In 1973, around the time the seminal reggae movie The Harder They Come was hipping Americans to a new sound out of Jamaica, Stephen "Cat" Coore jumped ship from the Kingston band Inner Circle to form a new group, Third World, fusing Jamaica's reggae beat with shades of soul, R&B, even classical music. (In addition to guitar, Coore plays cello.)
Of course drawing on music from the States was not a new thing. As Coore emphasized, "All the artists, like Bob [Marley], all the great original artists were influenced by R&B... There's no such thing as pure Jamaican music -- it's African music transcended and blended to create our own style called reggae music. And that became a force of music, but the influences came from ska, from jazz, from R&B, from Africa, from Pocomania drumming... You have to remember that Third World members grew up with Santana, we grew up with Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Earth Wind and Fire, the Ohio Players. You know all that music was super popular when I was a kid growing up so the influences are there."
Thirty-some-odd years after the band was founded the self-proclaimed "Reggae Ambassadors" are still traveling the world spreading the reggae vibe. They just released a new album, Patriots, with an all-star collection of guests, among them a couple of Bob Marley's sons, Toots Hibbert and Capleton (whose recent show in Eureka stirred some fiery controversy).
Coore was aware of the dancehall star's inclusion on the "murder music" blacklist, but, he said, "I'm not sure about how much Capleton is implicated in that whole thing -- he has been one of the far less implicated artists. And Capleton has been a good soldier and a good friend to us for many years; we've toured with him and all that... I understand the situation, but in his case, we, Third World, couldn't blacklist him because of what's happening there. We have to look at all sides of the coin and, although we don't agree with gay-bashing or anti-gay sentiments, we have to be careful how we do things. We don't want to be too much one way or the opposite," said the "ambassador" in diplomat mode. "We took our chance; we made our decision and I think it's a good one. All of the artists we have on our album are artists who are on the conscious side."
When he says "conscious," Coore references the positive side of Rastafarianism. "You know we come from an era with Steel Pulse and Chalice, Bob Marley and The Wailers. Our era was really based on a Rastafarian kind of projection," he said. "We started fighting a war of words to move towards peace and harmony throughout the world, anti-racism and stuff like that. We don't want to be disingenuous to our past; we want to keep on saying what we've always been saying. In terms of people and their ways, the world hasn't changed that much since the '70s when we were a very young group. New technologies have come and gone, but people still have their bad ways and people still have their good ways. It's really a matter of sticking to who you are, what you are, and being good."
People Productions presents Third World in concert at the Garberville Theatre on Friday, Dec. 3. Doors at 8:30 p.m. DJ Selecta Prime and High Grade Sounds open the show. Advance tickets are $35 and can be found at Redway Liquors, at Blue Moon in Garberville, at The Works or online at www.peopleproductions.net. A portion of the proceeds go to the Feet First dance troupe. Call 923-4599 for further details. For more of the Cat Coore interview go to www.northcoastjournal.com/calendar/events/third-world-garb/.