When the members of Indika get together, it’s a true melting pot of talent.
The band leader and bass player, Courtney Panton, is from Jamaica. Lead vocalist U-Roy Muslar and keyboard player Mervyn Belisle are both originally from Belize. Guitarist Gerald “Toto” Alfred was born and raised in Haiti. Only one of the musicians — drummer Kelsey Tarver — is from Chicago, which the band now calls home.
“By combining our individual experiences, we have a unique style in terms of the types of music we play,” Panton said. “It’s high-energy reggae. We like to keep people dancing. It’s a party atmosphere.”
The group is bringing that party atmosphere to Fort Wayne on August 24 as part of the Botanical Roots concert series at the Botanical Conservatory.
Each set starts with an instrumental version of popular songs. They’ll play hits from The Eagles or Stevie Wonder, only with a reggae vibe.
“Do not come thinking you’re not gonna dance,” said Jeanette Alfred, who handles public relations and social media for Indika. “There’s no way anyone is not going to dance. For example, they played at Navy Pier. Everyone who walked by was dancing. People from all cultures, even those who’ve never heard reggae. It’s amazing. This band is an amazing performing band. I have never seen a band that draws in the crowds like that. People get excited and they don’t stop dancing. They really love it.”
With a broad fan base, Indika has played all over the world, but lately most shows have been in the Midwest. They need to stay close to home, Panton says, because several of them have day jobs. He sells life insurance. Belisle and Muslar both work in interior construction.
Their passion, though, is music, and it draws them together whenever possible. Indika was first formed in the ’90s, but some original members have left. Muslar moved to Chicago in 1998 and became part of Indika in 2001.
Most of their songs are covers of various popular Caribbean artists, but they may change up the arrangement a bit.
“They all sound different,” Jeanette Alfred said. “U-Roy is so good at imitating all these sounds. I actually prefer U-Roy to the original.”
The group does have a few original songs that will hopefully be recorded soon. Panton credits Muslar for that.
“They’re very catchy originals,” Panton said. “He’s very good at coming up with music that is catchy and unique.”
Drummer Kelsey Tarver brings his own unique experience to the band. He earned a music degree from Loyola University and has been a professional drummer in Chicago for more than 17 years. In addition to Indika, Tarver is also the drummer for The Trippin Billies, a renowned Dave Matthews tribute band.
Guitarist Gerald “Toto” Alfred is known for fusing jazz, pop, and R&B with a more classic reggae sound, creating something completely different. He also plays in his own band called Kreyol Roots, which is heavily influenced by his Haitian upbringing.
When Indika members aren’t busy working or performing their own concerts, they play for other well-known reggae artists like Warrior King.
“He sends his music ahead of time and then the band learns it,” Jeanette Alfred explained. “He’ll come to town and they’ll rehearse sometimes for 10 hours straight and then have the show. Many of these types of artists will specifically ask for Indika.”
They cover all of Bob Marley’s songs and frequently play Marley tribute concerts. They’ve also backed up groups like Bushman, the legendary Calypso Rose, Leroy Smart, Gregory Isaacs, and more.
When it comes to their own performances, including the upcoming Botanical Roots concert, Panton says expect to get up and move.
“We’re not interested in sending a message. Leave that to the politicians. We want people to come and party. There’s just so much energy. When people are done at our show, I want them sweating,” laughs Panton.