When he arrived here from Jamaica in 1987 at the age of 19, Lynval Jackson knew so little about Minnesota that he thought it would be “a little colder” than at home.
By the way, he did it in January.
“He didn’t have a proper coat or anything,” he recalled shyly. “I learned the hard way.”
Since thawing that first year, Jackson has spent the next 3 and a half decades warming up other people in Minnesota. He’s doing a particularly good job this winter.
His main group, the International Reggae All-Stars, will once again lead Cabooze’s “Bob Marley Remembered” shows on Friday and Saturday, as they have done every February since 1993.
Scheduled for the Jamaican icon’s birthday, these shows are typical of the good vibes Jackson and his band have been generating every week since COVID restrictions began to ease.
The truly international band performed at a new weekly concert last summer at Bunker’s in downtown Minneapolis. His Tuesday night shows have been a hit even amidst the ups and downs of live music.
“People really wanted a night like this, especially after COVID,” Jackson said on a recent night’s rest. “They know they can go down every week, listen to some reggae. They can dance and feel good.
“After two years without live music, we also feel good in the band.”
Another reason for the popularity of the show, Jackson theorized: Over the course of four decades, Bunker’s has moved from an advanced location on the edge of the city center to being in the heart of the modern North Loop, full of condominiums.
“We reach out to people who have just walked around their neighborhood and listened to the music coming out of the place and they were attracted to it,” he said.
It was easy to hear this launch on a Tuesday night at Bunker’s just before COVID’s omicron wave arrived. A couple of hundred people came in from the cold and filled the booths and dance floor.
Starting punctually around 9:30 p.m., the quintet played non-stop for 90 minutes before taking a break to do 90 more.
Like Jackson’s weekly playlist on his Saturday afternoon KFAI-FM radio show “Caribbean Jam,” another concert he has held for three decades, the selection of songs from the first set was deeper and diverse than an overview of typical Minnesota reggae. .
Among the songs: the 90’s hit Inner Circle “Sweat”; Minnesota classics revised by Dylan’s reggae (“Knockin ‘on Heaven’s Door”) and Prince (“Do Me, Baby”); two songs by Beres Hammond, which is one of Jackson’s favorites; and actually just a Bob Marley song, a relatively deep cut (“Iron Lion Zion”).
“It simply came to our notice then [Marley] songs “at weekly concerts, Jackson explained, citing the need to” keep the shows fresh. “
However, he added: “This May he grows old playing Bob Marley. These songs are timeless. “
Blue Mountains, blue collar
At 54, Jackson himself defies the stereotypes of a Jamaican reggae singer. There’s no gregarious “yah mon” stage joke. No rasta protrudes from his Kangol cap. No smoke breaks from the Jamaican variety.
In fact, there is a lot of Minnesota in this Jamaican. He is senseless, a little reserved, hardworking. He does the work week after week, year after year, no matter the chaos that surrounds him.
This reggae music worker’s approach adds to his day-to-day work managing bus routes for Minneapolis public schools (also a demanding concert lately). He is also the father of an adult daughter and a high school son.
“People are a little surprised at first when they see him in front of a reggae band,” concert promoter and booking agent Jeff Taube said of Jackson.
Taube MidAmerica Talent Company pays tribute to Marley de Cabooze. Before the first of these tributes, 29 years ago, it was seriously questioned whether people would buy a Marley concert conducted by a fearless singer.
“Of course it was a silly concern, but at the time I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. When people hear Lynval singing, they forget about everything else.”
Her deep, robust but tender and soulful singing earned her the nickname “Golden Voice”, which has appeared in tribute brochures to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye in addition to Marley’s shows. He was as much influenced by classical American R&B singers as he was by the great Rastafarian while growing up in Jamaica.
His family comes from Westmoreland Parish, near the town of Negril, on the westernmost side of the island. His father was a sugar farmer, his mother a seamstress, a blue-collar background not very different from many in Minnesota for whom he currently sings.
Her first concert was at church when she was 5 years old. He was the sixth of seven siblings, with his younger brother Devon “Prince Jabba” Jackson, who followed him to Minnesota and now sings with another Twin Cities reggae band, the Socaholix.
Lynval moved to Minneapolis to go to school and “take advantage of opportunities that were scarce in Jamaica,” he said. He quickly became associated with what was then a vibrant reggae music scene in the Twin Cities with groups such as Shangoya, Ipso Facto and The Maroons.
He began in a number of short bands, such as World Citizens, in which he worked with All-Stars guitarist Tenn “Jah-Bee” Bennett. The Minneapolis Reggae All-Stars emerged from the first Marley tribute shows. They were renamed “Internationals” a few years later when they began touring outside of Minnesota.
Bennett is also from Jamaica, while other members come from Liberia (bassist Saye “Bingo” Kpolar), Venezuela (co-founder drummer Brian Alexis) and the Virgin Islands (keyboardist Charles “Chilly” Petrus).
“It felt good to come here and see that there was already a community here, to see how our culture influenced other cultures,” Jackson recalled of his early years. “I was proud to be a Jamaican.”
Although he looks on with affection at the time, Jackson said he feels good about the future of reggae. He even hopes to finally be able to record an album of original songs soon, something the All-Stars have never done.
Thanks to reggaeton music and other ways in which hip-hop artists have co-opted Caribbean sounds in recent years, he has seen more and more fans born a decade or two after Bob Marley’s death in 1981. This includes the sometimes youthful crowds that attend his frequent weekend gigs at the Pimento Jamaican Kitchen & Rum Bar in South Minneapolis.
Equally vital, Jackson believes that reggae music also fits in with what is happening socially in the United States. That was the only part of the interview when the Stoic singer got excited and cheered up a bit.
Citing the set of Marley songs he will be singing at Cabooze this weekend, he believes he knows 90% of the canon of the legend, saying: “They have to be sung in 2022.
“It sings about love, peace, hope, justice, things we’re still trying to achieve. All of this is as relevant today as ever. And it’s as relevant in Minnesota as it is in Jamaica.”
International Reggae All-Stars
Bob Marley recalled: 9pm Div. & Sat., Cabooze, 917 Cedar Av. S., Mpls., $ 20, ticketweb.com
Every Tuesday: 9 p.m., Bunker’s, 761 Washington Av. N., Mpls., $ 8, bunkersmusic.com