Q: What do you get when you mix three parts roots reggae, two parts electronic/drum and bass, one part hip-hop and one part indie pop?
A: An audible elixir that increases heart rates, induces bodily movement and elicits elation.
Emerging from the diverse and deep pool of musical talent along the shores of Lake Ontario, The Medicinals, an aptly-named roots collective out of Rochester, NY, sprung forth from informal jam sessions to conjure a healing blend of reggae, Afrobeat, funk and “island vibes” at a time when people need it more than ever.
Led by Dylan Savage, one of the co-founders, lead singers and primary songwriters of the nationally touring reggae greats Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, the 11-piece band also includes members from other area groups, Personal Blend, RootsCollider, Mosaic Foundation, Hybrid Beats, The Able Bodies and Level 7 Experience. Perhaps the most integral member of the band, however, remains in the mix in spirit only. As their website states about their origin, they came together “through weekly jams that served as musical therapy for one of its founding members, Dave Bernis. The Medicinals play in Dave’s memory.”
Savage expands on how their beloved friend served as the glue that forged The Medicinals’ bond:
“Dave B was a true original with an undeniable, contagious enthusiasm. After traveling with The Grateful Dead during the early eighties as part of the catering crew, he eventually made the move to Jamaica by the mid-nineties. In fact, when Panda made a visit to Negril in 2007, it was Dave who welcomed us with all the essentials and manifested some of the great musical moments during our three-week stay.”
By 2010, however, due in part to health issues, Dave relocated back to his hometown of Rochester. According to Savage, aside from his daughter, playing music truly brought Dave the greatest joy, and he would famously jam into the early morning hours, easily outlasting anyone when it came to all night sessions.
By 2015, and unfortunately in continued declining health, Dave’s participation in the local musical community’s weekly Monday night reggae jams brought him much needed comfort. “On many of these nights, I’d arrive to pick him up and, although very weak, he would always insist on still playing,” said Savage. “With a great love of cannabis and reggae music, it was Dave who enthusiastically coined the band ‘The Medicinals.’ An influence beyond measure, he is deeply missed by many.”
Today, Rootfire premieres their first release, the single “We Gonna Get Through,” an invigorating song of positivity, hope and love. A reveille of horns with the flavor of Fela Kuti or Antibalas ignite the track, soon followed by deep, reverberating bass. Savage’s smooth, melodic and soulful vocals offer encouragement:
Some days we got to fight it
I see when you feelin blue
The sun gonna start shining
It’s alright we gonna get through
While much of The Medicinals music fits centered under the reggae umbrella, “We Gonna Get Through” skirts the perimeter. While maintaining an essence of reggae, the overall concoction, propelled by brass that calls for people to stand up and march, vibes more like a funky Afrobeat/modern rock mashup. This instrumentation shifts the lyrical message of perseverance from simply a song of hope to one that has purpose, making “We Gonna Get Through” an anthem to rally the brave agents of change demonstrating in our streets to continue fighting the good fight.