Mixing slot machines and booze with traditional Jamaican vibes may make rasta purists wretch, but the formula has become a hit at Funner, California.
“The world is not going to end if you mix gambling and reggae,” says DJ/reggae impresario Carlos Culture about the decision to host major reggae names every summertime Sunday at Harrah's Resort Southern California (formerly Harrah's Rincon, also known as Funner). As DJ Carlos sees it, Harrah’s saw the reggae light last year when they hosted a Damian Marley show that did really well.
“My theory is they were doing some reggae when they caught wind how well reggae does in San Diego. When they had the Damian Marley show, they tasted some of that reggae juice. They saw how well reggae was doing at the Belly Up, Winstons, House of Blues, and the Music Box, and they said, ‘We want some of that,’ so they rolled the dice and spent big on it.”
While he did not share any specific monetary figures about what Harrah’s spent to make Harrah’s Sunday reggae series happen, he said the casino near Valley Center paid significantly more to steal away artists that had long histories playing at other local venues.
“Toots and the Maytalls [playing Harrah's July 8] have been playing the Belly Up for 40 years,” Culture says. “Don Carlos [August 19 at Harrah's] has been going there for 30 years. All I can tell you is they paid significantly more to get them.”
This summer Harrah’s also brought in Jamaican headliners Jesse Royal and Kabaka Pyramid. Upcoming acts include Anuhea (July 22) and the Green (August 12), both from Hawaii.
Culture admits that having the reggae shows poolside where guests can enjoy a swim up bar is a big plus.
He says that anyone who still equates reggae with Rastaman religiousness may want to embrace the new.
“I think all that stuff went out window a while a go,” reckons Culture. “Super righteous Rastas were always about not performing in a bar on a Saturday, or whatever. But I think that stuff has been thrown out. I think now it’s about just getting the reggae message out, no matter how you do it.
“Even in Jamaica, they have reggae events sponsored by liquor companies. If Red Stripe [beer] can sponsor Sun Fest, why can’t reggae fans here work with liquor companies and casinos? Besides some of the older [rasta-conscious] guys like Gregory Isaacs have died. Believe me, the kids who swim up to bar at Harrah’s are not reggae purists. They just aren’t going to gravitate to music that came out 40 years ago.”
Carlos Culture’s reggae specialty show is heard 10 am to noon on Alt-94/9. Savannah, Georgia’s Passafire appears this Sunday, July 1 at Harrah’s.