Livin’ the fullness

Iriebellion draws on Taos roots and positive revelry


One tablespoon of Cuban spice, a teaspoon of African influence, a dash of mariachi, a cup of classical training – don’t forget the flavor. The finishing result is local reggae band Iriebellion.

The five-piece group brings conscious vibes, hip-hop elements and dreadlocks to the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west, today (Oct. 12) at 7 p.m. Guest Jordan Armijo of Red Sage will also be accompanying the group.

Iriebellion consists of guitarists Reyes Cisneros and Harlan Kesson Tafoya, drummer Lincoln Montes, trombonist Mike Davis and bassist Michelle Chandler.

Cisneros and Tafoya are purebred Taoseños, while Montes and Davis have roots in California. Chandler drifted from Italy before traveling all over the country with her final landing in Taos.

Iriebellion formed a little more than a year ago and added the group’s newest member, Montes, recently this year.

One day, three years ago, as current vocalist Cisneros listened to Pandora radio, he stumbled into dub reggae group Iration. A month later, he won tickets to attend an Iration concert in Albuquerque.

“There was so many different people, ethnic backgrounds. Age did not matter. I saw people in their 70s and 80s, all the way down to high school just digging the music, loving it. It was like a hybrid reggae mixed with rock and rap, a little bit of everything,” said Cisneros in a white Reviva T-shirt, a reggae group from Albuquerque.

“I was like, ‘This is where music is going. I need to get this kind of music to Taos and I need to start a band,’” said Cisneros.

A little more than a year ago, Cisneros’ aspiration would become reality when he met Chandler. A mutual friend planned a jam session. Chandler, originally a drummer, just happened to be playing the bass.

“Reyes would show me a little sketch of an idea he had and I’d write a bass line to it and it was like, ‘Boom!’ We were writing finished songs from the first notes we played together,” Chandler said.

Members of the band have had impressive individual musical experience varying from composing music for video games, classical training, previous reggae bands to a contract with members of the Marley family and major labels.

Still in its infancy, the band is just beginning to get back to the music with the newest addition – a solid drummer, Montes – and after a separation while Chandler visited Nepal and Davis stood with Standing Rock. The past month, the group has been in the studio and has finished recording three songs for a demo.

True to reggae, Iriebellion features the standard upstrokes and Caribbean feel with lyrical content surrounding stems and seeds. Recorded song “Sensi” discusses the smoking of the devil’s lettuce and lifting the spirit. “Seed” is a bouncy dub and cautionary tale about actions that evolve from ideas encouraging positivity, integrity and inspiration.

“Every thought that you have will water your consciousness. Whether it’s watered with purity or with clouded thinking, it’s cloudy or clear. We want to support each other to be more simple in our thoughts,” Chandler said as she described the message behind “Seed.”

The group mixes elements of ska, hip-hop, roots music and Latin elements to create the groove. Classically trained trombonist Davis and second guitarist Tafoya contribute vocals in the form of spoken word with activist rhetoric. Bassist Chandler, who previously toured with the Marleys, has an extensive background in African music. Guitarist Cisneros contributes the mariachi spice. Drummer Montes inherited his father’s musical gene, who played alto saxophone for Cuban legend Perez Prado.

“My education is more in my blood, so I try to learn all I can about my cultural history musically and apply it to my musical style,” said dreadlocked Montes as he described the origin of his Latin-style drumming.

The members agree the mission is to produce “conscious” reggae.

“We try to put a positive message out there. We don’t want to see any negativity, really. We also try to bring awareness to the world with some of the songs we have about religious and political issues that are facing us in this modern day and age,” said Cisneros.

“The common struggle of the heart of life – I feel like we bring the depths of experience to the music and I think that’s what roots music is. It comes from places of struggle, it’s the soul’s cry for freedom,” Chandler contributed.

Besides uplifting messages, the group plans to unite people. Its members are gracious about the support received from the community.

“We get a lot of support from the community,” said Cisneros, who hopes to make Taos the unofficial reggae capital of New Mexico.

“People are just really encouraging us to bring this music for dancing and the celebration of life. Creating community and roots music is about community,” Chandler said.

The group plans to record a full album and hopes to tour in the future.