The Marleys – be it Bob, Rita, Ziggy, Julian, Damian or Stephen – are undisputed reggae royalty. But equally influential, and often left out, are the contributions of the Barrett family.
The late Carlton “Carly” Barrett was Bob Marley’s drummer and co-founded The Wailers with him. After Marley passed, The Wailers regrouped in 1981 with Carlton’s brother, bassist Aston “Familyman” Barrett Sr. fronting the band, continuing the mission and promise Barrett made to his bandleader and friend to “keep [Bob Marley] alive through the music by keeping The Wailers together.”
Continuing that long, unbroken thread now is Familyman’s son, drummer Aston Barrett Jr., who leads the Barretts and The Wailers into Monterey this weekend, together with his father, lead singer Josh David Barrett and another Wailers founding member from Bob’s day, lead guitarist Donald Kinsey.
“I never met my uncle Carly, I was too young,” Barrett Jr. says. “But I studied recordings of his playing which taught me everything about reggae rhythms.”
Barrett Jr. points out that there is much more to reggae than just learning to play the music. There’s a culture and a past infused in every sound.
“You have to learn to live right, think right and be right,” he explains. “And you must understand the history – the oppression, the struggle and ultimately the exodus and liberation.”
Barrett Jr. started on the bass when he was 4, but drums took over when he was in middle school. In 2008 he did a five-day trial tour with The Wailers as a percussionist, and joined the band full time in 2009.
“It’s an honor for me to be in a band with my father and Donald [Kinsey] who go all the way back to Bob,” Barrett Jr. says. “I learn from them all the time. They taught me the importance of being positive all the time, and running the band the right way.”
Barrett Jr. believes that reggae has spread worldwide because of the power of Bob’s message: Peace, love and unity.
“When you play reggae, it sounds different if you don’t understand and respect the struggle,” Barrett Jr. says. “Even though we might make it to another level, we always come back to the roots. We strive to make this band be the same as if Bob was still here with us. I want to keep this music alive forever.”
THE WAILERS 8pm Saturday, Oct. 26. Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $29-$55. 649-1070, goldenstatetheatre.org