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The Return of Bob Marley's I-Threes

I-Three ready to assume diva duties

CHARMAINE WRIGHT, Observer writer

SISTERS IN HARMONY: Members of the I-Three from left Marcia Griffiths, Rita Marley (centre), and Judy Mowatt
THE Tuff Gong Studios, on Marcus Garvey Drive, is alive with the musical energy that its founder Bob Marley imbued it with decades after his passing. All around there was evidence that the complex remains a centre of creative energy -- the I-Threes are busy recording a promotional jingle in a corner of the engineering room after finishing their rehearsal for the upcoming Diva in Concert show; Kingston's Diva Star Search co-winner, Fiona 'Lisa' Cleary, was seen going through her paces with Dean Fraser's 809 band, while the other co-winner of the contest, Tessa-Ann Chin, was busy perfecting vocal arrangements with her back-up vocalists. The centre of the energy, however, was definitely the I-Three as they finetuned their set.

The appearance of the I-Three on Buzz Production's Divas In Concert this weekend in Montego Bay and in Kingston, will give many Jamaicans the opportunity to see these consummate entertainers in the fine company of international acts Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight.

While they gained prominence as the backing trio for Bob Marley, the group is a complete act in its own right while each of the I-Three have enviable individual careers; which predate their group affiliation and continues today. Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt and Rita Marley have all been individually nominated for the prestigious Grammy award.

The trio is still full of energy and when they were asked to pause their recording sessions to pose for the picture that accompanies this article; Marcia Griffith says "a no pose we a go pose a sing we a go sing". And sing they did. Their a cappella harmonies soared through the room proving that the trio's synergy and vocal abilities are undiminished.

"There are many divas that are going to be there [and] we are grateful that we are going to be representing our sisters on stage," Mowatt told the Observer. Of the other divas that will be on stage, Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight, the I-Threes were effusive in their appreciation for their talents and added that they were role models. Marcia Griffiths remarked that "they used to call me Patti LaBelle, when I just started to sing because everything I used to sing was Down The Aisle", referring to a early LaBelle hit.

The I-Three are still in much demand for their performances, despite other responsibilities which seem to be taking precedence, this summer the former back-up singers for Bob Marley were involved in a two-week tour celebrating his life throughout Europe. Of the group's impending reunion, Rita Marley added that there was never any time when their bonds had weakened.

"It has never been diminished," she stated emphatically, "we always look forward to working together."

While they were reluctant to reveal their repertoire for the Buzz event, the trio has numerous hits to chose from, such as He's A Legend, Neighbour, That's How Strong , as well as, selections from their individual careers -- Griffith's Feel Like Jumping, Harambe and Sing Our Own Song; Marley's One Draw, Electric Boogie, I Shall Sing and Young, Gifted and Black, and Mowatt's Black Woman, to name but a few.

While it can be expected that they will also perform some of Bob Marley's hits, their own material is enough to provide an outstanding show.

The three pride themselves on the quality of their music, which has stood the test of time.

"Whether together or as individuals, none of us have ever sung a song that is derogatory, anything that will not uplift and teach, especially to young people. Even when we were with Bob all the songs have a positive message," Griffiths asserts. "That's why we are seen as role models. Most of the sisters in the business, they admit that they admire us and they try and emulate us."

One of the most outstanding aspects of the show for the trio is it's all-female line up.

Judy Mowatt enthused "the female energy is going to be oozing that night, we have seen a lot of concerts where the male hormones are flying all over the place. People are going to see sisters, international sisters and local sisters."

She added that the show will be a "celebration of the Mother Energy, powerful!"

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