"Don't fight gainst the Rastaman with him culture music, cause the
Rastaman no mean no harm, what Rastaman want to do is calm the storm."
--Albert "Apple" Craig
As one-third of one of roots reggae's most prominent trios, Apple speaks
with the same friendly yet serious manner of many Rasta singers. His companions
and co-founders of Israel Vibration, Cecil "Skelly" Spence, and
Lascelle "Wiss" Bulgin no doubt have a similar manner. One can
infer from the music of the group that equality is taken very seriously,
and that the longevity of the trio owes a great deal to the unity among
the three men.
After coming under the wing of the Twelve Tribes of Israel in 1977, Israel
Vibration successfully released a single, "Why Worry," recorded
at Treasure Isle Studios. Their debut LP, Same Song, was produced
and released by Tommy Cowan and released by his Top Ranking label in Jamaica
in 1978. The group stayed with Cowan and followed with the legendary Unconquered
People in 1980 (backed by the Wailers and released on Tuff Gong) and
Why You So Craven in 1982 (backed by the Hi Times Band and released
on Tuff Gong) before splitting up amid the harsh climate for roots music
in the 1980s.
While the early years established the trio's approach in the 1970s, Israel
Vibration's greatest success and core catalog has been developed since contracting
with RAS Records in 1988 and forming a magical synthesis with the Roots
Radics band. Since then, the group has released Strength Of My Life
(1989), Praises (1990), Forever (1991), Vibes Alive
(1992), I.V. (1993), and On The Rock (1995). In addition,
three full length dubs have been mixed from the infectious grooves of the
Roots Radics: Dub Vibration, I.V. Dub and Dub The Rock.
Ironically, the most successful years for the trio have come amid the same
storm of slackness and programmed beats that dominated the Jamaican dancehall
and forced the group out of the business in the early 80s. I Vibes found
a niche in the favorable underground roots reggae markets in Europe and
the United States dominated by Burning Spear, Wailing Souls, Ijahman Levi,
Culture and others.
Slackness in the dancehall has long been a concern to Apple, who wrote the
group's latest single, "Rudeboy Shufflin," to address the issue.
"'Rudeboy Shufflin' come from the indifferences what gwan right now
in the system. The system take away the culture few years ago from the people
and put upon the people the slack music and almost totally block out constructive
"In the earlier days, if ya never sing something conscious, nobody
would let you in the studio. Nowadays it different. You can sing anything
now and go pon a record. You don't have to come with no special skills,
no special voice. You don't haffe come knowing how to sing in chords or
sing in tune, sing in a timing. Them just do anything now, and (if it has)
a good stepping dancehall rhythm, people listen it or buy it. Some of the
music alright, some of them can listen to, but some of them really gone
bad. But is the system do this. You cyan blame the youth, cyan blame the
"Culture music open people eyes. And them don't want that. Cause when
people eyes open and people get wise, then people put up more resistance.
When them get wise and them eyes open to things, them become closer to each
other. And when people unite, that's the greatest force right there."
Apple feels the definition of roots reggae goes much further than conscious
lyrics. The rhythms must have a life force behind them to deliver the roots
vibration. "(In the dancehall), them race up the rhythm, them race
up the tempo. The things them playing, them not playing from rhythm, just
playing from beat. Rhythm is something that come from a live person. Rhythm
is a soul thing. Machine cyan give you rhythm, machine can give you beat
-- beat on the time. Talk about rhythm, rhythm is something come out of
live people. The machine cyan give that feel.
"There is no music like when live musicians come pon the stage and
give you that feel -- the bass man, the rhythm guitar man, the lead guitar
man, the keyboard man, the drummer. That is life right there."
Apple says the backing tracks of Roots Radics are most crucial to the roots
sound of Israel Vibration. "Right now Roots Radics are the number one
band right now. Just like in the Wailers time when nothing was like Wailers.
That is how Roots Radics is now. Nothing out there is like Roots Radics.
"Them come from a long time, and them stay with it. Them very livicated
to them work. Is a set of brethren who carry a positive vibration when it
comes to the music. Them nah deal with nah little stupid music nah lickle
slackey tidey. Them a deal with positive vibes. Those are the right people
for the music that we sing. Them love and respect the truth."
For Apple, the creative process is very deliberate. He creates demos at
home with a distinct idea of what the finished product should sound like.
"Me can play instrument, me can play piano, organ, in other words keyboards.
Me can play bass guitar, rhythm guitar, percussion -- thing like that. I
create the rhythm track, then I put the voice on it. I carry it to the studio
and the musicians listen to it. The musicians put in their skill and their
vibe from the inspiration that I have on the cassette."
"When me write a song... me hear the tune, me hear the instruments
and all the different sounds at the same time I come in with the lyrics.
When the inspiration come, to me personally, is not just the words of the
song come, is also the different sounds that the song carry. I can hear
it. I can't explain how I hear it, but spiritually I just hear sounds."
To sum up his approach and the approach of Israel Vibration, Apple simply
states, "It just Jah vibes. Jah vibes cover all things. Jah vibes cover
the whole of creation."
Israel Vibration's visibility in the United States has been hampered in
the last three years due to Wiss Bulgin's immigration status. As of October,
1995, Wiss is expected to be cleared to come to the United States, according
to a RAS Records spokesperson. If everything goes according to plan, Israel
Vibration will be seen on tour in the U.S. in February 1996 backed by the
Copyright 1995 Carter Van Pelt
Originally published in Reggae Report Volume 13 Number 11 1995