Seefari Offers Authentic Roots Reggae in Dayton
By Matt Clevenger
It’s getting cold outside and that means it’s back to the bars for reggae icon and festival favorite Tom “Seefari” Carroll.
“Right now it’s back to the clubs,” he explained in an interview last week. “We play more outside stuff in the summer. In the fall and winter people like to come see reggae to warm themselves up at the bar.”
Reggae fans will have several chances to see Seefari this holiday season, thanks to upcoming shows at Bar Tiki and Peach’s Grill in Yellow Springs. He also performs regularly at the Trolley Stop and is scheduled to appear at a long list of private parties and smaller engagements, performing as a duo with his wife and collaborator, ijahmelody.
“There’s a big demand for reggae,” Seefari said. “We’ve been fortunate to have a number of places that support us and give us regular gigs.”
Based in Wilberforce, Seefari first started playing reggae locally in the early 1980s, leading a group called Tom Carroll and the Scales of Justice. At that time, he was also a DJ at local radio station WYSO, hosting shows featuring music by reggae and blues artists.
“I had a show called ‘Roots Go Deep,’” Seefari said. “I also had a blues show for a couple of years called ‘The Blues Had a Baby’… I kind of wish I’d never stopped, to be honest. I think it would have been cool to keep doing that.”
“I really have to give a lot of credit to all those Antioch students back then,” he said. “There were students from all over the country and they would bring a lot of good records in. Back then, Antioch had a satellite in London, so we got to listen to a lot of the British reggae releases and stuff too.”
After playing with the Scales of Justice, Seefari also spent several years touring with an African-music band before launching a successful solo career. As a solo artist, he has become an internationally-known reggae star, headlining the Houston, Texas-based Bob Marley Festival Tour four years in a row and sharing the stage with many reggae greats including Pato Banton and Mikey Dread.
“He was the first Rasta with dreadlocks to play reggae on the air in Jamaica,” Seefari says of Mikey Dread, who died of brain cancer in 2008. “He had a show called ‘Dread at the Controls,’ and it’s just a legendary thing. He did a couple of songs with the Clash and produced some of their reggae stuff.”
“Mikey and I got to be pretty good friends,” he added, “We were even going to do some touring and recording. It really, really broke my heart that he passed away before we were able to get in the studio.”
Seefari has released more than a dozen reggae and world music albums over the years, and four songs from his latest full-length studio release, 2007’s Rasta Italist, placed in the top 10 on Australian independent radio charts this September, October and November. The album also won several national awards for the songs “Maryjane,” “Maryjane Dub” and “Peaceful Village.”
Seefari played all of the instruments on the Rasta Italist album himself, but for live shows he relies on a close-knit group of talented local players, including longtime drummer Baba Kuti and bassists Basim Blunt and Monkey. The group also includes percussionists Ras Robin and Adam Washington and features ijahmelody on hand drums and vocals.
“Live, I don’t usually play a lot of different instruments,” Seefari said. “I usually play some guitar, and occasionally some keys and percussion. I really enjoy playing bass and hand drums, as well.”
For private parties and smaller engagements, Seefari also performs as a duo with ijahmelody. “The duo is a pretty good portion of what I do,” he explained. “The duo is a little more covers-oriented. We step out a little way from reggae and do Caribbean music and world music.”
As for recording, Seefari said he has focused on releasing singles since Rasta Italist, but still considers the possibility of a new full-length studio album in the future. His latest single, “Dreadful Times,” will be out later this month and a cover of Bob Marley’s “Mellow Mood,” featuring ijahmelody, is scheduled for release in February as part of Seefari’s annual Bob Marley Tribute Tour. Last year’s tour featured six tribute shows in Ohio and Indiana, including a performance at Cincinnati’s annual Bob Marley Day Celebration.
Seefari also serves as music director for the Dayton Reggae Festival, after taking over the position last year. “I was always sort of an unofficial consultant,” he said. “I opened the first one back in 1988, with my band Tom Carroll and the Scales of Justice, and I’ve continued to play it every year since then.”
“I just enjoy the whole festival,” he said. “I enjoy the music director position, so I’m hoping to continue that in the future.”
Right now, Seefari is also working on a special holiday promotion, offering a free fan appreciation gift for attending any Seefari show during the holiday season. In addition, anyone wearing a Seefari t-shirt to the show will receive an extra-special free gift. “We just want to try and let people know how much we appreciate all of the support over the years,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of fans out there, and we appreciate all of the people coming to see us at different places.”
Seefari is currently scheduled to appear November 19 at Bar Tiki, November 26 at Peach’s Grill, and December 3 at Bar Tiki, with more dates TBA. More information can be found online at HYPERLINK “http://www.seefari.com” www.seefari.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at firstname.lastname@example.org