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Roots Covenant is me

San Diego reggae band on the trials of being a San Diego reggae band

Mike Benge: “I don’t think San Diego reggae bands get a lot of love.”
Mike Benge: “I don’t think San Diego reggae bands get a lot of love.”

“The scene here’s really healthy,” says Mike Benge. The Helix High School band director is talking about the popularity of reggae music in San Diego. “It’s one of the more healthy music scenes here, next to jazz. You’ve got O.B., PB, recent sell-out shows at House of Blues and the North Park Observatory.”

In the past, Benge has played his trombone with the B-Side Players. Now, he moonlights as a member of Roots Covenant, a reggae outfit that started in Bonita more than a dozen years ago. “Youth still relates to reggae,” he says before practice in the band room at Helix, “even if it’s that really poppy Sublime kind of reggae.”

Video:

Roots Covenant live...

...at the 2015 Baconfest

...at the 2015 Baconfest

What makes San Diego key in the world of reggae, Benge points out, are hometown touring acts such as Slightly Stoopid, Tribal Seeds, and the Devastators. Roots Covenant has been to the dance numerous times over the years, but without the breakout success enjoyed by their contemporaries.

“Life happens,” explains keyboardist/vocalist Chris Morris, meaning the working of day-jobs and the growing of families. But Roots has not gone entirely unnoticed.

“I was on tour in Hawaii for two weeks with another band,” says founder Adrian Cisneros, “and I heard one of our records from 2007 playing on the radio. I asked the tour guide to turn it up. ‘Oh,’ he says, ‘you like Roots Covenant?’ And I’m, like, ‘Roots Covenant is me!’ I wanted to cry.”

“A couple of years ago,” says Morris, “we got a chance to tour Taiwan. For two weeks, the smallest crowd we played to was 2000 people.” The largest? “10,000 people. And afterwards, fireworks were going off.”

Mike Benge puts a frame around it: “I don’t think San Diego reggae bands get a lot of love. You gotta leave San Diego for that to happen.” Even so, Cisneros says there is a high level of aptitude among the working reggae bands here.

“It’s really flattering when you back someone from Jamaica and they tell you you’re doing it right.”

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Mike Benge: “I don’t think San Diego reggae bands get a lot of love.”
Mike Benge: “I don’t think San Diego reggae bands get a lot of love.”

“The scene here’s really healthy,” says Mike Benge. The Helix High School band director is talking about the popularity of reggae music in San Diego. “It’s one of the more healthy music scenes here, next to jazz. You’ve got O.B., PB, recent sell-out shows at House of Blues and the North Park Observatory.”

In the past, Benge has played his trombone with the B-Side Players. Now, he moonlights as a member of Roots Covenant, a reggae outfit that started in Bonita more than a dozen years ago. “Youth still relates to reggae,” he says before practice in the band room at Helix, “even if it’s that really poppy Sublime kind of reggae.”

Video:

Roots Covenant live...

...at the 2015 Baconfest

...at the 2015 Baconfest

What makes San Diego key in the world of reggae, Benge points out, are hometown touring acts such as Slightly Stoopid, Tribal Seeds, and the Devastators. Roots Covenant has been to the dance numerous times over the years, but without the breakout success enjoyed by their contemporaries.

“Life happens,” explains keyboardist/vocalist Chris Morris, meaning the working of day-jobs and the growing of families. But Roots has not gone entirely unnoticed.

“I was on tour in Hawaii for two weeks with another band,” says founder Adrian Cisneros, “and I heard one of our records from 2007 playing on the radio. I asked the tour guide to turn it up. ‘Oh,’ he says, ‘you like Roots Covenant?’ And I’m, like, ‘Roots Covenant is me!’ I wanted to cry.”

“A couple of years ago,” says Morris, “we got a chance to tour Taiwan. For two weeks, the smallest crowd we played to was 2000 people.” The largest? “10,000 people. And afterwards, fireworks were going off.”

Mike Benge puts a frame around it: “I don’t think San Diego reggae bands get a lot of love. You gotta leave San Diego for that to happen.” Even so, Cisneros says there is a high level of aptitude among the working reggae bands here.

“It’s really flattering when you back someone from Jamaica and they tell you you’re doing it right.”

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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