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By Mark Wede—

KALAMAZOO, MI — The classic roots reggae of The Meditations is nearly four decades old, but it’s still relevant, Ansel Cridland feels.
MeditationsThe latest lineup of The Meditations, L-R: Daddy Lion Chandell, Ansel Cridland, Laury Webb.courtesy photo

Cridland — also known as Ansel Meditation — will bring the latest version of the group he helped form in Jamaica to headline Friday night at the Island Festival. They will be on the Arcadia Creek Festival Place stage at 10 p.m., June 20.

In “Tricked,” Cridland’s 1976 hit for The Meditations — it became a hit after being banned by many Caribbean stations — he protested the violence among residents in the island “ghettos.”

“Only the ghetto is on fire…. It’s only we who have been fighting/It’s only we who have been dying,” he sang.

With a voice that is still pure Jamaica, speaking from his home in New York City, Cridland said he is still roots, because “the music is a healin’, yah mon.”

People need healing, Cridland said, siting the recent U.S. shootings in the news and the violence he’s seen happen on Jamaica stages.

“If you notice what animals do in the jungle, they feed off of each other, they eat each other,” he said. “I see the music change so many of them, it gives them hopes and a new way to live their life.”

Cridland had been recording music since 1967. In 1974 he got together with Danny Clarke and Winston Watson as The Meditations to record “Woman Is Like a Shadow.” It became a hit on the islands, and eventually made its way to England, where there’d been a huge boom in reggae’s popularity.

Bob Marley was living and recording in London at the time. He returned to the island in 1977.

“Danny come to find me downtown … to tell me Bob Marley was looking for me. I say, ‘You crazy. Bob Marley?'” Cridland found that Marley had heard “Woman is Like a Shadow” in London, “and he was crazy about the song and the group,” he said.

Marley hired the trio as backup singers on his songs “Blackman Redemption,” “Punky Reggae Party” and “Rastaman Live Up.” The Meditations also performed with Marley at the famed 1978 One Love Peace concert.

2014 Island Festival 
When: 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m. June 19, 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. June 20, 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. June 21
Where: Arcadia Creek Festival Place
Cost: Thursday, $5 4 p.m.-7 p.m.; $10 after 7 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, $7 4 p.m.-7 p.m.; $10 after 7 p.m.
On the Web:
The Meditations in earlier time

The Meditations in earlier time

Cridland said that Marley became a good friend of the group, and wanted to produce their next album, but The Meditations were tied up with label negotiations. While on tour in the U.S.,  Cridland heard that Marley had terminal cancer. “It was a great loss, you know.

Cridland kept the group going, though they became split between New York and Jamaica. They’ve done well in the US, but over the past couple decades, a modern dancehall style has overtaken roots in Jamaica. “In Jamaica, the music changed so much,” he said.

“They start to adopt the pop beat. And they stopped concentrating on the roots, and everybody start talking about the dancehall. Well, you see, you still have people who love the roots, and people who love the dancehall. It’s the same type of music, but just a different sound, you know?”

But today’s dancehall doesn’t have roots’ positive attitude, and inspires violence, Cridland feels. “When I see them fighting on stage…. This is not how we bring music! When they beating up people, and with the vulgar way they carrying about on stage … Don’t call it reggae.”

Reggae has one job, for Cridland, to “teach people! To live in harmony, and love each other!”

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