March 29, 2017

Reggae band Roots Man Project brings humanitarianism to own tunes

Reggae band Roots Man Project performs at The Boardwalk in Orangevale in October 2016. The group will headline a Sac State Nooner on Feb. 1. (Photo courtesy of Roots Man Project)

Vacaville-based band Roots Man Project, while only in the local music scene for two years, prides itself on being unique by preaching to and educating audiences with messages of unity and human struggles.

This all-male, reggae quintet will make its Sacramento State debut on Feb. 1 in the University Union Redwood Room as the second performer of UNIQUE Programs’ weekly Nooner concert series.

Members of the group include lead vocalist and founder Curtis Walker, drummer Jimmy Toor, guitarist Derrick Briggs, bassist James Yokoi and keyboardist Wendell Fishman — all of whom aim to promote peace and love through their music.

“We have band members from all different walks of life: Japanese, white, Mexican (and) Jamaican,” Walker said as he explained how his band’s name derived from the structure of a tall-standing tree. “That’s the root. The man part of it is us all men standing together to come out into this music. The project is going (on) right now (with) each limb bearing new fruit … giving that message of peace, love and unity.”

At the Feb. 1 concert, Roots Man Project, whose sound and purpose have been highly influenced by Bob Marley, will perform a mix of the famous Jamaican musician’s covers as an ode to his Feb. 6 birthday, as well as some of the band’s own original tunes.

“I think reggae music and Bob Marley really influenced me and the band as far as being able to take (suffering and hardships) in and use it as a positive energy,” Walker said. “It’s just a thing that I think is common to a lot of different people’s lives and reggae music helps bring everybody together and help understand that.”

Walker said he believes that his band’s audience can benefit from not only the sound and vibe of Marley’s music, but also the moral and political messages as well.

While guitarist Briggs only joined Walker and the other three members last July after a chance encounter at a bar in Vacaville, both men share similar interpretations on what the Caribbean-hailed genre truly means to them.

“Reggae to me, it’s always been the music of the suffering people — the people who have to work real hard and they’re by no means privileged,” Briggs said. “But reggae music also is a spiritual music. It’s a music of praise to the most high as well because no matter how or what the circumstance is, with faith — faith can move mountains.”

As a former rap music enthusiast, Walker said the genre has changed in its messages. Today, rap lyrics are infused with tones of gang violence, selling drugs and belittling women as if the rappers are praising and glorifying these actions.

For Walker, reggae is an alternative to those messages.

Like Briggs, the frontman said that reggae transcends its own familiar objective of being a foot-tapping, head-bobbing music genre.

“I think that’s what’s different with reggae music,” Walker said. “Reggae music is trying to bring you out of that and lift you up. (It) opens your eyes and let(s) you realize you don’t have to be that stereotype. You can be so much more (and) so much better than that.”

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