A lot of great bands have come out of San Diego’s music scene—and one of the latest is reggae group Tribal Seeds, performing Saturday, Feb. 1, at The Date Shed.
The band—consisting of Steven Rene Jacobo (lead guitar and vocals), Victor Navarro (bass), E.N. Young (keyboards and vocals), Tony-Ray Jacobo (keyboards and vocals) and Carlos Verdugo (drums)—formally came together in 2005. During a recent phone interview before a show in Fresno, Tony-Ray explained that he and Steven, his brother, were raised on reggae music; in fact, Tony-Ray’s first album purchase was Born Jamericans’ Kids From Foreign.
“It started with me and my brother in 2003,” said Tony-Ray. “We were both in high school at the time, and we were just jamming in our garage. We wanted to take it seriously after a while, and we wanted to do it as a career. We decided to find band members who had the same mindset. We had some who came and went, but we finally got a solid group of guys who believe this is their passion, and this is their love.”
Tony-Ray said San Diego was a perfect place for them to form as a band.
“I think we were blessed to have grown up where we did,” said Tony-Ray. “There’s a strong reggae environment, the whole beach environment, and it just seemed to fit very well; reggae music seems to thrive there. We’re blessed to be from San Diego.”
Since 2005, the band has released three full-length albums; the most recent album, released in 2009, The Harvest, debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard reggae charts. They have shared the stage with some heavy hitters in the music industry, including as Gregg Allman; Earth, Wind and Fire; The Wailers; and their musical heroes, Steel Pulse. They have also toured extensively around the world and in the U.S.
Reggae music can be a challenging genre for an American band. While many American groups have given reggae a go, some of the most successful eventually incorporated pop or punk sounds, as Sublime did. However, the members of Tribal Seeds stay fairly true to reggae, and even embrace the spirituality element of the music, rooted in Rastafarianism, the religion that many reggae musicians follow.
“A lot of it is Bible teachings and Rastafarian teachings,” said Tony-Ray. “It’s just something that was in the music we heard while growing up, so we wanted to continue that message. It just seemed natural to us, so the spiritual element for us has been there from the beginning.”
While Rastafarianism may be best known (and is often parodied) for its embrace of marijuana, it’s also known—and criticized—for ultra-traditional views of women, the practice of polygamy, and homophobia. Around 2004, the “Stop Murder Music” campaign was enacted by a group of gay activists who opposed the violent messages in some reggae music; in 2007, a number of reggae artists signed an agreement to fight homophobia.
“I’m totally open-minded to however a person wants to live their life,” said Tony-Ray. “If they’re a good person, it makes them happy, and they’re not hurting anyone else, that’s all good with me. There are a lot of older people teaching the close-minded thing. I think times are changing … even in the Catholic Church with the new pope. It’s all about how we’re trying to live—good positive things.”
Fans who have been waiting since 2009 for a new album won’t have to wait much longer.
“We’re actually close to finishing up our latest album that we hope to release really soon,” said Tony-Ray. “We’re really excited about it. I know it’s been a long time since our last full-length album, and that our fans are anxious—and we’re just as anxious. We’ve got a lot of good artists featured on this one.”
I couldn’t help but ask what the backstage ritual was before a Tribal Seeds show. Not surprisingly, it involves some smoke.
“A lot of the guys like the green. They like to get a little buzz going just to have fun on stage and enjoy it,” Tony-Ray said.
Tribal Seeds performs with Through the Roots, Mystic Roots and Wakane at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1, at The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., in Indio. Tickets to the all-ages event are $15 to $21. For more information, call 760-775-6699, or visit www.dateshedmusic.com.