Slim pickings: Rasta la vista, baby

Shayar and Krooshal Force
at Miller's
January 1

Options were quite slim last Saturday night– the exodus of students for the holidays, the hangovers being nursed from the New Year's celebrations of the night before, and the dreary chill of the evening seemingly made bookers take the night off en masse. My choices came down to two, and as I was more than a little hesitant about reviewing karaoke ("Johnny B.'s rendition of 'I will always love you' was spot on; I especially enjoyed his flowing gown and..."), Miller's for the reggae group Shayar and Krooshal Force was the place to be.

It seemed like a fair number of people agreed with me– the large crowd gathered at the venue was not only composed of the usual Rastafarian-hatted lot, but a good number of your average curious concert-goers, thirsting for a show to set the new year off to a good start.

The five members of Shayar and Krooshal Force looked more than a bit cramped on the Miller's stage. With the group's full drum set and rack of keyboards, the two guitarists and the bassist were only able to fit on stage by creating a line on the right, three instruments deep. In front, Shayar, former guitarist for reggae group Burning Spear, on guitar and vocals; in the middle, a Bob Marley shirt-wearing lead guitarist; and taking the rear, the group's bassist.

In the key of A (or possibly A minor), the group got going, beginning the saga of up-strokes that dominated the night. Shayar, in a strong Jamaican accented voice, dropped words like "Rastafarian" and "marijuana," but after a verse decided to give his pipes a rest and let the group jam, which they did to their hearts' content.

Of the songs the group performed, those that were in the standard verse-chorus-verse form of pop numbers were quite good– their melody maker possesses the ability to vocally riff on top of one chord (or at most two) for long non-repetitious stretches– but I found the verse-jam-jam-jam numbers that were liberally spread throughout the set a bit trying. Shayar and Krooshal Force as a whole was quite impressive, the members staying locked in with each other during every song like a well-oiled machine and never losing a step as one song after another flew by with hardly a pause between them.

The group's third song of the night was the number I most enjoyed; Sesame Street-like piano chords in the intro, a good complicated melody, and a strong vocal performance made this verse-chorus-verse number stand out from the rest of the pack, to the extent that I could still hum part of it the next day.

By the seventh song in their set, Shayar and Krooshal Force seemed to figure that their originals had made enough of an impression that they could now pay homage to the master without seeming like a tribute band. Bob Marley's and Peter Tosh's "Get Up, Stand Up" was pulled off with no major flaws. All the Marley I've heard (though it does not exceed around 20 songs total) puts an emphasis on melody and songwriting, rather than instrumental jamming, and if I were Shayar and Krooshal Force I would concentrate on their very apparent talents in this craft if success is thought to be anything but a bad word.

Shayar and Krooshal Force