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Friday, September 19, 2003



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COURTESY OF CHRIS MURRAY


Ska is the core
of Murray’s music

The ‘one-man ska band’
has started a small Oahu tour


Every Tuesday night at the Knitting Factory Hollywood, Chris Murray hosts an evening of music inspired by that syncopated Jamaican reggae variant called ska.



"Bluebeat Lounge Hawaii"
with Chris Murray

Today: 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Manoa Gardens, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Free, all ages.
Tomorrow:
>> 8:30 p.m. at Coffee Talk, 3601 Waialae Ave. Free, all ages.
>> 10 p.m. with Go Jimmy Go at Anna Bannanas, 2440 S. Beretania St. $6 cover, 21 and over.
Monday: Noon at Kapiolani Community College Cafe, 4303 Diamond Head Road. Free, all ages.



While the Bluebeat Lounge has been Murray's resident club project for more than half a year, the former lead man of King Apparatus has been going mostly solo of late, bringing that music's danceable spirit of ska to a more intimate level.

The self-professed "one-man ska band" just started a small Oahu tour (playing at Kemoo Farms' lakeside lanai last night), and local fans are already familiar with his solo work.

His current six-song EP features the roots ska-based songs of his such as "Ex-Darling," "Heartache" and "Rock Steady," which originally was released as a live cut taken from a San Francisco gig with guest backup vocals from Go Jimmy Go.

That original version came from Murray's most recent full-length album, "Raw," which also featured other inspirational performers Neville Staples, from the crucial 2-Tone English band the Specials, and Deston Berry from Los Angeles' rootsy Hepcat.

"The version of 'Rock Steady' on the CD is all me, except for the drumming," he said from his L.A. home last Friday. "And another song, 'F-Train,' is from an album session with Da Whole Thing, a band collective featuring ska scene and jazz players from New York. The original album version was actually more country-sounding.

"Both Go Jimmy Go and Pimpbot have played the Bluebeat Lounge," he said. "(They're) just two of the 65 acts who have come from as far away as Russia. The central thread through all the acts is (that) ska is part of what they do. When I perform my solo acoustic act, not only do I play a lot of my songs, but I like to play old Jamaican songs as well."

Murray has been to Hawaii twice, first as a member of King Apparatus back in 1993, when the group shared a bill with the Toasters at Pink's Garage. He's also performed here with Go Jimmy Go.

"MY NAME has been consistently associated with ska," Murray said. "It's always been at the core of my music. King Apparatus itself was a ska band influenced by what the Specials were doing in England back in '78. At that time the music was still quite an underground thing. There weren't that many ska bands back then. We'd often share a bill with punk and reggae bands.

"If I had to subclassify what I do now in ska, it's a singer-songwriter approach. Before King Apparatus broke up eight years later, I was the least musically trained of all the band members, but I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by such good musicians that when I brought them my four-track versions of new songs I had written, there was no angst in trying to describe what I wanted from them. It was then that I was starting to do songs more roots-oriented."

A year after the band's demise, Murray's career was solidified with his first solo album, inspired by the vibe of Venice.

"Back when I was a naive Canadian, born and raised in Toronto, I was always attracted to what was happening on the L.A. scene in the early '90s. It was the start of traditional early ska, reggae and rock-steady acts -- groups who steadfastly went back to the roots, where not only did they do the old songs note perfect, but were also writing in the tradition."

His ska epiphany came during a high school dance in Ontario when he heard Madness performing its pumped-up cover of King Buster's "One Step Beyond."

"I clearly remember hearing that vocal intro, ending with 'ONE - STEP - BEYOND!' then the song kicking in." And, in the same tradition, Murray also does the occasional oldie but goodie, "those well known to fans of obscure Jamaican songs."



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