Black Uhuru live in San Diego
For over ninety minutes, Black Uhuru’s two frontmen – Derrick “Duckie” Simpson, a historic figure in reggae music, who founded Black Uhuru over 50 years ago (in Kingston, Jamaica’s “Waterhouse” District), and Andrew Bees, born Oneil Norman Beckford (a charismatic, velvet-voiced virtuoso, also from Waterhouse, whose infectious on-stage energy keeps him alternatively skanking and dancing around the stage throughout the entirety of the show) – thrilled the adoring crowd with a litany of the band’s hit songs and mainstays, including: Party Next Door, Shine Eye Girl, What Is Life?, I Love King Selassie, General Penitentiary, Emotional Slaughter, Plastic Smile, Whole World Is Africa, Solidarity, and of course, the aforementioned masterpiece, the classic reggae anthem, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.
When Bees and Duckie weren’t busy doing their thing, or stepped away briefly for a drink of water, or for a few whispered words with fellow musicians or stage hands, Frank Stepanek, a Black Uhuru band member for over thirty years, and his high-flying electric guitar took center stage, wowing the frenzied, sweaty, and jubilant crowd with his otherworldly dexterity – banging out finger-defying chords like they were child’s play.
It is this trademark formula that has made Black Uhuru an undeniable success by any estimation, including financial; as other than Bob Marley and the Wailers, Black Uhuru (“Uhuru” is the Swahili word for “freedom”) has sold more records – back in the days when people bought records – than any other individual reggae performer or group, ever. The band’s new album had been initially scheduled for release in 2016 but, in an interview after the show, Mr. Simpson indicated that production would be delayed until next year because the album is expected to feature several collaborations, and more time is needed in the recording studio with the particular musical performers in question.
Rather, let there be no doubt in the hearts and souls of the band’s millions of fans worldwide: Reports of Black Uhuru’s demise (or diminishment in any way) have been greatly exaggerated – indeed, they’ve been invented by dyspeptic haters out of whole cloth.
Because, in fact, my reggae-loving brethren, as witnessed and experienced by lucky concert-goers at the Belly Up: The state of Black Uhuru is strong. Very strong.
Armed with Duckie Simpson’s perennial leadership and tireless work ethic, his unique vision, and his constant ability to add fresh talent to Black Uhuru’s roster when necessary from his Waterhouse roots (like he did with singer Andrew Bees and, before that, with Michael Rose, as well as other current and former band members), Black Uhuru remains, as one very inebriated, albeit very wise, concert-goer decreed: One of the best reggae bands alive. And, I would even go one step further: Black Uhuru is one of the best reggae bands ever. Go and see them whenever and wherever you can!