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5 Questions for John & Carolyn Cook of Reggae Central

By Michael J. Solender
Correspondent

A fixture for more than 15 years on Central Avenue in Plaza Midwood, Reggae Central has one of the widest selections of reggae music, art, clothing and reggae-lia in the Carolinas. Store owners Carolyn and John Cook seem to know everyone who walks in, embody the “peace and love” reggae vibe, and in addition to the operating their store, promote several Lake Norman reggae party boat cruises during the year. Michael J. Solender, correspondent

Q. What is the range of music you feature?

Carolyn: We really have a huge variety, from yesterday’s slower, more relaxed roots music with haunting vocal harmonies and offbeat rhythms to today’s driving dancehall and reggae fusion. Reggae’s influence can be seen well beyond core artists such as Beenie Man, Sizzla and Sean Paul to crossover world music emerging artists such as Michael Franti and Spearhead, Kid Afrika and Nas.

Q. In the era of online music retailers, why does Reggae Central succeed with such a specialized niche?

John: People love to come in, feel our vibe, hear the music, smell the incense and have a retro experience. We also carry some obscure, small labels and are the only shop in the region where people can hear the very latest reggae. People like to do business with people they know; we also have items from all the Caribbean islands like flags and jewelry.

Q. How popular are your reggae cruises?

Carolyn: We run four or five between May and October. We have a special reggae DJ, DJ Ceez. I cook jerk chicken and other Caribbean food, and we charter a yacht on Lake Norman to go out for several hours. We always sell out, about 150 people. People love to dance and just have a great time relaxing and being part of the scene.

Q. What is happening on the reggae scene?

John: There is a bit of a revival to the slower origins of roots music that is from the ’60s and ’70s. Reggae actually developed out of old-time R&B singers like Johnny Mathis. That is the style from where Bob Marley emerged.

Q. The music just oozes soul. Where does that come from?

John: Island people have a very good hold of their history and struggles. It comes out in the music.

Info: Reggae Central: www.reggaecentralstore.com/

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