Mystik mantra

Jonny Dreads and the Mystiks bring the message of reggae to Peach’s

By Miranda Brooks

Photo: Jonny Dreads and The Mystiks will play Saturday, Dec. 26 at Peach’s in Yellow Springs

The roots of American reggae can be found in the soil of rhythm and blues and jazz. The Jamaican-born genre emerged in the 1960s, and the music’s original mantras continue to resonate within the modern age. The inclusiveness of the ragged island music allows for cultural thresholds to be crossed as it carries the true grit of any honest (wo)man’s dream: peace, love and revolution.

Paying homage to such inspired roots is local area favorite and Yellow Springs villager Jonny Dreads, leader of the reggae band The Mystiks. And his group is exactly that—mystical. The band’s expansive formation allows for substitutions of players and instrumentation, with any one set hosting additional percussionists, guest vocalists, celebrated horns players, and “out-of-towners.”

“In [the band’s] most basic form, it’s super simple; each musician finds their own little pocket along these simple rhythms,” Dreads says. “We’ve had a bunch of different amalgamations and members, and the dynamics can change from one show to the next. It’s a conglomeration of several musicians who are very talented. They are able to shine and focus on their own parts—add all those parts together and you have this beautiful music called reggae.”

After touring the world with the military, Dreads found himself back home in Ohio, divorced and a newly single father. With much consideration, he relocated his family to Yellow Springs.

“I grew up in Sidney, Ohio, and didn’t have much forward-thinking, open-minded input in my life. And based on that, I decided the best place where I could raise my kids would be Yellow Springs, Ohio. I fell in love with the community; it has a little bit of everything—nature, music, the arts and its own personality,” Dreads says.

It was there, about five years ago, where Dreads found healing through music. Performing at Peach’s during the weekly open mic nights, he met other musicians and found his strive to pursue music further.

“After the divorce, I had to find an outlet,” he says. “I had picked up the guitar only a few years before, and I just let my soul out on the stage.”

He joined an established local band as a back-up singer before he formed his first musical project Soul Rebels—a reggae-based band with rock and roll influence. When that band dissipated, Dreads created The Mystiks with himself as the lead.

When asked about his draw to the musical genre, Dreads explains, “I was raised in a Southern Baptist church. It would seem that reggae was so far off my radar.”

But perhaps those hymns laid the foundation for the gravitational pull towards the music he has come to resonate so much with. “I listened to reggae in my late teens, like, ‘yeah, let’s smoke a little weed and listen to reggae,’” he laughs. “But after listening to Marley—and Peter Tosh, and The Cimarons, etc.—I found that there was a lot of soul in gospel.”

On the surface, reggae is meant to move your physical being. “I think the beauty of the music draws everyone in,” says Dreads. “I don’t think you can listen to reggae and not want to nod your head and sway your hips.”

Furthermore, Dreads connected with the figurative movement of the music as it influenced a lifestyle re-alignment.

“There was something I found in reggae that was pure and true—something I didn’t find in other styles—and it spoke to the kind of person I wanted to be. And when I really started listening to the lyrics, they were somehow full of positivity and light while also being so full of fight. Like this beautiful mix of warrior soldier and peaceful lover.”

The definitions of oppression and justice haven’t changed. The marked synapses between then and now only prove we are fighting the same wars.

“It’s the vibe, the feel, and then, ultimately, the message of peace and love and unity and respect,” Dreads says. “And like in a world where we live now, where we don’t hear that a lot in our music. It has become a mantra for me.”

Jonny Dreads and Thy Mystiks will play Saturday, Dec. 26 at Peach’s, 104 Xenia Ave. in Yellow Springs. Show starts at 9 p.m. Dayton’s own fusion jam band Subterranean is also on the bill. Listeners are also encouraged to bring a beanie to the show for donation to support the Beanie Benefit. The hats will be distributed to local men and women who have lost their hair from chemotherapy.

Reach DCP freelance writer Miranda Brooks at

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Reach DCP freelance writer Miranda Brooks at

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