Anthony B

Pub date March 3, 2009
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

PREVIEW Keith Anthony Blair, also known as the fiery Rasta reggae sing-jay Anthony B, is becoming a multigenerational artist. The 33-year-old began recording in his late teens and over 15 years has helped usher in a cultural revival via a dozen albums, thousands of singles, and relentless touring. Still, he was surprised while on his last trip through Europe when promoters asked him start his shows early to accommodate his many preteen fans. "The shows were full of kids," Blair says, speaking by phone from Jamaica. "We had 10-, 12-, and 14 year-olds come out — that’s a fanbase for the next 10 years." Apparently the youth are drawn by Blair’s lively shows and enthusiastic recordings. "But they’ll go home and ask their parents what my lyrics were talking about. So a conversation can build in the home between the parents and the different generations over music."

Blair arrived on the reggae scene in the early-1990s among a Jamaican cultural contingent that included Luciano, Sizzla, and others. Blair and his camp stood out with their turban-wrapped locks and Bobo Ashanti Rastafarian faith — a sect that imposes restrictions on diet, conduct, and appearance — as well as songs that promoted a positive identity, equal rights, and gave a voice to the poor in Jamaica. After recording for Star Trail, Xterminator, and Fat Eyes, he formed his own Born Fire imprint and issued three self-produced full-lengths, including 2008’s brilliant Life Over Death. His music has always contained conscious content, dating back to 1995’s daring political indictment "Fire Pon Rome," a track recorded at considerable risk. "I’ve had to sidestep police," he explains.

Blair’s latest album, Rise Up (Greensleeves), continues that social justice thread: the title track is an acoustic number that echoes Bob Marley ("emancipate from mental slavery") and urges listeners to be mindful of global issues. With its innovative roots-meets-hip-hop production ("Stop Fight Reggae") and great combination tracks with Chezidek, Lukie D, and Horace Andy, Rise Up is an exemplary recording by a reggae artist that has no problem setting an example. "We have to go out into the world," Blair says, "and come back and show people what can achieved by doing good."

ANTHONY B With Native Elements. Tues/16, 9 p.m., $25. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1422,