Pleasantville Music FestThe Examiner

The Wailers Make Sure to Pay Homage and Carry on the Sound of Bob Marley

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Eight years ago, when Aston Barrett Jr.’s father retired after decades of recording, touring and performing, he had a decision to make. Does he continue the iconic reggae band The Wailers that was founded by the legendary Bob Marley or find something else to do?

Barrett’s father, who was Marley’s bassist, took over leading the band after Marley’s premature death in 1981. He hoped his son would carry on the name and the special sound cultivated by one of the most revered musicians of his time. Barrett took on the challenge.

“So, what I do is continue this legacy,” said Barrett, a multi-instrumentalist and drummer for The Wailers. “What I do is preserve the music. So I do a lot of research, I do a lot of listening. I was privileged enough to have my father and some of the people who passed away, I was able to learn a lot from them as well.

“But the mastermind of The Wailers sound is Family Man,” Barrett continued, referring to his father’s nickname. “It was always the backbone of it. So, my thing is just to keep moving and always encourage the band to do new things.”

On Saturday, The Wailers take that sound to the Main Stage at the 18th annual Pleasantville Music Festival as part of its 2024 tour, bringing their classic Marley-inspired reggae and more modern takes on the ever-evolving genre.

Barrett, who relocated with his family from Jamaica to the Miami area after he finished elementary school, was mentored by his father on the bass. After they arrived in the United States, Barrett took up the drums by joining his school’s jazz band.

While The Wailers’ more recent music has influences from a variety of genres, Barrett makes sure to keep the trademark Marley sound. In 2021, the band recorded its first album in 25 years, “One World,” produced by Emilio Estefan, which blends urban Latin with Jamaican reggae. The album was recognized with a Grammy nomination.

Despite the experimentation, The Wailers make sure never to stray too far from their roots.

“Our music is roots music,” Barrett said. “We are the sound that contains all the branches and that is Bob Marley music, that is newer roots music.”

While taking on the responsibility of leading a band that is associated with an all-time great at a young age, Barrett, 33, never got too high or too low. He said he was taught by his father and some of his dad’s colleagues to listen, learn and stay humble.

He also takes in everyone’s opinion, processes it and makes a decision. But Barrett also wants everyone in the six-member group to bring their creativity to their performances.

“Anyone who works for me, I want them to shine,” Barrett said. “That’s why this band has a unity, and we’re family because every day, after the show, you review everything that they did. It’s really good, and it makes them want to do more for you, and I do more for them. You push for me, I push for you.”

It also helps that Barrett keeps most of the same people that his father brought along, not just the on-stage performers for that is true of the behind-the-scenes team, including their manager, attorneys, accountants, stage crew and anyone else who is part of the team.

“I keep the same people because my dad loved these people,” Barrett said. “When people love you and love your family, they push for you, and then I push for them.”

Their appearance at Pleasantville is the last in the U.S. before embarking on the European leg of their tour for the remainder of the summer before returning in September for additional domestic dates.

For more information on The Wailers, visit










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