by Denise Gordon, The Standard Group
The rising Gravitti Reggae Band
Gravitti Reggae Band (pictured) has performed in various high-profile events, giving them a lot of fame.
A few months ago, they curtain-raised for reggae royalty, Morgan Heritage, and were part of the concert series of the Broadcast Film Music Africa Conference.
On this particular night, they were the final act of the GoDown Gigs live performance series at the GoDown Arts Centre.
The audience was made of Africans and Europeans and a few Americans.
From the energy, it was clear, it was going to be a wonderful reggae night.
Gravitti is a large band as standards go, with two keys, drum, bass, lead and two lively, harmoniously in-tuned BGVs.
As soon as they hit the first eight bars, the audience stood up and headed to the dance floor.
Front man John Lyric is a contained performer with little theatrics. He is a Kenyan who has embodied all rhythms Jamaican. Songs of Gregory Isaacs and Peter Tosh are played, but he does not try to imitate them. He stands in his truth as a solid vocalist. Their original song, 21 Gun Salute, is a reggae-rock fusion honouring African heroes and featured on their album Force of Gravitti.
The confidence is further solidified because the backing band is tight, enabling him to focus on the 'front of house.' The centre of Gravitti are the bass and drums played by Chao Otieno and Mathew Rabala respectively.
They keep the rhythm moving from one song to the next with no breathing room, but execute their act with expert precision. Rabala adds spice with his mastery of the drums, while lead guitarist Tugi had the right idea as he moved centre stage and took his guitar solo like a rock star. These are aspects that will set this reggae band a part from the rest.
The group has been together for 10 years. They and have tried all different musical styles. They started with gospel, African styles, Afro-jazz, hip-hop projects, but it did not work. They settled on reggae and from all appearances, this is where they have settled in comfortably.
At the end of their set, the crowd was frantic as they left the stage.
Gravitti left them slowly descending back to earth chanting, "We want more!"