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The Wailers - Save The Wailers

Author: Saeed Saeed
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
Time has not weathered the musical output and profile of The Wailers, undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest reggae outfits. Saeed Saeed talks to the man with the unenviable task of filling Bob Marley’s shoes, Elan.

The Wailers continue to inspire 27 years after the death of its legendary bandleader Bob Marley. Audiences spanning generations still flock to catch their heart-warming live shows from all corners of the globe.

“We’ve been travelling a lot,” says Elan from New York, preparing for another long flight to Oz. “We went to Mauritius and Reunion Island near Madagascar. It was unbelievable. The people love the music and the vibe.”

It is both these factors that set apart the Wailers from what was an already crowded ’70s Jamaican reggae scene. While they will forever be eclipsed by Marley’s almost mythical status as their former frontman, the Wailers were the perfect foil for Marley’s stirring lyricism as they provided a backing rock-steady sound that was equally fierce and accessible. Hence catchy yet powerfully political songs such as Buffalo Solider, Get Up Stand Up and Exodus remain as much a mainstay in political rallies as in karaoke clubs.

Elan, whose background is part Israelii, Moroccan and Native American, credits the Wailers as the key influence that allowed him to begin composing his own songs, which he often adds into the Wailers setlist. “I was most inspired by this band. Whatever you were going through in your own mind and your own life, it would mean a lot in their songs.”

To be invited to front the band of his dreams in 1997 came as a complete shock to Elan, who at that stage was a 19-year-old up-and-coming reggae artist. The fact the offer from the Jamaican musical giants arrived with out an audition and Elan never playing with any band on stage before continues to amaze him. “I had no expectations at all. I was more afraid of getting the lyrics right because every one in the crowd always knows every lyric of Bob Marley and the Wailers songs!”

He describes his experience with the Wailers as an education. “Doing this I had the best professors and I grew up seeing the world. I met people like Carlos Santana, David Crosby, all these great artists,” he says. “They all showed me about how to be on the road and about the music business. I was very lucky.”

Elan is keen to stress the Wailers remain an active musical force. They are in the process of recording a new album with a concept similar to Santana’s Supernatural, where the Wailers co-write and play new songs alongside a host of guest musicians. “The idea is there’s a bunch of new songs, all new material, with contemporary artists like Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Fergie, Akon, Amy Winehouse, Green Day… Everyone I talked about being involved has said straight up, ‘yes,’ because they have been so inspired by the Wailers”.

WHO: The Wailers
WHAT: Play the Horden Pavilion for Raggamuffin Reggae
WHEN: Tuesday 5 February