By Bob Andelman
August 29, 1986
Culture Roots is emblemalic of where reggae music is in America today:
Standing still at any speed.
Culture Roots is the most popular act of its kind around this area and the group can’t get enough work.
“You might think we’re the best some days,” says lead singer Mighty Pat, when pressed. “People say that. It’s to be seen. You have to make that jud8meot.”
To catch Culture Roots, a fan can go to Skippers Smokehouse on any Wednesday night that it doesn’t rain and they’ll be pumping it out.
Regular Sunday gigs at the Dock of the Bay on Clearwater Beach help out, too.
But then what? There are the frequent festival gigs, joining other local reggae artists such as The Groovers, Carib Cool and I-consciousness. Or the occasional opening job at concerts featuring international reggae musicians, from Burning Spear and Mutabaruka to Eek-a-Mouse.
It’s barely enough to pay low rent.
Culture Roots economizes by living together. Mighty Pat, rhythm guitarist Jahco, keyboardist Bingi, drummer Tonto, lead guitarist German and bass player Isha share quarters in the upstairs of a large house in an old Tampa neighborhood.
The stairs and extra rooms are piled with amplifiers and instruments, making for space greedy roommates.
Their rehearsal room – like the rest of the house – is not airconditioned. To be good neighbors, they must practice in the midafternoon, when the sun is overhead and the room is hot, stuffy and humid.
You’re not likely to hear German complain, however. At 37, the eldest member of the band is “contented,” he says, “always hoping it’ll get better. Ready for that extra.”
Mighty Pat – who is 34 – agrees.
“I wouldn’t say we’re working enough to make a living, but we’re working enough to deal with the problems,” he says.
Once a calypso recording artist in the Virgin Islands, Mighty Pat went to Texas before arriving in the Bay area, where Culture Roots formed almost three years ago.
How good is Culture Roots? Here’s what one reviewer said of the band’s performance as opening act for Burning Spear and support band for Freddie McGregor last summer. At Jannus Landing:
“Mighty Pot was in strong voice and fine form, leading Culture Roots through its performance is if it were auditioning for a record contract …”
A year later, Culture Roots is releasing a l2-inch single, “Is Anything Wrong,” backed with “Gonna Pack My Bags.” Recorded in Tampa at Morrisound Studios, the disc will be available at concerts and sent off to record companies to hopefully stir up interest.
“Is Anything Wrong” features the light, engaging rap of a man questioning something in his wife or girlfriend’s attitude and behavior. It is a pleasant islands ditty with sharp guitar and percussion elements.
“Gonna Pack My Bags” is a mixed-bag of reggae lyrics put against a dance-oriented European synthesizer and electronic drum sound.
Pat describes both as love songs, about “people breaking up, getting together.” He and German write the lyrics to Culture Roots’ original material; the band composes the music jointly.
In addition to the songs on the new record, Culture Roots has five other polished originals: “Sweet Woman,” “The Coming of Jah,” “Sugar,” “Donkey Stool” and “Dance Soca,” a Calypso number.
German says he is driven to write by “a strong point of imagination. Something inspires you to the point to think real hard, and the mind goes to work.”
With good songs, a demo record and a strong and vocal regional following behind Culture Roots, Pat says, “a perfect situation would be getting a record contract and a big promoter s0 we could get bigger.”
In the meantime, between gigs, the band practices. And practices. And as time allows, they practice some more.
“We try to make phone calls.” says Pat. “Sometimes we wait for people to phone us. It’s an off-and-on thing. I’d say it’s a mediocre progress, even though it fs progress.”
The band” credits radio stations WTMP (1150 AM) and WMNF (88.5 FM) with providing strong support
“As far as I’m concerned,” says longtime WTMP disc jockey Jim Rhinehart, “they are the local reggae group of Tampa. Very talented. They remind me of being in the islands. God, they are good.”
German, apparently, the eternal optimist in Culture Roots, is indefatigable.
“I think everything is open,” he says. It’s being in the right place. -Everybody gets lucky. If we could just meet that promoter who says, ‘I think we can use these guys for something big.’ “
“A lot of times you get frustrated,” Pat admits. “It’s a syndrome everybody goes through.
“Something’s got to happen,” he continues. “I don’t think we’d be here if I didn’t have that confidence.”
“You always feel frustrated,” concedes German, “but there’s a stronger will that says go.”