Mystic Revealers (Contemporary Musicians)
Image Pop-UpMystic Revealers.
The Mystic Revealers burst onto the global reggae music scene in 1985 with their first major single, "Mash Down Apartheid." Produced by reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, the song equates political revolution with personal spiritual upheaval in a potently mystical manner. Proceeds from its sale were donated to South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) to assist in that nation's struggle for racial, social, and political equality. This philanthropic gesture, unusual for a first-time success, accurately reflects the convictions, sensibilities, perspectives, and priorities of the Rastafarian, politically-oriented Mystic Revealers.
The Mystic Revealers were formed in the early 1980s in a rural village in the St. Andrew Parish of Jamaica. They draw upon Jamaica's rich, established reggae tradition of outspoken political awareness when writing and performing their original material. The band's four founding members form the heart of the group and include Kingston-born vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Billy "Mystic" Wilmot; former Jalan and Earth Disciples drummer and record producer Nicholas "Drummie" Henry, who hails from the Shropshire region of the United Kingdom; lead guitarist and vocalist Steve Davis of Montego Bay, Jamaica; and bass guitarist Leroy "Lion" Edwards of Kingston. Kingston-born percussionist William "Willigan" Cocking, keyboard player Robert "Patch" Walters, and keyboard player-lead guitarist Winston "Metal" Stewart were later additions to the band.
Authentic Approach to Reggae
In the early 1970s, when Wilmot, Henry, Davis, and Edwards were teenagers in Bull Bay, Jamaicahich is eight miles east of Kingstonhey were surrounded by Rastafarians (followers of a complex set of mystical religious beliefs). Like the Rastas, they grew their hair into dreadlocks. Wilmot told Vibe magazine's Rob Kenner, "We were all awed by the magnificence of Rastafari. And at that time, it was what was hip. Them [sic] more look at you as a religious fanatic now if you tell them 'bout Rasta." Caribbean News contributor Jamie Lee Rake noted, "There is a true Rastafarian spirit which lives and moves within [the Mystic Revealers], the first roots reggae band to emerge from the island of Jamaica in years."
Part of what distinguishes the Revealers from their more traditional counterparts is the fact that they utilize contemporary rap, hip-hop, and even disco sounds in their songs. Although the band is as conscientious and as roots-oriented as the older vanguard of reggae starsuch as Bob Marley and Peter Toshhey have established their own style and sound, combining traditional reggae, dancehall, folk, and pop music. Kenner called the Mystic Revealers, "one of the few traditional roots bands still writing original songs that move the heart and the hips."
Reggae Show Stealers
Between 1985 and 1995 the Mystic Revealers played with such notable artists as Burning Spear, the Neville Brothers, Joan Baez, and Big Mountain. When the band performed at the Reggae Sunsplash Festival in 1988, they attracted international attention. Japanese producer Shinjiro Kanazawa of CHUKYO-TV featured the Revealers on Japanese television, deeming them the future of reggae music, and Canadian record producer Bob King lauded them as musicians with a universal appeal. They also performed at the EXPO 1992 in Seville, Spain. But the band garnered the most U.S. exposure and recognition from participating in the 1993 Reggae Sunsplash tour.
At a 50th birthday celebration concert held in Jamaica in honor of Bob Marley in February of 1995, the Mystic Revealers performed along with reggae greats the Wailers, Rita Marley, actress Vanessa Williams, vocalist Judy Mowatt, Toots Hibbert, Ziggy Marley, DJ Tony Rebel, and the veteran roots group Wailing Souls. Billboard contributor Garry Steckles, who attended the show, wrote, "The most solid and satisfying performance of the evening was provided by the Mystic Revealers, one of the few serious roots groups to emerge in Jamaica in recent years." Their rendition of "Natural Mystic," "We and Dem," and "Religion" won over numerous new fans that evening, including other respected reggae musicians.
Slow Start in the United States
Although the Mystic Revealers released their first single, "Mash Down Apartheid," in 1985, and the single was popular, they did not release their first album, Young Revolutionaries, until 1992. Between 1985 and 1991 the band toured Japan, the United Kingdom, and Europe. Then, in 1992, they toured 17 American cities to promote their singles "Religion" and "Remember Romeo." Their second album, Jah Works, was released in 1993 and their third, Space and Time, came out two years later.
The Mystic Revealers' songs reflect the band's commitment to basic human values. The single "Religion" is a straightforward reggae song, preaching love and protesting injustice, enhanced by Wilmot's sweetly lyrical voice. And singles such as "Young Revolutionaries" and "Living in Kingston" from the album Young Revolutionaries are a tribute to life in Kingston, a contribution to class consciousness, and a means for the Mystic Revealers to extol the virtues of a simple, honest life. The group's songs have also exerted a considerable influence on top-selling contemporary artists. Rake, writing in Option, suggested that the Revealers' track "Rasta Man" "provides a clue to where Seal might have picked a couple of his ideas."
The cover art for the band's album Jah Works features symbols from ancient Ethiopian scrolls, which highlight the performers' mystical, ancient Rastafarian perspective. The '93 release was listed at Number Two on the PlanetReggae Top 40 Chart. Meanwhile, their '95 effort, Space and Time, steadily gained popularity in the States. Video exposure in the United Statesspecially on the Black Entertainment Television (BET) cable networks helping to spread word of the Mystic Revealers to mainland American listeners.
"Mash Down Apartheid," Gong Sounds, 1985.
"Gotta Be a Better World," Uni/MCA, 1993.
"Religion/Remember Romeo," RAS Records, 1994.
Young Revolutionaries, Gong Sounds, 1992.
Jah Works, RAS Records, 1993.
Space and Time, RAS/REP Records, 1995.
Billboard, June 4, 1994; February 25, 1995.
Caribbean News, June 7, 1994.
CMJ, February 28, 1992.
New Music Report, February 28, 1992.
New York Review of Records, July 1992.
Option, May/June 1992.
Santa Barbara Independent (Santa Barbara, CA), August 30, 1993.
Tahoe World (Tahoe City, CA), August 14, 1993.
Vibe, September 9, 1994.
Additional information for this profile was taken from RAS Records press materials.
B. Kimberly Taylor