October 1, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 48°F


Reggae music inspires local artist

George Wesley is a one-man band with a career spanning 35 years and the talent to match. With a similar musical style to that of Bob Marley, Wesley plays Caribbean reggae and rock ’n’ roll music with a message of peace, unity and community. Staff Writer Evan Johnson spoke with Wesley about reggae and rock music, its role in his life and his specialized looping technique that he plans to show off Tuesday at Castaways.

Evan Johnson: At what age did you start playing music?

George Wesley: My father was a country-western guitar player. I started out with a little plastic ukulele — a little Mickey Mouse thing with a music box inside of it. I used to move the music box, play the strings and jump up and down and make noise. I had no idea that that’s what I would be doing later.

EJ: How did you eventually find Caribbean music?

GW: Basically through the groove and the message behind the music itself. The spiritual message of unity and one love is pretty common in my background. I relate it to the founding of the Methodist church. When I heard Bob Marley talking about Jah [the Rastafarian name for God] it felt familiar and inviting. The more I looked into him I came to see him as the Charles Wesley [a musician who worked closely with the United Methodist Church] of Rastafari.

EJ: What do you think listeners will find appealing about your performance Tuesday?

GW: What I pay attention to is the looping. I pretty much build an orchestra. I build a band in front of everyone. It’s seamless and interesting, and it keeps me busy.

EJ: Explain your looping technique. How do you use looping to develop your music?

GW: I’m creating a band through the use of guitar, synth and loop station. I use the Boss RC-50. I used to use another model that did not have an “undo” feature. That was flying by the seat of your pants. You really got what you got. What I do first is I lay down the rhythm by picking out a drum loop that I could use to enhance whatever song I’m making. Then I set the tempo and the rhythm guitar. Then I use the synth to add the bass and maybe add another layer. At that point, that’s the band.

EJ: Will your music be improvised Tuesday at Castaways?

GW: It’s always improvised. My approach is like wet on wet watercolor painting. I have an idea, and then I go with the expansion. It manifests itself.

EJ: How long do you see yourself playing music?

GW: I’ve been playing for over 35 years. I’m an old lion. I plan to keep on playing until Jah calls me home. And then I’ll be playing in his band.