The stuff of legend

By Christopher Wallace

Joseph Israel, the Jewish Bob Marley of Arkansas, will bring his music and message to the Urban Lounge this Saturday as part of his tour promoting his new album, Gone Are the Days.

Recorded in reggae’s legendary Tuff Gong studio in Kingston, Jamaica, Gone Are the Days is being praised in the reggae community as a masterpiece.

Both on record and stage, Israel has been backed by many of reggae’s greatest musicians, many of whom make up the bands of Ziggy Marley and Luciano.

“I don’t know if you get a lot of reggae in Salt Lake,” Israel said.

But he believes that many of the people who turn out to his performances are open to his message of faith and human solidarity.

Israel, born Joseph Fennel, grew up with the music of Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey and other reggae legends.

“(Marley) is a great example of the message that he carried to the people,” Israel said.

At age 14, Israel went to Jamaica on what would be the first of many sojourns on the island.

While there, Israel became deeply involved in the Rastafarian traditions, assuming the look and beliefs and merging them with his Jewish background and knowledge of the Bible.

Through his music, Israel hopes to open doors and raise people’s hopes and spirits.

“Some people receive it and some don’t,” said Israel. “I think there’s lots of people out there like me. It gives me strength to meet them.”

At the Urban Lounge, Israel will perform with a sextet, including hand drums, conga, keyboard and violin, in addition to his guitar and vocals.

Israel said his song writing is intuitive.

“I get a feeling inside and I get my guitar and start playing and it comes out,” he said. “It’s a natural thing, like breathing.”

Israel has had great success in bringing his music to both the people of Jamaica and the United States. “I’d really like to get to Europe,” he said of his future plans.

Saturday’s performance will be Israel’s second at the Urban Lounge and one of many in Utah, including Monk’s House of Jazz and the Sundance Film Festival in Park City.

The concert begins at 9 p.m. Tickets are available at