Among their many memorable songs, Jamaica's reggae greats Third World are loved for their first major hit "96 Degrees in the Shade." For years, audiences at concerts have sung along to their infectious "real hot in the shade" chorus, while maybe not knowing what the song really portrays.
It's not just about a scorching day in Jamaica, but actually a powerful tribute to one of Jamaica's greatest heroes: Baptist preacher Paul Bogle, who was hung by British authorities in 1865 after he led a rebellion against their oppression.
Third World revisits this classic song on their most recent album "Patriots," with an updated version, featuring Damien and Steven Marley that includes new rap lyrics that amplify its meaning.
Third World Patriots
Pink Martini will lure listeners to the dance floor Friday night at Castle Theater.
Autumn de Wilde photo
"A lot of people had no idea what the song was all about," says Third World's founding guitarist Stephen "Cat" Coore. "There's a far more poignant meaning to the song than it's hot in Jamaica. Damien did some research online about Paul Bogle, and he came up with the whole idea of the rap. He was very familiar with the song and the theme of what it was all about. It was very cool."
A star-studded project, "Patriots" teams Third World with a host of veteran reggae artists and some younger, contemporary musicians, ranging from Gregory Isaacs, Toots Hibbert, Marcia Griffith, former Black Uhuru singer Michael Rose and Inner Circle, to Capleton, Tessanne Chin and Tarrus Riley.
"We see ourselves as patriots in way because we have done 38 years of Jamaican music," Coore explained. "We also saw many of the guests as patriots too, so it's a coming together of Jamaican patriots, and with the kids like Tessanne Chin and Damien Marley, the idea was to put forward our vision of who could be the next set of Jamaican greats."
With so many stars helping out on "Patriots," Third World members have crafted another widely appealing album packed with gems from the updated "96 Degrees" and the catchy opening "The Spirit Lives," to the Cool Ruler himself, Gregory Isaacs, singing one of his last recordings with "Front Door."
"It was about three months before Gregory got really sick," Coore notes. "We were very happy; he did such a wonderful job."
A classically trained musician, Coore often features his cello playing in concert, and on the latest CD he plays cello on the instrumental title track. "Cello was my first instrument, then I got interested in guitar," he reports. "The first time (on record) was when I was with Inner Circle when I was 14."
An exceptional guitarist, in terms of his tone and expression, Coore could be considered the Carlos Santana of Jamaican music.
"I was very influenced by him," he says. "When we were growing up in Jamaica we weren't given a good diet of great rock guitarists like Clapton, but songs like 'Oye Como Va' and 'Samba Pa Ti' were played on the radio."
The genesis of Third World began when keyboardist Michael "Ibo" Cooper and Coore joined brothers Roger and Ian Lewis and William Stewart to form the Inner Circle.
Four of the members later left to create Third World. They were the only group of that era composed of young, talented, trained instrumentalists who could sing and took chances absorbing diverse musical styles. They were soon offered the opportunity to open for Bob Marley and the Wailers on a tour in England.
"We were trying to get our career going, and we actually got billing on the poster," he recalls. "It was great. After that we had our first album."
The international hits began flowing first with "96 Degrees," followed by their cover of the O'Jays' "Now That We Found Love" and "Dancing on the Floor (Hooked on Love)." And then they found a fan in Stevie Wonder, who was inspired to compose "Try Jah Love" and "Playing Us Too Close" for the band.
"After Bob passed away in 1981, Stevie Wonder came down to Jamaica to feel the vibe," Coore recalls. "He wanted to spend some time in Bob Marley's homeland, because he was so broken by Bob's passing. We had met him in L.A. and were on Reggae Sunsplash in '81, and he wanted to do a song with us. We did 'Master Blaster' and 'Now That We Found Love.' The relationship grew from there. It was very cool."
One of the longest-performing reggae bands of all time, Third World has remained one of Jamaica's greatest exports, consistently popular among international audiences. Part of their appeal lies with their vision, since their inception, to assimilate elements from soul, funk, African music, jazz, pop and rock to their solid reggae foundation.
"That's what we set out to do," he says. "It was just natural because when we were growing up we heard a lot of R&B. We were all James Brown and Temptations fans, all Impressions and Delfonics fans, and Ohio Players and Earth, Wind and Fire. So it was just part of our history, it was just natural."
* Third World headlines the Hawaii Unite Music Festival on Sunday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. A celebration of the release of a new CD by Mana Maoli Collective musicians, the fest also features Jamaican reggae star Tarrus Riley, and Hawaii's John Cruz, Paula Fuga, Mike Love, Lopaka Colon, Anuhea, Innavision and Kapali Keahi, who all contributed to the CD project. Show starts at 5 p.m.; gates open at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 on event day (plus applicable fees), available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 and wwww.mauiarts.org.
If the United Nations had a house band in 1962, they would sound something like Pink Martini says the group's leader/pianist Thomas Lauderdale.
This fabulous, 12-member ensemble is adept at so many musical styles that on albums like "Splendor in the Grass," they cover a lullaby sung in Neapolitan, Argentinean tango, French cha cha, classic Italian pop, a taste of Schubert and Tchaikovsky, and a even a version of the Carpenters' hit "Sing," performed as an English-Spanish duet with a children's choir.
Fronted by sultry lead vocalist China Forbes, who sings in 14 languages, they have delighted audiences around the world.
Given their penchant for unusual, multicultural collaborations, it's no surprise that when the musicians began plans to record a new album last year - while Forbes took a sabbatical because of throat problems - they teamed with acclaimed singer Saori Yuki, known as the Barbra Streisand of Japan.
A few years ago Lauderdale had unearthed one of the Japanese star's albums in a used record store. Impressed by what he heard, Pink Martini recorded her song "Taya Tan" on their 2007 album "Hey Eugene!"
The Yuki-Pink Martini connection further developed when the she sang a verse of "Silent Night" in Japanese on their holiday album "Joy To The World," and then recorded a version of the Japanese classic "Yuuzuki" with the band for an earthquake/tsunami relief benefit single last year.
Now comes "1969," featuring vintage Japanese pop hits alongside covers of Jorge Ben's classic "Mas Que Nada," Peter, Paul and Mary's "Puff the Magic Dragon," and Peggy Lee's hit version of "Is That All There Is?"
"I found her debut album 10 years ago in a Portland record store," Lauderdale explains. "I fell in love with it. We recorded one of her songs, and then EMI Japan asked if we would produce an album."
Yuki is acclaimed as an interpreter of "doyo" children's songs and the Japanese style known as "kayokyoku," kind of jazz-flavored pop songs. Singing mostly in her native language on "1969," with some French and Portuguese, she delivers a unique, Japanese version, "Puff the Magic Dragon."
"I find it delightful," says Lauderdale. "The initial concept was Japanese hits from 1969, which is the year Yuki got her start. I didn't like what had been selected, so I did my own research and found better Japanese songs and I started looking at music released in 1969 worldwide. Although 'Puff the Magic Dragon' was released in 1963, it was released on album called 'Peter, Paul and Mommy' in 1969."
Along with the Yuki project, Pink Martini also released a wonderful "A Retrospective" compilation last year, including eight tracks previously unreleased, along with alternative recordings of favorites. Among the surprises, director Gus Van Sant making his singing debut on "Moon River."
"The 'Retrospective' was an opportunity to release some things I'd always wanted to release," he notes. "It was great fun."
From their earliest days, Pink Martini's classy, retro music was a hit internationally. Their debut album "Sympathique" sold platinum in France and gold in Greece and racked up global sales of more than 700,000. Their follow-up album, "Hang On Little Tomato," which included original songs in French, Italian, Japanese, Croatian, Spanish and English, sold more than 500,000 copies and was certified gold in Canada, Greece and Turkey.
Lauderdale feels their international success can partly be explained by their cool hometown - "being from Portland, Oregon, which is very down home and neighborly, coupled with the fact that we sing songs in different languages. We're as much diplomats as we are a little orchestra. We're a little orchestra that's lovely and nice to you."
And remarkably in these challenging economic times they can still successfully field so many musicians.
"I'm amazed we can do it," he concludes. "And it's amazing it's largely the same group of people from the beginning."
* Pink Martini performs on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Castle Theater, with a dance floor. Tickets are $35, $45, and $65 (plus applicable fees), available from the MACC, as listed above.
Kihei's Kalama Park will be jamming Saturday afternoon for the Pacific Whale Foundation's annual "World Whale Day," featuring a great lineup of local talent - all for free. There will be two stages this year with performances by HAPA, Willie K, John Cruz, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Marty Dread, Anuhea and Nuff Sedd.
Sunday night, Blackie Gadarian will present his second "Blackie's Jazz Event" with keyboardist Gene Argel from 7 to 10 p.m. at Timba in Lahaina.
Gene says, "it's the first time I've been asked to bring my Hammond B3 organ to a gig." He will be joined by Mike Buono on drums, David Choy on saxophone, Shiro Mori on guitar and Shea Argel on vocals and percussion.
And on Tuesday evening, Mana'o Radio will host a benefit Mardi Gras party at Stella Blues with a bunch of groups including Willie K and the Warehouse Blues Band for a minimum donation of $14 for the show only. Or get the special dinner and show for $50.