Reggae, at its roots, is message music. And the Inner Visions reggae band plans to bring that meaningful concept to the forefront at the 24th Lafayette Reggae and Cultural Festival Saturday and Sunday at Pelican Park after a year’s absence.
Inner Visions is known for melodic songwriting, impassioned lead vocals and three-part harmonies that recall the roots reggae bands of the 1970s, a time when calling out inequality and calling for justice was a common theme with many reggae bands.
Phillip “Grasshopper” Pickering, lead vocalist/guitarist with Inner Visions, said the band continues the tradition.
“I think the messages which it brings forward, the messages of love and consciousness, is a message that’s needed, especially in the world today,” said Pickering, who goes by Grasshopper. “And so this is very important to me and very important to Inner Visions to help spread that word.”
Over the years, reggae, like a lot of traditional music no matter the genre, has gotten away from its roots and incorporated contemporary styles for commercial appeal.
In the case of the Jamaican-born music, said Grasshopper, it’s the times in which we live that call the music home.
“It’s going to come back,” he said. “Life is getting harder; it’s not getting easier. It’s going to get worse,” he said. “And the way people suffer, they’re looking for something that’s going to comfort them and give them some kind of feeling of reconciliation.”
Inner Visions is a family band with Grasshopper’s brother Alvin “Jupiter” Pickering on backing vocals and bass, and Grasshopper’s sons Akiba “Mr. Snooze” Pickering on vocals and keyboards, and Aswad “Hollywood” Pickering on drums.
“Our message of love is one that we make sure we share with the people,” said Grasshopper. “The people, when they leave our show, they say they feel like they’ve been to church.”
Call the music inspirational or social commentary, reggae lyrics include lighter subjects, such as dancing and love. It all can be heard when strains of the island music permeate the air with a Reggae Fest lineup that also includes The Meditations, The Itals, Reggae Infinity, Likkle Shanx, Irie Channel, D.R.U.M. and Russel Cormier.
Last year, though, Pelican Park went without the festival. Chris Omigie, festival director, said he was in his home country of Nigeria last year.
“I could not come back in time to organize the festival,” Omigie said. “So I was able to take time off and introduce myself to the country and tell them the direction where I’m going.”
And part of that direction includes a reggae festival in Nigeria’s capital city.
“I’m planning a reggae festival in Eagle Square in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria,” said Omigie.
At this year’s festival, coupled with arts and crafts, a fun zone for the kids and food booths, there will be authentic Nigerian fare, Omigie said, adding that Nigerian community organizations in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Houston have endorsed the event and will be cooking food.
“This is the first time and they want to cook Nigerian cuisine,” he said.
The Reggae Festival has featured major acts like Lucky Dube, The Itals, Third World and Freddie McGregor over the years. Still, Omigie admitted reggae music is a hard sell where zydeco and Cajun music have deep roots.
“Don’t do a festival because you want to get rich. You have to do a festival knowing that you are reaching somebody, touching lives,” Omigie said. “I enjoy what I’m doing. I’m holding a social gathering where people can have a good time.”
It’s an attitude that is also Omigie’s personal philosophy.
“First of all, you have to be happy,” said Omigie. “Everything you have in this life is vanity. When you die, you’re not taking it with you.
“I’ve come too far,” he added. “And where I’m going is nearer than where I came from.”