The Friday, March 31, Column

Pato Banton

Spotlight – Pato Banton

When one thinks about reggae music, pictures of Kingston, Jamaica, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and others jump to mind, not necessarily England, but that is where reggae superstar Pato Banton got his influence, and not from any band. Born in London, England in 1961 and moved to Birmingham eight years later, Banton  says It was his stepfather who was a Jamaican DJ and his house that quickly became the “Jamaican party house” of the area that had the most influence on him. As the young Banton watched the scene grow from island music, to ska then to reggae music. Being a DJ or MC seemed to be his natural calling which eventually lead to Banton becoming the singer, songwriter and producer of his own local reggae band.

It was the early ‘80s by then and Banton enlisted his band for a talent show put on by the English Beat, called the Beat at that time, until the band got to America and found there was already an established act called the Beat, hence the name change, and the young singer caught the bands ear, and asked him to sit in with them. He next caught the ear of UB-40 and was a guest vocalist on the “Baggariddim” album from ’85. From there, as they say, it was game on.

Banton has been touring since the ‘80s and as one of the top reggae acts in the world, has shared the stage with many contemporaries like Steel Pulse, Sting, UB-40, Besahra and more and has 17 albums under his belt. He is also more than a musician, and donates his time to schools as a motivational speaker. He also started his own music school, the School of Musical Arts and Technology in the United Kingdom, where he not only helps youth with a positive message and direction through music, but also works in prisons to help reduce gun violence. Banton was awarded with the BBC’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication and commitment to positive change in 2003.

So how does an international reggae star find his way to Sonoma Valley? It was local reggae concert producer and DJ on Sonoma Valley’s community radio KSVY 91.3 FM, Baggajo, who has a reggae music show on Sundays at 1 p.m. who initially approached Max Young, owner of the former Rossi’s 1906 with the prospect of a show. Young about jumped out of his hat, as Banton was one of his childhood musical heroes, so the show was on. Banton has played the venue repeatedly since.

Banton has essentially been on tour since the ‘80s, as he is his own manager, producer, booking agent, video producer, band leader and even owns his own record label. The act is currently on the California leg of the tour and after will head to Japan, Taiwan, Korea and beyond. He will be in Sonoma at the Reel Fish Shop and Grill with his band, the Now Generation for one night only, Saturday April 1, kicking off at 8:30 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door.

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People of Earth

Local Musician Spotlight – George Mieling

Being a teenager in Vienna Austria was a little different that being one in the US, but as it turns out for George Mieling, not too much. Born roughly 50 years ago in Vienna to an American mother and an Austrian father, classical music was big in the household, and like many European families, having everyone singing around the piano was something that you just did. Everyone played an instrument and for young Mieling, it was piano, and classical music at that. Mieling had an older brother that had hooked up with some jazz musicians who were judged to be quite accomplished by the family, as jazz was not the norm, and Mieling was “allowed” by his parents to move from playing classical music to jazz, where his older brother took him under his wings and taught him the basics of playing jazz. It didn’t take long for Mieling to form his own band with some local youths and in ’78 the act won a talent contest with the prize being a recording session and two songs released on 45 RPM records, still one of Mieling’s proudest moments.

Roll the clock forward about 20 years and to the US, in Sonoma Valley to be exact, where Mieling was living the corporate job dream, had a family, and even though he had continued playing music, it wasn’t in a band. He decided to give it whirl and found it was a lot like riding a bike, and he enjoyed it. So after a couple Craig’s list searches he found an act out of Napa that was looking for a keyboard player and it was then he became a member of “People of Earth.”

The act will be playing the closing party at the Sonoma International Film Festival on Sunday, April 2, at 8 p.m.

Lets get to know Mieling a little more.

1) Many musicians in our generation cite the Beatles on Ed Sullivan as that moment when they knew music was what they wanted to do. When and what was it that made you realize you wanted to be a musician?

GM > I never wanted to actually be a professional musician, but as you mention, the Beatles were huge even in Austria, but starting my own band as a teenager I think was what really made me realize I liked performing. I had flirted with the idea of trying to go to the Vienna Conservatory of Music but in hindsight I’m glad that didn’t actually happen.

2) That first instrument you owned. What was it and do you still have it?

GM> My parents had a baby grand piano that now is over 100 years old, a Stingl, that I played as a youth and believe it or not, I still have it. It has moved with me like five times and it’s in my house to this day. My first real instrument that I owned was a Fender Rhodes 73 key piano, that I loved and sold when I had to go to compulsory military service in Austria. I wish I had never sold it. I finally replaced it just recently with one from a studio in Los Angeles. It was always a studio instrument and it’s very clean, so I play that occasionally now.

3) Who are you’re primary influences in your music?

GM > Early influences were jazz, like Herbie Hancock, Chick Correa, weather report, those types of bands but as I moved to the states, southern rock is really what began to inspire me. Some west coast style too but Lynyrd Skynyrd has been my biggest influence since. Billy Powell, their keyboardist is just amazing, and of course Gregg Allman.

4) What CD or playlist is in your car or your iPod?

GM > Eric Clapton. Pretty much Clapton, but these days everything is a mix or something. I have some playlists I listen to, or I listen to rehearsal songs or gig lists for upcoming shows.

5) Tell us about your current acts.

GM > People of Earth is basically the only act. I did a one off with an act called the Last Minute Band for the Vintage Festival last year. I also have a “once a year“ band that happens when I go to New York for a conference that is for my work. One time the band asked me to sit in and since them we play that conference every year.

6) If you could have written one song, which one would it be and why?

GM > Hmmm. (long pause) One Way out by the Allman Brothers. (actually written by Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James) If I could have written one, that would be it.

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Chi McClean

Set List – The Rundown

Annex Wine Bar, 865 W. Napa St. Sonoma, 938-7779
Tonight, March 31: Coyote and the Tricksters. 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 1: Full Circle. 7:30 p.m.

B&V Whiskey Bar and Grille, 400 First St. E. Sonoma, 938-7110
Saturday, April 1: Adrian Trevino. 9 p.m.

Friday Farmers Market, Depot Park, 270 First St W. Sonoma
Today, March 31: Stewart Degner. 9:30 a.m.

HopMonk Tavern, 691 Broadway Sonoma, 935-9100
Tonight, March 31: Peace of G. 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 1: Chime Travelers. 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 2: Greg Loiacono from Mother Hips with Scott Law and Matt Jaffe – In the Listening Room. 8 p.m.

Murphy’s Irish Pub, 464 First St. E. Sonoma, 935-0660
Tonight, March 31: Hooper and Sloss. 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 1: Laura Benetiz. 8 p.m.

Olde Sonoma Public House, 18615 Sonoma Hwy. Boyes Hot Springs, 938-7587
Tonight, March 31: Reggae Night with Byron Borges. 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 1: Karaoke. 7:30 p.m.

The Reel Fish Shop and Grill, 401 Grove St. El Verano, 343-0044
Friday, March 31: Second Line. 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 1: Pato Banton. 8:30 p.m.

Sonoma International Film Festival, Back Lot, 120 First St. E.
Friday, March 31: the Drifting Rich. 2 p.m. Ari and Anthony. 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 1: Keith Andrew, 2 p.m. Codi and Friends. 3:30 p.m. Loosely Covered. 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 2: Adam Traum. 2 p.m. Chi McClean. 3:30 p.m. People of Earth. 8 p.m.

Sonoma Speakeasy and American Music Hall, 452 First St. E. ste. G. Sonoma, 996-1364
Tonight, March 31: Ryan Tatarian. 6:30 p.m. Rubber Soul. 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 1: the Marks Brothers. 5 p.m. I’Ko Ya ya. 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 2: Jim Caroompas, 5 p.m. Acoustic Blues Jam. 8:30 p.m.

The Starling Bar, 19380 Sonoma Hwy. Sonoma, 996-3055
Sunday, April 2: Loverman. 8 p.m.

If your gig isn’t in my column, you didn’t tell me about it. jmberry@sonomamusic.com

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