InTheMiddle with The Wailers

The Wailers are currently touring the world-renowned album Legend around the UK. Three of our readers were lucky enough to win pairs of tickets to their gig at Leeds O2 Academy, so Music Editor Clare Redman had a chat with lead singer Josh David Barrett ahead of their performance.


Born and brought up in New Jersey, Barrett was brought up in a heavily musical community surrounded by local talent in jazz and barbershop. “There always music around everywhere, so I had no choice but to love it and gravitate towards it” he reminisces. Whilst his first encounters with music were in a church environment, it was in middle school when his brother first played Bob Marley & The Wailers to him.

“That was a revolutionary sound, I especially felt akin to it because of the family surname Barrett” he explains. He feels a familial connection to Jamaica, the birthplace of reggae, and has performed there. “Anytime I go there my DNA come alive because that’s where my roots come from” and he hopes to return again because “we miss playing for the people”. He explains that reggae holds a personal importance to him as it helps him to feel a connection “to Jamaica, and ultimately to Africa as Ethiopian descendants” because of the lyrics involved in Rasta music. “Since the advent of slavery we’ve been disconnected from that knowledge, so for us the reggae music carries this message of liberation, truth and Rastafari”.

The Wailers’ line-up includes the founder and famed bassist Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, alongside original members Junior Marvin and Donald Kinsey. On collaborating with such esteemed musicians, Josh Barrett says that “Recreating this sound every night is a joy beyond words. It’s a blessing and a great learning experience to be able to share this message and music with the world, and to learn from such great teachers whose musical impact upon history is well etched in stone.”

So why is it important to remember Bob Marley’s music? “Definitely the impact we have on people, because Bob Marley said his music is for the people […] We’re grateful that it still has relevance to people, whether they’re going through suffering or sharing joyful occasions. The music has relevance to all sides of life, but especially those suffering for truth and rights.”

The tour involves the band playing the album Legend in its entirety, alongside other Marley hits. “The key aspect” to promoting the legacy of Marley “is the spirituality {…} we’re not here to convert anyone, but we use the music as a tool for enlightenment to make one look within themselves and find their higher self.” Many of Marley’s lyrics are evocative, and perfectly exemplified in Barrett’s two Bob Marley favourites ‘War’ and ‘Rastafari Man’. It’s all too easy to forget historical racial inequalities, but the words of ‘War’ for example are a powerful reminder of the past, and a prevailing need to still strive for equality now and in the future. For this reason, the words of Bob Marley will always hold significance to the listener.

The power of Marley’s music can be seen in the audience’s reactions when The Wailers are playing live. “It’s interesting. It changes every night, but generally we get a feeling of cleansing through the music, like the first time a person goes to church. Sometimes you get that experience where you can genuinely see one’s eye open because we’ve all been enlightened in that same way, so we recognise it within another. It grounds us all upon the earth and level, even though we’re talking about higher things; love our creator and love your neighbour as yourself.” This transformative power of the message of reggae is the key to its lasting legacy Barrett explains, “This music serves mankind. If it didn’t serve mankind then it wouldn’t last so long, I promise you that.”



Whilst reggae was at its most fervent in Britain during the 1970’s, its effects can still be seen today. In the student bubble of Leeds alone there are reggae themed events at bars and dedicated rooms at club nights such as Beaverworks’ High Rise. The crowd at O2 Academy proved this further with audience members spanning generations, demonstrating the resonance the genre still holds amongst people of different ages in the present day. So what’s the reason behind this prevalence of a love for reggae and in particular, the music of Bob Marley? “[Reggae] is the truth, and truth is eternal. When words, sound and power is where everyone relates to within. The sound and vibration of the music moves us, and the power is in the movement itself.” Barrett answers. He goes on to elaborate, “The dance is the physical but it also moves your life or guides your steps according to a certain way.”

The rest of the tour sees The Wailers travelling all over the UK and America, as well as festival slots in Australia and Japan.



Words & Images: Clare Redman