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Spotlight on Israel Vibration

Today in Reggae Month, we celebrate Israel Vibration - one of the most successful roots groups out of Jamaica in the 1970s, known for their harmonies

Words by Staff Writer

25.02.22

Israel Vibration is a reggae harmony group, originally from Kingston, Jamaica. Lascelle « Wiss » Bulgin, Albert « Apple Gabriel » Craig, and Cecil « Skelly » Spence all overcame childhood polio; and went on to be one of the most successful roots groups to form in Jamaica in the 1970s. The trio initially met as children at a rehabilitation centre. 


Bulgin (born 1955), Craig, and Spence (born 1952) first met as children at the Mona Rehabilitation Clinic, all sufferers of polio in the epidemic that spread through Jamaica in the 1950s, but it was several years later that they formed Israel Vibration. 


Spence and Craig got together in Kingston and sought out Bulgin, who at the time was working as a tailor. They formed a vocal group, initially adopting the name Israel Vibration Israel Vibrates, soon becoming simply Israel Vibration. They survived on money earned singing in the streets for several years, and in 1975 attempted to launch a recording career at Channel One Studios


Funding for their first album came in the form of a grant from the Twelve Tribes of Israel branch of Rastafari after Hugh Booth, a member of the Twelve Tribes, overheard the three men singing in a wooded area outside Kingston.


Apple and Wiss were living in the area, which they had converted into a home. Recorded at the Treasure Isle studio in 1976, their debut release was the single « Why Worry » released late that year on the Twelve Tribes label. The single was successful enough for the group to be offered support slots at shows by artists such as Dennis Brown, Inner Circle, and Bob Marley.


They then began working with producer Tommy Cowan, releasing "The Same Song" on his Top Ranking label in 1977, and an album of the same name followed in 1978. The album; and its dub counterpart, Israel Tafari (aka Same Song Dub) were a success internationally, leading to a deal with EMI label Harvest to reissue the album in the UK, the label also releasing a second album, Unconquered People in 1980. 


The group relocated to New York in 1982 to seek professional health care, and escape the growing dancehall movement in Jamaica, but struggled to break through there and they split up. They each attempted to launch solo careers, with Bulgin releasing the Mr Sunshine album in 1985, but by 1987 they decided to relaunch Israel Vibration.


They were flown to Washington, D.C. to record a new album at the Lion and Fox Recording Studios in College Park, Maryland, backed by the Roots Radics. Strength of my Life was the group’s fourth album. The band stayed with RAS into the 21st century, releasing more than a dozen albums for the label.


In 1997, Apple Gabriel left the group to pursue a solo career, releasing the album Another Moses in 1999. Skelly and Wiss continue to record albums and tour the world as Israel Vibration, backed by longtime associates Roots Radics.


In December 2014 they were reportedly recording a new album set for release in early 2015. The new album, Play It Real was released on 31 March 2015 via Utopia.

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