Park, NJ – The Saint
Tues Oct 1st – Washington, D.C. – The Howard Theatre