The Israel Vibration journey is storied and full of drama, much like the journey of the biblical Children of Israel during their trek from bondage into the Promised Land. Formed in 1975, the reggae harmony group, which had its genesis in Kingston, Jamaica, comprises Lascelle ‘Wiss’ Bulgin and Cecil ‘Skelly’ Spence (Albert ‘Apple Gabriel’ Craig left in 1976). For over 40 years, Israel Vibration has been excellent reggae ambassadors, determined to take the music, even on crutches, to the four corners of the Earth.
All the members of Israel Vibration overcame childhood polio, and have become one of the most successful roots groups to form in Jamaica in the 1970s. Their inspiring story of rising above adversity is the stuff of which great movies and documentaries are made, and their musical achievements are second to none.
The trio’s concerts, Rob Kenner wrote in Vibe magazine, are unforgettable. “It’s not just the sight of three polio-stricken Rastafarians skanking on stage in a tangle of crutches, braces and dreadlocks. Rather, it’s their voices – the sweet, achy way Skelly, Apple and Wiss blend their wails into one irresistible cry.”
“When the three of us come together,” Spence told Kenner, “the forces combine in a triangle.”
Last Saturday, the group was recognised by the Jamaica Reggae Music Industry Association (JaRIA) in the category Iconic Award Group/Duo for their contribution to the music industry. The Gleaner caught up with representative, Bulgin, for a quick Five Questions With ... .
What does this JaRIA Award mean to you?
Being here is a great honour. This JaRIA award is a representation of the people. The people is what it’s all about. I represent Him who present us here – the Almighty God.
What is the secret of Israel Vibration’s longevity in the music business?
We aspire always to be a positive motivation. If you positive pon top of positive, it’s more positive. But most of all we get the inspiration from Jah. Even when we first started singing with the three of us, we never planned it. It just happened. It’s like a duty, some people have a short term, others have a long term. It’s only two of us in the group from 1996 – me and Skelly – but the work continues.
When was your last performance in Jamaica?
My last performance here was at Tony Rebel show three years ago. I am from Jamaica, but I tour more out of the country than I perform here. We came from Brazil two months ago and we are now getting ready to go back to North America. Just at this award I met a lady from Kenya, who told me that we have an invitation to go there. So it’s all good. The shows keep coming and we are grateful.
Any new albums in the making?
Our last album, Play It Real, was released three to four years ago. We have recorded over 20 albums during our career. We don’t do it too fast. When you put out an album you have to give it time to soak in, and so you don’t want one album to kill another. We are thinking about a new one, but we are taking it slow.
Has the music been good to you?
It has been a good life and I give thanks for the music every day. But, you don’t tour 24/7, so when I’m not touring, I don’t like to just idly drive up and down, so I have a business. I make hats, like the one on my head. We also make beads – chains and matching bracelets. We use machines, but I like using the needles. I have been doing this for over 20 years. I make and give away more than I sell and I carry the rest with me on tour and they sell off. I have even taught persons the skill. It’s all about being active and making the best use of your time in a positive and uplifting way.