Falmouth musician who played with Marley is all about roots, reggae

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FALMOUTH — When Glen DaCosta first met musician Bob Marley in Jamaica in 1972, DaCosta was a saxophone player in one of Jamaica’s most popular bands, Zap Pow.

“With Zap Pow, everything was precise, so I guess that was what Bob wanted with his group, and so he asked us to come play with him,” DaCosta said.

That began a musical relationship with Marley that lasted nearly 10 years and even longer with the Wailers, with whom DaCosta has toured and played in the years since, in venues ranging from large international halls to small clubs such as Port City Music Hall.

“For me, it’s always a pleasure to play Bob Marley’s music for what it represents,” DaCosta said, adding that reggae music represents “truth, rights and justice for all.”

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DaCosta, 72, now lives part of the time in Falmouth. Meeting Falmouth musician Kate Schrock while on tour in Kentucky in 2002 spurred his decision. He said there was “a connection right there immediately.”

“We exchanged numbers and have been in touch and have been friends since then,” DaCosta said. “I’ve been coming here for the past 10 years or so.” 

In an interview at his home, DaCosta said his initial interest in music came when he was 11 and a student at the Alpha Boys School in Jamaica. Although music was his first love, he became an electrical engineer when he was 17.

“They didn’t give us an electrical test — they gave us an academic test,” he said.

DaCosta said he was up on a ladder one day, where he was supposed to be running wires into an escalator but was lost in music that was playing nearby. His supervisor came and physically assaulted him, and DaCosta said he retaliated with a hammer.

His career as an electrical engineer was over.

He then joined the army, where he remained for 10 years. During that time, DaCosta was a clarinetist in the army big band and played in several other bands, including a steel band. 

But he was also playing pop music with groups outside the army. He got his first recording gig with a group called The Skatalites, whose members approached him to play clarinet on a record not for radio but for sound systems and jukeboxes.

“I was intimidated with all these musicians there, and they asked me to do the solo for the record,” he said. “Until this day, I can never forget that solo — that was my first solo I ever played on an instrument.”

DaCosta said that was the first time the clarinet had been used on pop music in Jamaica. He said he didn’t remember whether he was paid for the recording.

“Money wasn’t the interest at the time,” he said. “Just the craze of playing with these guys, my musical idols. That’s where my career started.” 

Eventually, it led to a career with Zap Pow as a saxophone player, which he said shaped his musical career because he was able to be “100 percent” himself, where everyone felt equal. And this would eventually lead to Bob Marley seeking them out.

The Wailers continued after Marley’s death in 1981, with different leadership at different times. DaCosta said some kind of transition should have taken place to ensure stability, but it never did. Eventually, there was only one original member left, playing with what he called “a lot of strangers calling themselves the Wailers.”

But DaCosta will be hitting the road again on Jan. 4, 2015, on a South American tour with the remaining original Wailers.

“It shows more authenticity, that the people are grateful for and will attend and be more supportive,” he said. “And it’s good for the Wailers. I hope it can only grow from here.”

When he returns in March, DaCosta said his plan is to become a full-time Falmouth resident.

“I feel at home here,” the Jamaica native said.

DaCosta and Schrock are scheduled to play at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland on Jan. 3.

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