At the world-famous Tipitina’s this Monday night, legendary reggae group Black Uhuru came all the way from Kingston, Jamaica to play for the NOLA rub-a-dub fans. Black Uhuru started in 1972 as a three piece with Garth Dennis, Don Carlos, and Derrick “Duckie” Simpson. Over the years, they’ve had touches of commercial success, being featured in films and TV shows like Scarface and the Cosby Show. They also have a very long list of former members, as the lineup has changed several times, with Duckie being the only consistent player. The band has featured a fair few icons of the reggae community such as Junior Reid, Michael Rose and the duo Sly & Robbie. Now, the band’s only permanent members are Duckie Simpson and Andrew Bees, however, they haven’t recorded any studio albums since 2001.
Black Uhuru came to town joined by Onesty, a reggae/dancehall singer from Belgium. She warmed up the stage with some mildly catchy, but slightly generic stylings and shared Black Uhuru’s backing band. The musicians consisted of drums, bass, keys, guitar and support vocals. When it was time for BU to play, Andrew Bees and Duckie Simpson were introduced by a hype man, then played onto the stage by the band.
Simpson and Bees assumed the roles of co-frontmen. They divided up the set, alternating lead vocals and harmonies. The first song of the night was “Great Train Robbery.” This was right about the same time that the venue began filling with those familiar funky fumes. With help from the cloudy room, Black Uhuru kept the audience in a trance with all their hits, including “Emotional Slaughter,” “General Penitentiary,” and “Shine Eye Gal.” Of course, they saved the super hits for later. The band took advantage of their material’s similar tempos and made seamless transitions from one song to the next, keeping the beat but changing the progressions. The party atmosphere was also widely abound thanks to the sweet laser noises and synths that BU has carried with them since the 80’s. They busted out an uplifting and spiritually-awakening version of “Solidarity,” which featured the very distinct synth horn riff accompanied by chunky, juicy bass that sounded like an industrial fan being dipped in a vat of molten chocolate. Before everyone’s goosebumps receded, they covered Ini Kamoze’s “World A Reggae,” which put the crowd in a skanking frenzy.
Black Uhuru finished their set with “Whole World is Africa.” This secured the fans’ positive, unified mindset, perfect for the encore. After the hype man kindly asked the crowd if they’d like some more, Black Uhuru returned to the stage to play their huge tracks “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” and “Sensimilla,” both with inserts of the chorus from “Sponji Reggae.” Through an even thicker haze brought on by “Sinsemilla,” Duckie and Bees sincerely thanked the patrons with a “See you next time. One Love. Peace,” before leaving the stage and allowing the guitarist to wail in an instrumental jam that closed out the show. It was a beautifully-arranged encore; the red, green and gold icing on one Rasta-space-cake of an evening.