A living lesson in “rising above” life’s adversities, international reggae group Israel Vibration's success began humbly. In the mid-1950”s, Jamaica had an epidemic of Poliomyelitis, and members Cecil “Skelly” Spence and Lacelle “Wiss” Bulgin contracted the illness. Polio attacks the Central Nervous System, and after high fever and flu like symptoms, can result in muscular atrophy (especially in the extremities) or even death. Most notable for having the disease was Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States.
Thankfully, both Skelly and Wiss survived and met as children while at the Mona Rehabilitation Center near Kingston Jamaica. This is where the music began, learning to play instruments and singing too! Along with the other kids at Mona, their first band was the “Hot Lickers”. As teenagers, each went their separate ways. Skelly played on Jamaica’s wheelchair basketball team, winning a bronze metal with his team at the British Common Wealth Games in New Zealand, and Wiss; training and pursuing a career as a tailor. During this time, each discovered their faith.
Following Ras Tafari was not widely accepted in Jamaica at this time, and Skelly was kicked off the basketball team. Wiss went out to lunch one day, and when he returned, his machine was all closed up. He no longer had work. These were hard times for the young men. Living on the street; Wiss and Skelly met once again and found Albert “Apple” Craig (a childhood friend and Mona rehab alumni) and they began to sing together. Often times, they sang to ignore the hunger in their bellies.
Gaining inspiration from Bob Marley’s “Rastaman Vibration”, and their spiritual belief that Israel belongs to all God’s children, the group became Israel Vibration. Searching around Kingston, the three had no luck convincing the studios to listen to them. Finally, a friend, Mr. Mawall introduced them to the owner of Channel One Studios, Earnest, and he gave them some rhythms. Israel Vibration put down “Bad Intentions” on these rhythms; and while not released, everyone loved the tune. In 1975/76, backed by the Twelve Tribes band and on their label, “Why Worry” was recorded and released as their first single. Gaining fierce local support, word spread of Israel Vibration’.
Well known Jamaican producer Tommy Cowan brought them to the studio to record their first LP “The Same Song”. This album was picked up by EMI in England, and the group started to gain international recognition.
In 1979, Israel Vibration recorded “Unconquered People” at Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong studio. Many of the Wailers played on this album, and Bob was a fan! In an interview around that time, Mr. Marley named them as a favorite band of his. Prior to this; as fellow members of the Twelve Tribes, Bob had Israel Vibration play many shows with him around Kingston. A memorable show for Israel Vibration was the “International Year of the Rasta Child” concert they played with Bob Marley at the National Arena in mid-1970.
Wanting to further their careers, the three moved to the United States and into Brooklyn NY. The large Jamaican immigrant community in the borough made it almost like home. With a disappointing start in the states, the group didn’t record for several years and drifted apart. When Apple approached Dr. Dread at Ras Records for a solo career; Dr. Dread convinced him to gather Skelly and Wiss, and together in 1988 they recorded “Strength of My Life”.
The three continued to record together until the late 1990’s when Apple Gabriel left to pursuit a solo career. In 1999, Skelly and Wiss, continuing as Israel Vibration, released “Pay the Piper”. The duo didn’t disappoint true fans or new listeners. While the grooves on this CD make you want to dance, the soul penetrating sound reflects moving forward while not forgetting the past.
Following up the duo’s debut, “Jericho” was released in 2000. “Jericho” embraces the strength of consciousness Israel Vibration is known to always provide. “Dub Combo” came along in 2001, and right in step, Skelly and Wiss continued the rub a dub style combining grooves from “Pay the Piper” and “Jericho”.
“Fighting Soldiers” made its appearance in 2003 with a sharp political edge and a connection to present day happenings. That same year, “Live and Jammin” was released in CD and DVD form. With an amazing live show this cd/dvd gives a taste of their performance. Continuing with their line of successful releases, in 2007 Israel Vibration released “Stamina”. Produced by legendary Wailer, Tyrone Downey, “Stamina” is a must have for all who love roots reggae and for those who have just begun. With conscious lyrics and catchy rhythms’, you will move through your day with “Stamina” all the way.
2011 saw the release of Israel Vibration's Grammy-nominated album "Reggae Knights," that features hard-hitting selections like "Slammer," "Rip And Run Off" and the mento infused "Cantankerous."
In December of last year, Israel Vibration released their newest works,
"Play It Real"
Israel Vibration continues to tour all over the world doing the work Jah has given them. They are welcomed with warmth and devoted fans where ever they go, and if you haven’t seen Israel Vibration live, be sure to make it a point. Skelly and Wiss will raise your consciousness, lift your spirit and move your dancing feet!