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Reggae’s rising star

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
ALL |

To reggae artist Joseph Israel, music is more than just an art form ” it’s the medicine the world needs to heal disease.

When Israel was a young boy growing up in Arkansas his father would listen to Bob Marley and Peter Tosh records. He immediately felt a connection with the music, he said. Israel’s perception of the world began to change the more he listened, and it became an obsession.

“It got me really questioning things in life and so I began to study all types of things to educate myself on what was going on in the world today and what I should strive to become,” Israel said.

Now 30 years old, he’s come a long way from those days of self-discovery. He has followed the path of his dreams and is making music that he hopes will change the world ” or, at the very least, peoples perceptions of themselves and how they fit into the world.

“I’d like them to walk away with a positive feeling and hope in their life (and that they) could see a change in it as well. Everybody is important. Music is a refuge. The music will become a place where people can go inside their head and feel at peace,” said Israel, whose deep concern for the state of the world often inspires his songs.

Perhaps nothing has influenced Israel’s songwriting more than his own trips to Jamaica, which he began making when only a teenager. He recorded his first album, “Gone Are the Days,” in Kingston, Jamaica at the Tuff Gong studio where Bob Marley also recorded. The poverty and social injustices that occur in Jamaica served as a catalyst for Israel’s inspiration. He cherishes his southern upbringing but also draws parallels between its history and that of Jamaica’s.

“I grew up in an area where you’re confronted with all these racist people and different situations, oppressive situations, so it really helped me. Reggae music was kind of like my outlet. When I went to Jamaica, it really all came together,” Israel said.

Now his lyrics encompass topics that read like a CNN news ticker: suicide bombings, poverty, racial strife, corruption. These are all issues that Israel confronts with his music, which he says helps him to channel his anger.

Israel’s success as a reggae artist is growing rapidly, thanks to help from radio stations picking up his singles nationwide. He is back on tour with his band this year and will be passing through Vail on Sunday night. His show at the Sandbar will be only the fourth of the tour.

“It was really cold last time I played there,” Israel said. “I’m excited to come back when it’ll be warmer. The people are great music lovers in (Vail).”

Israel also has a collection of new songs that he said should culminate in a new CD early next spring. He hopes that his music can fill a void in peoples lives and help them spiritually where he says today’s religions can’t. He is still involved with reggae for the same reasons he started when he was a kid.

“I had something to add to it, you know. I had certain things I had to express. It kind of came natural,” Israel said.

Arts and Entertainment writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.


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