Why Is The Ark Band Still Off­shore?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Toni Ni­cholas

For more than twenty years now, the Saint Lu­cian reg­gae band based in Ohio, The Ark Band, has been spread­ing the joys of roots rock reg­gae all over the United States. “We have played in ev­ery State, ex­cept North and South Dakota,” Terry Bobb told the STAR this week dur­ing an in­ter­view. Terry Bobb, who was on va­ca­tion here over the Christ­mas and New Year hol­i­days, is one half of the found­ing mem­bers of the band. The other is his brother Eus­tace Bobb. To­gether they are re­ferred to as the Saint Lu­cian rhythm twins (after the Jamaican rhythm twins Sly & Rob­bie), due to their dis­tinct drum and bass sound.

The Bobb brothers came out of Marc­hand in Castries and went to Ohio in 1986. There they started The Ark Band in 1987. Since then they have con­tin­u­ally toured across the United States, Canada and Ja­maica shar­ing not just roots reg­gae with fans, but a bit of Zouk, Ca­lypso and Soca mu­sic as well. And ev­ery where they go, in all of their pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial they are re­ferred to as ‘The Ark Band from Saint Lu­cia’. “We re­ally try to bring out that au­then­tic is­land vibe when we go out to play and I think that’s what peo­ple like about us. How­ever our main­stay is foun­da­tion reg­gae mu­sic,” Terry said.

To­day The Ark Band is a house­hold name in Ohio and through­out the Mid­west as the mem­bers con­tinue to win fans with their au­then­tic “live” mu­sic. They have also recorded four al­bums - the lat­est, “Fire dub,” was re­leased late 2014.

And in an era when bands have down­sized and longevity is no longer a stan­dard, we asked Terry what ex­actly has kept the band to­gether. “My mother al­ways used to say that two sticks are harder to break than one. For me that stands out be­cause the foun­da­tion of reg­gae is the drum and the bass and that’s Eus­tace and my­self and be­fore play­ing to­gether we are fam­ily first. And so we have been able to keep this band go­ing no mat­ter what,” he ex­plained. “The sec­ond thing is con­sis­tency.

We play roots reg­gae and we have never budged from that and peo­ple love it. Over the years we have stud­ied the mar­ket, ob­served our au­di­ence and now we know ex­actly who to mar­ket our mu­sic to,” he added.

Presently hailed as the num­ber one reg­gae band in the whole Mid­west USA by sev­eral pub­li­ca­tions, The Ark Band is heav­ily booked each year be­tween May and Septem­ber, play­ing a num­ber of large events and fes­ti­vals. How­ever, they are on the road most of the year, per­form­ing at clubs, wed­dings and other events as well. The group, which was once en­dorsed by Miller Beer, re­cently signed on to a new spon­sor­ship deal with another brew­ing company.

They have also shared the stage with a num­ber of reg­gae greats in­clud­ing Burn­ing Spear, Tony Rebel, Fred­die McGregor, Cul­ture, The Abyssians, Beres Ham­mond, In­ner Cir­cle, Is­rael Vi­bra­tions and many oth­ers. In fact, they re­call their sin­gle largest event sev­eral years ago, play­ing be­fore 70,000 fans at the Ver­mont Reg­gae Fes­ti­val. Also on stage were Lucky Dube and Sis­ter Carol. How­ever, at the end of the day one news­pa­per re­viewer wrote: “Sur­pris­ingly the Ohio-based band, The Ark Band, put on the best set of the day.” They were also la­belled as hav­ing “stun­ning vo­cals, pen­e­trat­ing lyrics, backed by the tight­est in­stru­men­tals imag­in­able.”

Fol­low­ing another live per­for­mance Tom We­ber, co-au­thor of Reg­gae Is­land wrote: “The Ark Band is one of the best Reg­gae bands I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of Reg­gae bands!”

Yet for all the ac­co­lades and suc­cesses, The Ark Band has one down­side - it is yet to play at home in Saint Lu­cia.

“You know how they say that you can take the boy out of the coun­try but you can’t take the coun­try out of the boy, well there is noth­ing we would love to do more than to play here in Saint Lu­cia in front of our own peo­ple, friends and vis­i­tors,” Terry Bobb laments. “We have been try­ing for ten years to get onto the Saint Lu­cia Jazz Fes­ti­val, we have held meet­ings, done pre­sen­ta­tions, sub­mit­ted bios, CDs, ref­er­ences, ev­ery­thing. Dur­ing those meet­ings the feed­back is al­ways pos­i­tive, but as soon as we go back to Ohio, noth­ing!” he went on to ex­plain.

The band has also pro­posed to the Saint Lu­cia Tourist Board that it could be used to mar­ket Saint Lu­cia in the Mid­west. “I mean, we are on the road all the time and we even of­fered to have our van wrapped with the slo­gan ‘Saint Lu­cia, Sim­ply Beau­ti­ful’ but it seems like no one is tak­ing us on, even though we were told that the Mid­west was a mar­ket that Saint Lu­cia was look­ing to tap into,” Terry con­tin­ued.

Worn down by his ef­forts, the band­leader says friends who in­sist that he should not give up have en­cour­aged him. He is hop­ing that 2015 will be a turn­ing point as the band pre­pares to pro­mote its new al­bum and also has a Euro­pean tour in its sights. The idea of col­lab­o­ra­tion with John Legend, who is also from Ohio, is not a far shot ei­ther even as dreams of dock­ing onto a stage in Saint Lu­cia re­main very much alive.

The ARK band on stage in Ohio.

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