The sounds of the Caribbean will fill the big blue tent Saturday when two distinctive masters of reggae bring their island sounds to Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua.
Headliner Maxi Priest, is a British-born artist of Jamaican descent whose style has been described as “reggae fusion,” blending reggae and R & B styles. With a career spanning decades, Priest has had singles topping the Billboard charts in the ‘80s and ‘90s and his albums have twice been nominated for the best reggae album Grammy Award.
Priest says his influences are myriad.
“First and foremost, I'm from a church background,” he said. His mother was a missionary, and Priest grew up listening to gospel music. His brothers listened to reggae, and his sisters listened to rock artists.
“From an early age, my family always encouraged me. I listened to all kinds of vocalists – Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Dennis Brown. Without realizing it, I was developing my craft. I was taught never to limit myself – that’s why you'll always find different styles of music on my albums.”
Opening for Priest is a reggae artist with roots in the British Virgin Islands and a connection to northern Wisconsin as well.
Quito Rymer and his band, the Edge, will bring their talents to the tent Saturday as well as to a July 4 concert on the deck of the Bayfield Inn in Bayfield.
Rymer, 67, is a self-taught musician who picked up the guitar at 16 and started playing in a “little soul combo” at 18, playing music at parties. After losing a band member and close friend in a car accident, the combo disbanded, only to reform later playing primarily in Rymer's church.
Life took Rymer away from his island home for some years, but he eventually returned as an entrepreneur, building his own bar on the island of Tortola and starting a reggae band that filled his business with music.
Since marrying Bayfield businesswoman Kimberly West Rymer several years ago, Quito Rymer has become part of the northern Wisconsin community.
“It feels really good to be able to bring reggae to this wonderful part of the world, and that I have found true love,” he said. “The power of music brings people together and music is a really big part of this community, especially the Big Top Chautauqua.”
For Saturday's concert, Rymer is bringing his full band north, including keyboardist Michael Blaize, a band member since 1996, Akim Johnson on bass, Frandy Martin on drums and new keyboard player Alton Bertie. This will be the second time Rymer has opened for Maxi Priest.
“I like his music,” Rymer said of Priest. “And he puts on a wonderful show.”
Rymer said his music is first of all about gratitude for the blessing of his talent.
“These are gifts from the almighty, and I am truly thankful,” he said. “I feel the best way to show my appreciation to God is to share them with the rest of the world so there is a chance they can bring peace, comfort and laughter to some people – and even make them dance!”