Mention the name Israel Vibration in reggae music circles and watch the warmth of recognition and appreciation of anyone who has seen or heard this very special group of singers. The positive vibrations emanating from the music of Israel Vibration have been spellbinding audiences, critics and DJs for over two decades. This group of singers casts a harmonious musical spell, weaving traditional roots reggae with a mesmerizing sound and deeply spiritual message.
Israel Vibration members Cecil Spence (Skelly) and Lascelle Bulgin (Wiss) were born in Jamaica, West Indies. Each is a victim of Poliomyelitis (Polio). They met as children in the Mona Rehabilitation Center, into which they were placed because of their families’ limited resources and their needs for specialized medical care. They learned early on the necessity for developing survival skills, and although polio is an undeniably crippling and debilitating disease, the youths never let their physically challenging situation supercede their willpower and their creative abilities. They found strength in the faith of Rastafari through the guidance of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, and began composing and singing songs which expressed their spiritual beliefs.
Their spirituality and stance on issues relating to their residency at the Mona Rehabilitation Center caused them to be expelled from that institution. Undaunted, they found solace, comfort, and sustenance in their music, which won them the support of their local community and provided them with encouragement to pursue their music careers. They began recording in 1976, enjoying a hit with the poignant Same Song, which was licensed to EMI and brought the group international attention. Their musical careers seemed to be taking off, but, like many Jamaican artists, Israel Vibration’s recording career was set back by a local industry plagued at that time by questionable accounting practices, musical piracy, and a lack of tour support. In 1983, the group broke up and its members moved to the States both for superior medical care and to pursue solo projects.
In 1988, each of the members approached Doctor Dread, president and founder of RAS Records, about solo recordings. Dr. Dread, who had greatly admired Israel Vibration’s unique, resonating sound, took heed from the words of Marcus Garvey, and, telling them that “unity is strength,” recommended that the members unite. They accepted, and the rest of the story is one of a beautiful relationship that began with Strength of My Life, and continued with Praises, Forever, Vibes Alive, IV, On The Rock, Free to Move, and several dub albums. On the Rock garnered much praise the single and video “Rudeboy Shufflin’,” which, along with the “Feeling Irie” video, has been aired on BET as well as other television programs throughout the US and abroad. On The Rock and its follow-up Free To Move reached their height of success upon reaching number one on the CMJ New World charts. Their 1999 release, Pay the Piper, displays some of the strong material songwriters Skelly and Wiss are known for, and the album’s featured video “Hard Road” was seen in 3900 Blockbuster video stores during the month of January, 2000.
Their album Jericho, released May 16, 2000, is undeniably their strongest work in years and features the best musicians and harmonizers Jamaica has to offer. Skelly and Wiss fully commit to each honest lyric and sing from the heart with the true spirit of universality. Israel Vibration has been working closely with RAS Records for a long time, and will no doubt continue to do so while they redefine the term “Roots Reggae” for the new millennium.
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