Tribute to Peter Tosh by CCB Reggae All-Stars

I arrived at the Brooklyn Bowl at 8:10pm on Saturday, September 22nd to see the Peter Tosh tribute performed by the CCB Reggae All-Stars (previously known as the High Times Cannabis Cup Band). When I walked into the Brooklyn Bowl the first thing I could make out in the dimly lit wood-paneled room was a small restaurant with a bar, and a place to reserve a bowling lane. To get to the stage I had to pass the restaurant, the waiting area, the second bar, and the bowling lanes before arriving at the stage which was located in the back corner of the venue.

Initially, I thought that this made the concert seem like an afterthought, a little background music for the beer drinking and bowling. The band seemed to be very aware of their surroundings and tailored their set and performance accordingly.

When I arrived I saw approximately seven to ten people who looked as though they came out specifically for the performance, and the rest of the busy venue seemed very content to bowl and drink, oblivious to the impending performance.

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Around 8:40 the band came out onto the stage. There was a male lead singer, three female backup singers, one male backup singer, one bass player, one electric guitar player, a drummer, and two keyboard players. The band opened by playing Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’ with flashing red, green and yellow lights, further emphasizing the Jamaican origin of the song.

The genre was decidedly reggae which was made noticeable by the slow tempo, characteristic melodic bass emphasizing the skengay and the call and response between the male soloist and the female background singers.

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As the melodic bass kept the “heartbeat rhythm” the superimposed keyboard and vocal sounds added to the complexity of the melody. To the delight of the crowd, in the middle of the song the band highlighted the high whining sound of the electric guitar in a solo. All these components slowly caused more and more people to come onto the dance floor to sway and dance to the music. For the first half of the concert for the most part the band played songs that were not by Peter Tosh. The band either played other reggae songs or American songs superimposed onto reggae beats. The band played a couple other Bob Marley songs like Lively up Yourself then transitioned to playing popular American music but with a reggae beat.

One of the best-received songs was All of You by John Legend which drew a lot of couples to the floor. The combination of the familiar American lyrics and the movement ensuing melodic bass began to attract more and more people to the dance floor, most of whom were previously absorbed in other activities. Intertwined with the popular songs the band played some of their own original songs with a few of them being performed by the background singers. The first half of the performance appeared to set the audience up for the Peter Tosh tribute in the seconds half. After the intermission, with a much larger audience assembled the band resumed playing the music of Peter Tosh.

With stage lights bathing the band and the audience with warm green light the lead singer conducted the enthusiastic crowd in singing the lyrics of Legalize It, incorporating the crowd into the call and response. The lead singer seemed to enunciate his words more while emphasizing the lyrics to ensure the audience understood the song’s meaning and lyrics. Continuing with the Rastafarian theme the band also played Peter Tosh’s Rastafari Is which did not get as enthusiastic of a response as Legalize it but did not cause any of the crowd to leave either. The melody and the way the singers performed the song reminded me a of songs performed in my African Methodist Episcopal church growing up and it was interesting to hear such an overtly religious song performed in a secular space.

Rastafarianism was such an integral part of the music of Peter Tosh and the performers were unwilling to compromise on that, which I appreciated. In summary, I enjoyed this performance, even though initially I was confused as to why the band chose to depart from Peter Tosh’s music so much in the first half of the set. It later became evident to me that in order to bridge the gap between the authentic Caribbean music and their very American audience, they first had to transport themselves and the audience to the ‘third space’ that Stuart Hall refers to through the process of ‘transculturation’ (Hall 30). By playing popular American music with a reggae sound the band was acknowledging the fact that in America, reggae and American popular music are inextricably linked, and because of their cultural history they can no longer exist in a pure state.

Starting off the performance by immediately playing the authentic music of Peter Tosh to an American audience would have been like mixing oil and water. By slowly easing the audience into the shared cultural space with familiar sounds and lyrics mixed with exotic sounds and rhythms it made those who were unfamiliar with the music of Peter Tosh or reggae in general more open and receptive to the experience. By tailoring their performance in this way it indicated to me that the CCB-All Stars are extremely perceptive to the shifts in musical interests and most importantly, they are open to and willing to, change their performance so that Caribbean music can continue to reach as many people as possible.

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Tribute to Peter Tosh by CCB Reggae All-Stars. (2022, Jan 02). Retrieved from

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