The reggae band Kyerokaya brought fresh vibes to Kristin’s Riverwalk in downtown Stevens Point on Saturday, Feb. 7, when they paid tribute to Bob Marley’s 70th birthday.
“Doing the show was the initial impetus for the creation of the band,” said John Laedtke, the guitar player, lead vocalist, hand drummer and kazoo player for Kyerokaya.
This was the band’s first time performing as a group. They played two full sets beginning at 10:30 p.m., continuing until bar close.
Marley was the emphasis of the evening, but Kyerokaya also brought sounds from The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Ziggy Marley and more. Laedtke and Kyerokaya’s rhythm and ska guitar player Kalvin Stern also host 90FM’s World Music show at the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point.
“We’re largely influenced by global sounds,” Stern said.
Kyerokaya’s name is inspired by Spanish and Jamaican patois. Many of Kyerokaya’s members are world travelers. Laedtke had just spent a year teaching English in Spain and had previously spent a semester in Hungary, while Stern had previously spent a semester in Poland.
Laedtke finds himself particularly inspired by the time he spent in Hungary. While abroad, he befriended Janos Kobács, who he now plays music with.
“We hung out with gypsies on the streets for days at a time,” Laedtke said. “My music is coming from street music.”
Kobács is currently employed in Chicago and traveled to Stevens Point to practice with the band a few times earlier this year, which added to Kyerokaya’s spirit.
“We’ve got the reggae feel in our blood,” Laedtke said. “We do lots of stuff in Spanish and Turkish, and anything else we can find to add to our sound.”
Kyerokaya incorporates sounds of ska, jamming and improvisation into their sessions. They have fun exploring various parts of reggae.
“A lot of reggae bands don’t take as much time to make elegant beginnings and endings for their songs, but we are,” Laedtke said. “We’re trying to have some stuff that will make it pop a bit. Ska seems to be our emphasis as it feels very natural to us.”
Reggae is a very diverse genre. Laedtke and Stern said they were happy to bring such unique sounds to the area.
“We’ve got all the key parts we wanted to form a reggae band with a full sound,” Stern said. “There’s a very underrepresented reggae community here as far as live music goes, so we’re glad to bring it to Stevens Point.”
Dane Paster, Jeremy Erickson, Kayla Provisor, Amelia Straub, Jacob Ramsey and Anthony Horner all contributed to Kyerokaya’s performance. A few of these instrumentalists and vocalists revolve between Kyerokaya and Prodo, a jam band with reggae influence that released its first record last year.
“Jacob really captures the awesomeness of some of the recordings The Wailers had in the studio,” Laedtke said. “He captures their essence very well, while Kayla has a passion for lots of songs and has an excellent range. It’s an honor to be singing with her.”
Kyerokaya is looking to book gigs at various festivals this summer and plans to incorporate its original songs into future sets.
“Reggae is incredibly popular throughout the world,” Laedtke said. “As an outlet for world music, people bring cultural and musical traditions to it to make it special. We want to continue to play reggae around Point.”
Kyerokaya gave audience members different rhythms to dance to throughout the night, allowing them to feel the percussion and be empowered by the band’s deep bass and rastaman vibrations. No Marley celebration of this caliber had been done in the area before Kyerokaya.
The band was pleased to revive Marley’s aura for the Stevens Point community and provide a deeper understanding of the meticulousness and complexity of reggae. The members hope to spread their musical vibrations to the area in the near future.
Arts & Entertainment Editor