The Wailers are returning to the UK this July for three headline dates including a show at London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire.
Together with Bob Marley, the Wailers have sold in excess of 250 million albums worldwide. In England alone, they’ve notched up over twenty chart hits, including seven Top 10 entries. Outside of their groundbreaking work with Marley, the Wailers have also played or performed with international acts like Sting, the Fugees, Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana, and Alpha Blondy, as well as reggae legends such as Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and Burning Spear. As the greatest living exponents of Jamaica’s reggae tradition, the Wailers have completed innumerable other tours, playing to an estimated 24 million people across the globe. They have also been the first reggae band to tour new territories on many occasions, including Africa and the Far East.
Their nucleus of The Wailers formed in 1969, when Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh recruited the Barrett brothers – bassist Aston “Family Man” and drummer Carly – from Lee Perry’s Upsetters to play on hits such as Lively Up Yourself, Trenchtown Rock, Duppy Conqueror, and many more besides. Inspired by Rastafari and their ambitions of reaching an international audience, this is the line-up that pioneered roots rock reggae, and signed to Island Records in 1971. Bunny and Peter left two years later.
It was at this point that the in-demand Barrett brothers – whose rhythms also underpinned innumerable seventies’ reggae hits by other acts – assumed the title of Wailers, and backed Marley on the group’s international breakthrough album, Natty Dread. Under Family Man’s musical leadership, they then partnered Bob Marley on the succession of hit singles and albums that made him a global icon, winner of several Lifetime Achievement awards, and Jamaica’s best-loved musical superstar.
The anchor of the band is Aston “Family Man” Barrett, who in addition to being Marley’s most trusted lieutenant, played on countless other classic reggae hits throughout the seventies. The authenticity he brings to the Wailers’ sound is indisputable and yet today’s line-up combines old school know-how with lead vocals from one of Jamaica’s most exciting new singers; Koolant who joined the Wailers soon after his cameo appearance in the film Made In Jamaica.
As enthusiastic audiences have already discovered, Koolant brings his own personal expression to Marley’s songs, revitalizing them for young and old alike. Yet there’s a great deal more to the Wailers than reliving the past. Apart from featuring on a forthcoming Wailers’ album studded with celebrity guest artists, Koolant sings lead vocals on the band’s two latest tracks – one a future lovers’ rock classic called Shining Star, and the other a heartfelt appeal – A Step For Mankind – made on behalf of the World Food Program, co-starring Duane Stephenson.
Both songs stand comparison with the band’s finest work from the past. The Wailers have succeeded in turning a fresh page and led by their charismatic new singer, they’re ready to make history once more. To see The Wailers live:
Tuesday 3 Bristol O2 Academy
Wednesday 4 London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Friday 6 Leeds O2 Academ