Music for the Masses

Exalting the gospel according to Jah, Preacherman launches his own reggae movement.

"I have quite a few originals to work on, and I'm looking forward to putting out another CD," he says. "Hopefully, it will all work out, and things will come out for the best."

Wynter has discovered some common ground with American fans. Many of the artists whom he considers to be influences -- Tosh, Bunny Wailer and, of course, Marley - are familiar to fans of reggae in the United States; the iconic Marley remains one of the most popular artists in music, even among those who wouldn't know Jah from Jar-Jar.

"Bob kind of liberated most of us musically and some of us financially. People watched him as a role model and emulated him. He also came from the country originally. He was a very strong part of the foundation of reggae music and the reggae culture."

The only one who could ever teach them: Herman "Preacherman" Wynter.
Larry Leiber
The only one who could ever teach them: Herman "Preacherman" Wynter.

As Preacherman, Wynter has elevated local awareness of reggae culture, too. His lyrics echo a bit of the Christian Scriptures and reflect his life philosophy: "Jam down fever, jam down fever, Jamaican fever/I got nowhere to rest my head, I cannot find nowhere to live/I can't break my daily bread, that is why my eyes turn red/Life 'round here's heavy like lead...I have my family I got to feed, that's why I planting this a seed/Yes my family they are in need, while some people are set in their greed."

Trouble is a theme that defines a lot of Wynter's music, and he's seen his share as an artist. He's bounced from group to group, juggled band politics and wrestled with egos, jealousy and bickering. He says he sometimes confronts a kind of reverse racial discrimination: Over the years, he has at times been chided for associating with white artists. Yet despite some infighting and contentious relationships, a relative sense of solidarity seems to pervade the Colorado reggae culture, which is struggling to gain firm footing on the local music scene.

"I try not to see color when I look at people," he says. "People are people, and they're cool or they aren't. When I consider a musician, I just want to know that they're into the music and that I can get along with them okay. Music is not about color. We're divided among ourselves, but the Rasta man supposed to unite. It's a shame there's jealousy and bitterness in the industry. Everyone is a star in the band."

At a recent "Reggae on Broadway" show at Herman's Hideaway, sponsored by Denver's newly created Reggae Movement organization, reggae artists and fans bumped fists in greeting and shared the positive vibrations emanating from the stage. Wynter shared the light with a white DJ named Thomas Behler, aka Blood Presha, laid down bongo rhythms and sang a few tunes with the Lion SoulJahs.

When he asked the Herman's audience how it was feeling, he got the only answer he was looking for: Arms raised, the group of reggae converts, old and new, shouted "Irie!"

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