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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 1, 2002

Reggae favorites headline all-star show

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer

Reggae artist Gregory Isaacs has more than 500 songs and 70 albums to his name, and has had a rather successful three decade-plus career. His 2000 CD "Private & Confidential" was a Grammy nominee in 2001 for Best Reggae Album.

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The Budweiser Super Stars of Reggae Tour

Featuring Gregory Isaacs and Yellowman

6 p.m. Saturday

Waikiki Shell



Also: On Kaua'i, 6 p.m. today, Kukui Grove Park, 245-9527; on Maui, 6 p.m. Sunday, Maui Arts & Cultural Center, 242-7469; on the Big Island, 6:30 p.m. Monday, Hilo Civic Auditorium, 935-6858. Tickets for all Neighbor Island shows are $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

Gregory Isaacs and Yellowman are longtime concert favorites of Hawai'i's sizable reggae audience. In the past six years, Isaacs has performed here four times, Yellowman, twice. But this weekend's four-island Super Stars of Reggae Tour offers audiences the somewhat rare opportunity of seeing both artists on the same stage.

In addition to shows on Kaua'i, Maui and the Big Island, Isaacs performs with the Kalabash Band, and Yellowman with the Sagittarius Band, tomorrow evening at the Waikiki Shell.

Isaacs is one of reggae's most prolific songwriters, with more than 500 songs and 70 albums in his three decade-plus career. Like many of his reggae peers, Isaacs began his career by entering talent competitions in his native Kingston and working with a multitude of producers. Launching his own label in 1973, Isaacs racked up local hits with a mix of roots compositions ripe with emotional ruminations on Jamaican's cultural suffrage and lovers rock boasting of his prowess in the bedroom.

"Night Nurse," a sultry ode to lust playing up his eventual Cool Ruler/Mr. Love aliases, became Isaacs' first international smash in 1981. It remains Isaacs' most played and requested track on reggae radio. The worldwide success of "Night Nurse" also gave Isaacs' already large catalog of recorded music a whole new life through a growing fan base, particularly in the United States and Britain.

Though Isaacs' profile has declined somewhat since the late 1980s, he continues to tour and record new music. His 2000 CD "Private & Confidential" was a Grammy nominee in 2001 for Best Reggae Album.

With as equally prolific a song canon as Isaacs, Yellowman continues to be recognized as one of the greatest toasters (a deejay or rapper) that reggae has produced.

Born an albino — a condition that left him a virtual outcast in Jamaican society — Yellowman (birth name Winston Foster) was inspired to perform by the folk music music he heard while growing up in a Kingston orphanage. Instead of hiding his obvious physical differences, Yellowman used them to his advantage making a name for himself in local toasting contests by boasting of himself as a potent sex symbol.

Yellowman's charisma, stage antics and humorous lyrics about his way with the ladies would eventually gain him an international following in the early 1980s and a major label contract with CBS Records. This, despite the fact that much of his work at the time contained enough "rudeboy" homophobic and overtly sexist lyrics to draw the ire of music critics and many reggae fans.

As with Isaacs, Yellowman's star dimmed toward the end of the 1980s as reggae fans moved on to other acts. Though he still turns out more new music than most veteran music acts, the artist's 1990s output has mostly displayed a kinder-gentler Yellowman — still boasting, still rude, but just a tad on the mellow tip.

A lifelong resident of Jamaica, Yellowman's live appearances have hardly been slowed by his occasional bouts with throat and skin cancer.