Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Apr 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

I.V. League

Israel Vibration’s Lascelle “Wiss” Bulgin gives GT a shot of positive energy

I’m talking with one of the most respected reggae artists alive … and I can’t understand a word he’s saying. Between Israel Vibration vocalist Lascelle “Wiss” Bulgin’s thick Jamaican accent, a fuzzy cell phone reception, and the din of a lively entourage in the background, what we’re getting here does not resemble “information” in the conventional sense. As far as sonic Rorschach tests go, though, it’s first-rate stuff.

“If you don’t see your mom home, then that rag will go and chew your ear,” Wiss seems to be saying. “That rag know rhythm of life and hit back on that side where our plants kill Aunt Lucifer.”

Even if his words aren’t all making it over the net, however, there’s no mistaking this man’s positivity. Wiss is sending good vibrations through GT’s phone today, and his enthusiasm is downright contagious. Giving 100 percent of himself to the conversation, the 53-year-old musician is closing most of his answers to our questions with a heartfelt “Yeah, mon,” conjuring images of a hip preacher ending one prayer after another with a reverent “amen.”

Like a flashlight beam in a blizzard, a cluster of completely intelligible dialogue unexpectedly bursts through the static. “Even before we started to use real live instruments, we knew we had something special,” Wiss is explaining. “We used to sit around and sing! Sing! Sing! Sing! Sing and harmonize, sing for the breeze, sing for the birds, sing for the animals, sing for the mango tree. Yeah, mon!”

 

For those not familiar with Israel Vibration’s compelling back story, Wiss is recalling the period of time in the late ’70s when he and his bandmates—Cecil “Skelly” Spence and the now-departed Albert “Apple Gabriel” Craig—went homeless after being kicked out of Kingston’s Mona Rehabilitation Center, a medical facility where all three musicians were being treated for polio, which has left the band members permanently paralyzed. As Wiss tells it, the future members of Israel Vibration were expelled from the Mona Center for wearing their hair in dreadlocks in accordance with their Rastafarian convictions. “They didn’t like the ’airstyle at all,” he says. “They said it was a bad influence for kids. They try to change you, try to make you who they want you to be, yunno? But I look at it more like, as you grow, then your true identity will take root, yunno? Yeah, mon!”

And take root it did. Following their dismissal from the center, Wiss, Apple and Skelly found themselves sleeping in a field on beds of cardboard … or, as Wiss more poetically puts it, living “out there where the stars are your roof.” He adds that although he had the option of staying at his mom’s house after being expelled from the center, some inner voice was urging him to live out in the great outdoors instead. “Most people who knew us, they were saying, ‘You guys are bananas, man! You guys are nuts!’ But for us, it was something that them cannot see.”

Wiss’ intuition proved correct. While camping out together, the three musicians forged a distinct style of songwriting and harmonizing that would eventually grab the attention of the Kingston Rastafarian group Twelve Tribes of Israel, which financed Israel Vibration’s first single, 1976’s “Don’t Worry.” That single would catch many listeners by surprise (including Bob Marley, who would later name Israel Vibration as his favorite group), igniting an interest in the group that has allowed its members to record more than 20 albums and inspire countless audiences with their legendarily uplifting live shows, performed entirely on crutches by Wiss and Skelly.

As those in attendance at Israel Vibration’s Catalyst appearance this Sunday will see, the authentically life-affirming tone of Israel Vibration’s performances seems to come not in spite of the adversity the group’s members have endured, but rather as a direct extension of it. This passion extends beyond the music, shining through every syllable Wiss speaks as he offers a parting message to GT’s readers: “The older ones should make sure that the younger ones stay on track, man. I mean, one each can teach another. A young person can teach an older person, yunno? It’s all about being good, man. This creation was made from a good source, so if we can leave it good, well, let’s keep it good, man, because each individual was created by the same almighty Father. Yes, I!”

 


Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Mission Critical

How reading Lisa Jensen’s reviews taught me to love film
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

What would you like to see a TED talk about?

Hydrogen-gas cars that are coming this summer. Scott Oliver, Santa Cruz, Professor

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise