When it comes to bands playing on campus, it’s fair to say that most students want music that has a good beat they can dance to. Those looking for more need only turn to Radio X, which is bringing Gizzae, a Chicago-based reggae band, to campus. With musical styles that incorporate everything from jazz to rock, Gizzae will show students that reggae is not what they thought it was.
Gizzae consists of five members who hail from Dominica, Ethiopia and Chicago. Playing bass is Brian “Rocket” Rock, on drums and percussion is Asrat Selassie, Ralph Mote is on keys, Clem Julien plays guitar and Ruphael W. Mariam plays drums and keys. All members of the band provide vocals.
Gizzae lead singer Brian Rock explained his musical influences were not what many would assume of a reggae band.
“Growing up in the islands, we listened to and played a lot of rock music. Chicago, Jimi Hendrix, The Who — people were just surprised we played that kind of music,” Rock said. “But we were looking for a challenge … this kind of helps us with our music.”
Rock said all reggae music includes a message of some sort. The message Gizzae presents is usually about love, joy, happiness or praise to one’s own God.
Even if reggae is not someone’s favorite style of music, Rock said he would like people everywhere to come give it a chance and see what Gizzae has to offer.
“The music is very infectious. It compels you after a while. I love seeing people leave a Gizzae show with smiles on their faces,” he said.
Gizzae is not just all about the common reggae sound, though. Rock thinks the music has definitely evolved since the band’s inception.
“Playing other people’s songs, you get an idea on how to write your own songs,” Rock said. “I think we have matured musically and lyrically, according to what’s happening in the world and things that you feel. You write about what you feel and that’s the only way I know how to write.”
Elaborating on the musical process, Rock claims that music has always come very naturally to him.
“I could just sit down and put the music together. Now, I can’t just tell myself I’m going to write a song today,” Rock said. “You have to feel something. I might be driving in my car and it comes to me. It’s just a feeling, really, and I go along with it.”
Gizzae was founded in 1992. Since then, they’ve played with acts like The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.
While Gizzae is a band rooted in the reggae scene, Rock is not against trying out different sounds.
“Musically, you can’t really stay with one sound. I consider myself a musician, not a reggae musician. I am always open to doing different types of music. I think it’s about playing music that you feel and that the audience loves too. That’s the bigger accomplishment.”
While Gizzae’s song “Just a Little Herb” might lead people to believe the band’s creative process is influenced by marijuana, Rock said that, while he does smoke, he uses it only for meditation and relaxation.
Junior accounting major and Radio X DJ Dane Durham, or DJ Royal Dane as he’s known to listeners, is a fan of reggae and presents the only reggae themed show on the station. Durham said the message Gizzae brings is a positive one and wants to share that with students on campus.
“(Students) can take away good vibes, good music and a nice message,” Durham said. “Anyone from a wide age group can enjoy their music, from young teenagers to older staff members.”
Junior mathematics major and Radio X Music Director Mike Rominiecki said that, after listening to a few tracks off of Gizzae’s CD “Roar like a Lion,” NMU students should definitely enjoy it.
“It’s something different and it’ll get people out there dancing and grooving around a little bit,” Rominiecki said.
Gizzae is scheduled to play Thursday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Great Lakes Rooms of the University Center. Admission is free for students and $5 for non-students.