Spreading Roots

Not all musicians want to play for thousands of people. For Clinton Fearon, a small audience means a better dialogue and connection between the listeners and the artist. And when playing his own acoustic brand of roots reggae, this musician is all about communication.

Invited up by the newly-formed Yukon Reggae Council for their debut concert, Fearon has been creating roots reggae for more than 40 years, and has recorded at several influential Jamaican studios including Studio One and Black Ark, where Bob Marley recorded with the Wailers.

Fearon spent 18 years playing with The Gladiators, and now plays with the seven-man group The Boogie Browns.

On March 30 Fearon will be playing a solo acoustic show in Whitehorse, which is the first to be offered by the newly-formed Yukon Reggae Council.

“Really, this guy is one of the authors of the genre, he’s the real deal,” says Simon Schachner, who co-founded the council, along with fellow reggae enthusiast Edgar Musonda.

Schachner first encountered Fearon’s music while he was volunteering with Canada World Youth at a radio station in Nelson, B.C. He interviewed Fearon for the radio show and a friendship was forged.

Since then, they have organized 16 acoustic shows throughout Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, Alaska and other areas, playing in unusual locales, to both small and large crowds.

“It was Simon’s idea,” says Fearon of his upcoming Whitehorse performance. “He’s taken me to places I’ve never gone before to play music. Off-the-wall spots, but I love them.”

For Fearon, the most important thing sharing an experience with the audience.

“If they come not just to dance, but with ears to listen as well and the possibility of having a dialogue, they come in a different frame of mind, it’s easier to go up there, just you and your guitar, it’s easier to have a dialogue.”

And dialogue is important to Fearon, particularly in this genre of music, which focuses on community, togetherness and communication.

“I think that it will bring the community closer together,” he says. “Reggae music, in its true sense… brings out the human side of things, what we are feeling, how we, the people, have been treated over the years, from politicians, people in charge, so many areas it can talk about that have injustices… oftentimes the promises, like, ‘Oh, we’ll make you this, we’ll make you that.’ And then the politician gets in power and nothing much happens. We all, for the most part, feel that vibe at the hands of those people. Again, sometimes we feel like we are alone and then you get together and hear the next person’s story and you realize you’re not alone.”

At the heart of Fearson’s music is a positive message and a call to love one another.

“Strive for doing what we love and loving what we do,” Fearson says. “Take care of ourselves because when we do, then we are able to help take care of our surroundings, including others as well.”

Schachner says the message in Fearon’s music — and reggae music in general — is part of the reason reggae music has a hold on him and appeals to people from all walks of life.

“Reggae is not just a music genre; it is a social movement and a way of life rooted in anti-colonial struggle, respect for nature, social justice, and Black consciousness,” he states in the biography of the reggae council. “It has almost universal appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds. It tends to have the effect of bringing diverse groups of people together.”

And particularly for Schachner and his partner Musonda, reggae has done just that.

Originally from Nanaimo, BC, Schachner met Zambian native Musonda in Whitehorse by chance through their work with Canada World Youth. After connecting over a good conversation about reggae music and African politics, they agreed they ought to establish a reggae scene in the territory.

For Schachner, Fearon was a logical choice for the Reggae Council’s first show. It’s a chance to bring one of his favourite artists to play in his new hometown.

“He is one of my favourite reggae musicians… and to be able to work with him, to know him and to be able to bring him to where I now live is a pretty special thing,” Schachner says.

Clinton Fearon will be playing at the Jarvis Street Saloon from 8 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, March 30.

For more information on the Yukon Reggae Council and a link to the event page, check them out online at http://www.facebook.com/YukonReggaeCouncil

Willow Gamberg is a former What’s Up Yukon intern who writes about music and other arts-related topics.

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