Reggae artist blends music, religious interpretation
After Joseph Israel quit his high school basketball team, the coach made a rule that all the remaining players had to cut their hair.
“They had never had a basketball player turn Rasta before,” Israel said. “And I had my dreads growing out and my beard.”
This redheaded reggae artist and songwriter grew up in Arkansas as part of a family in which music was an essential part of life. His father owned a restaurant and club.
“Lots of bands came through, and he always let me see the happy hour and early shows,” he said. “My dad just loved music, and from him I learned to love it and play it.”
Israel always was drawn to the Rastafarian way of life and visited Jamaica for the first time at age 14, when he began to seek out Rasta elders.
“I went right to some of these people that I might have read about in books, and they taught me a lot of stuff,” he said.
Seven more trips to Jamaica followed.
“Every trip has been for a different thing,” Israel said. “I sought reasoning with Rasta and tried to search out things and see what the truth is.”
The culture appealed to him at a young age because there were certain questions he said weren’t being answered by the Christian church he grew up attending.
“Religion to me is a concept of manmade rules,” Israel said. “Religious bombing shows that religion isn’t working and has confused everything else.”
Although his new album, “Gone Are The Days,” reflects Israel’s comprehensive knowledge of the Bible, he said it is not religious.
“I’m just one person trying to say that individuals waking up on the Earth can be part of the change to see the true covet of love, wisdom and power,” Israel said. “It sounds wild to say that’s not religious, but I don’t want to be limited or misrepresent anything.”
After Israel’s music career started to take off, he decided to take a break to start a family and be home with his three children. He began touring again in 2004.
“You have to become a carpenter for a while and make sure things are taken care of,” he said. “Now we homeschool them so they can tour with me and we can keep the family unit close.”
Israel’s children are very much a part of his career.
“My children inspire me a lot and give me strength to keep going,” he said. “When I get down, they always make me laugh and feel good.”
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