Jamaica Gleaner / It is an accomplishment when any artiste/musician survives in the entertainment industry for more than a decade, much less five. But the Bad Boys of reggae, Inner Circle, have done it and continue to.
The internationally renowned reggae group is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary in music, and to mark the historic occasion they have several activities planned, including a huge international tour.
Dubbed ‘Rockas 50’, the tour is expected to span more than 26 countries, with more than 40 shows. Speaking with The Gleaner about the tour, founding member Ian Lewis said that although the tour will be physically demanding, the group is ready to give fans an unforgettable experience. “It’s going to be tiring but worth it, because we are going to just do it big for our 50th anniversary. People have become accustomed to having a great time at our shows, and they can expect great performances when the tour rolls out,” he said. “The people have played an integral role in our success as a group, and this tour will show our appreciation to them for sticking with us for 50 years.”
When asked about the group’s secret to longevity, Lewis explained that the band has had to reinvent itself over the years – learn about the changes in the industry, and adjust as they see fit. “When we started out in Kingston doing shows around Jamaica, it was a different Jamaica. We had a music industry fuelled by the music. Now we have an industry fuelled by social media. Back in the day an artiste never release more than two songs in a month – now artistes put out 10 songs in a week.” He added, “We have had to reinvent ourselves many times. We have blended the younger genera-tion, who are moving back into the roots reggae, with our music. Through all the changes, though, we noticed that there is still a love for the foundation music. Songs like Forward Ever Backward Never and Bad Boys are still going strong. Bad Boys is still a hit in America, and it’s been over 20 years. A tree cannot stand up without the roots and the foundation music is still very strong.”
A humble Lewis said that while the group is planning a grand tour to mark their 50th, the celebrations are more about the people than the group members. “We have spawned the generations, and we feel good about that, but for us it’s like another day. But from a historical point of view, it’s been a long time we’ve been playing reggae music and we are still in demand. It’s an honour for us to know that the people still have love for our music, and this is how we thank them for the support.”
And Jamaica will not be left out of the celebration. “We want to do a big thing in Jamaica. Our perfect dream was to do a free show in Emancipation Park and bring all our friends; Kabaka, Chronixx, Freddie McGregor, all the friends of Jacob Miller and get each of them to do a song in tribute,” said Lewis. “Unfortunately, the timing was off, so we won’t get to do it this year again. Come next year, though, we will be looking at getting this done. We’re going to plan it and put it together properly.” He also said the group wants to give back in a substantial way by supporting children from the School of music.
But, the big mission for Inner Circle, according to Lewis, is to help establish a Hall of Fame in Jamaica. “One of the big problems in the industry is that we have no place people can come and see the greatness of a Don Drummond, Jacob Miller, Tommy McCook, and the list that goes on. We want to document the works of the great men and women that came and died, but gave of their talent to this industry – but never get any recognition for their contributions to reggae music. I’ve been working on it and it’s not an easy task, but we need this and we have to make it a reality.”