Just Jake

Jake Highton is a journalism professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada, Reno. He teaches media law, history of journalism and advanced reporting. Highton is the author of numerous books, including "Nevada Newspaper Days." He writes a weekly column for the Daily Sparks Tribune.

Location: United States

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Tracy Moore: reggae DJ

Tracy Moore is an ebullient, passionate, personable, aimable, smiling, upbeat, joyous and happy apostle of reggae in the Truckee Meadows.
Yet on his radio show he is cool, calm, soft-spoken and low key. The contrast is deliberate. He wants people who tune in to relax.
“I know one guy who listens every Sunday in his bathroom, draws water in the tub, lights a candle and lies back contentedly for two hours,” Moore says. (The show is on KTHX, 100.1 FM, from 8 p.m. to 10 Sundays.)
“Reggae moves me,” Tracy says. “It touches my heart. I enjoy reggae so much I want to share it with other people. When I hear a new song I can’t wait to play it on the air.”
Moore, in a recent interview, said he got his love of music from his jazz musician father who played tenor sax in Reno casinos. His dad, Babe Moore, is 94--and still noodles on the sax.
“I recall as a boy he’d call me in from playing outside and have me listen to a record,” Tracy says. “When it was over, he’d pick up the needle and say: ‘That’s Count Basie.’ ”
Another thing Tracy likes about reggae: it is message music. Its constant themes are liberation, freedom, justice, brotherhood and anti-racism.
Slavery is deeply embedded in the memory of Jamaicans. Even the ordinary guy on the beach knows that history with its “voice of the slave descendent and the darkness and pain of suppression.”
(Jamaica was seized by the British in 1655 and became a distribution point for slave ships arriving from Africa.)
Moore enthuses about Marcus Garvey, Jamaican-born exponent of black empowerment and the return of blacks to Africa. Like Malcolm X after him, Garvey proclaimed his blackness and his pride in it.
Another of Tracy’s musical heroes is the late Bob Marley, who he calls the greatest reggae singer ever.
“Marley was not only a profound lyricist who became an icon for people of the Third World, he was immensely influential in defining reggae’s musical approach,” he says. “Today’s artists are largely standing on the foundation he helped to lay.”
Moore agrees with Webster’s definition of reggae: “Popular music of Jamaican origin that combines native styles with elements of rock ‘n’ roll soul music and performed at moderate tempos with the accent on the off beat.”
Tracy, 47, graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1988 with a degree in psychology and a minor in journalism.
He wears his environmenal concerns “on his sleeve.” At the interview he wore a green T-shirt adorned with those graceful power-generating wind propellers.
He is blondish with long, stringy hair. Wire glasses rest on his nose between a small goatee and an ever receding hairline.
Tracy hosted Reno’s first reggae radio show, “The Kingston Jam,” on KUNR from 1988 to 1998. In 2003 he started the Reggae Shack program on KTHX, broadcasting under his DJ name, Too Dread.
Too dread is patois for someone who deeply understands reggae and feels its vibes. “You have a sense of kinship, a deep-in-your-heart feeling.” Or, as the communists say: comrade.
Tracy has been to the Land of Reggae seven times, loving the laid- back people, the mountains and the beaches splashed by the Caribbean Sea.
For a living, Tracy drives for the Northern Nevada International Center. He plays host and guides visitors who come to Reno for conferences and special events.
But his heart is in reggae. He started as a keyboardist and vocalist in 1989 for Reno-based reggae bands.
Tracy writes songs and performs at breast cancer fund-raisers with his band Jahzilla. It’s out of compassion, yes, but pays tribute to his mother who died of lung cancer.
One of his songs reflects joy over his infant daughter, lyla (correct) Sage Lore, 11 months old. (Her mother is Rubio.)
One stanza of the song, “Because This Baby,” goes: “In her smiling eyes / Even when she cries / How her spirit flies / Like a flower essence sweetly unfurled.”
I knew nothing about reggae and couldn’t have cared less--until I talked with Tracy.
I am a classical music old fogy. Beethoven and Bach, Mozart and Haydn, Schubert and Tchaikovsky, Dvorák and Mahler, Rossini and Berlioz, Verdi and Puccini, Franck and Offenbach, Ponchielli and Wagner.
To my ears, reggae is caterwauling, cacophony. Harsh sounds, shrieks, groans, shouting, chanting, whistling, raving, pounding, drum beat and futuristic sounds.
Yes, there are some toe-tapping rhythms. And I heartily approve of the message lyrics. But it’s not my kind of music. Nevertheless, as the French say, Chacun à son goût.
When it comes to reggae, Tracy’s taste matters, not mine.


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