The roots of reggae are revisited and renewed when WHYY’s diverse arts & culture series “On Canvas” presents the Wailers at 10 p.m. on Thursday, November 17.
An original WHYY production videotaped on May 25 at World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, the half hour program features the timeless music of the legendary Bob Marley as interpreted and performed by the latest incarnation of The Wailers, the group that Marley formed in 1969 with his friends, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh.
With a discography that includes masterpieces such as “Redemption Song,” “No Woman, No Cry,” “Waiting In Vain,” “Exodus,” “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Is This Love?” Bob Marley and the Wailers have sold in excess of 250 million albums worldwide. Marley was stricken with cancer and passed away in 1981.
“I love them! Bob Marley, he’s part of my songbook in my life,” said Trudi Brown, executive producer of “On Canvas.” “I like Bob Marley and the Wailers, I like what they represented. They came at a time when I think we needed this kind of uplifting music and powerful statements — songs that were really positive for communities. The Wailers didn’t die with Bob Marley. They’ve been around for a long time, so when we heard that they were coming to World Café Live at The Queen, we really wanted to work with them and it all kind of jelled. They were excited and so were we.”
The modern version of the Wailers is lead by bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett, whom along with his late brother, drummer Carlton Barrett, provided the rhythmic foundation for roots reggae classics such as “Jammin’,” “Get Up, Stand Up” and “Dem Belly Full,” all released while Marley was at the height of his career. “On Canvas” will feature interviews with group members and Aston Barrett Jr.
“It is so much fun to watch! It is riveting!” Brown said. “It takes us back to that time, and if you like reggae music, you’ll be jammin’ right in your seat. You’ll be moving and enjoying it. I love those programs that while you’re watching them it puts a smile on your face. It creates good memories for you, and I think our program will do just that for folks. I think they’ll enjoy it. If you like reggae, you’ll love this program.”
“On Canvas” is an Emmy Award-winning music and performance program recorded live on location at local venues in and around Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. The series spotlights regional, national and international artists performing a wide range of musical styles including rock ‘n roll, R&B, country, jazz, blues, alternative rock, indie, folk and classical.
“Diversity, I think, is the hallmark of ‘On Canvas,’ and what I wanted to provide for our audiences is a variety of musical genres,” said Brown. “I wanted to be as inclusive as possible with the kinds of music and also the performers, so it’s all steeped in different cultures. We’ve had international performers on our show, and we have the kind of music that we enjoy. I work with a small group — my producer and associate producer and all of us really take part in choosing and coming up with ideas for what performers to feature for ‘On Canvas.’” In the future, “On Canvas” will feature exciting New Orleans musician Trombone Shorty.