With Cosmos Ray as lead, Doug Bistrow on bass and Scott Moss on guitar, Akasha is a Chicago reggae band steeped in rich vocal harmonies. Stylistically, Akasha sounds like they stepped out of a 1972 jam session at Studio One. The group’s big sound and rich tapestry remains true to the genre’s native Jamaican roots and has us all feeling a little Irie. Booyakasha! –tony binns
What does Akasha mean?
Akasha is a Sanskrit word which is basically one of five elements. Some people translate it to be ether. It pertains to sound, but it is kind of the energy that bonds all things.
Tell me about your sound?
We are definitely influenced by the early Wailers, which obviously the most famous Wailer members were Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. That early sound, especially when Chris Blackwell got involved with them and started Island Records, really allowed for the sound of reggae to be heard on an international level.
Why do you consider reggae an important musical form?
I think it is important for a lot of reasons for me. Reggae is the soul music of the ’60s and ’70s and a little earlier. It was very important for racial issues and social issues. If you really delve into the canon — late ’50s, early ’60s to now — it covers a lot of ground. It is also very compelling to me [that] it has reached out so far. There are reggae artists in Africa and Asia. It is the music that connects.
What’s it like being a Chicago reggae band?
I think it has its challenges. People, in general, say people in Chicago do not support their artists. I think that is a little unfair. I think Chicago supports their artists. Because we are a major city and because we have a thriving music scene people get a little spoiled and take live music for granted. Reggae is a burgeoning form right now.