Editors' pick

Reggae Night with Strykers Posse, Yawd Link and Proverbs Reggae Band

Reggae
'

Editorial Review

Tickets (maximum four tickets per adult) are distributed the day of performance at the Carter Barron box office, 16th Street and Colorado Avenue NW, beginning at noon, or at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Tickets go fast! There are no scheduled rain dates. Picnic areas are available in the park around the amphitheater. For more information, call The Post at 202-334-6808 or the Carter Barron concert line, which will have updated information on weather-related cancellations, at 202-426-0486. All concerts start at 7:30 p.m.

Soul sisters.

There are no better words to describe Ichelle Cole and Yvonne Deane-Hibbert, who have, as the sirens of Baltimore's Strykers' Posse, performed reggae music for fans from Ocean City to Baltimore for 25 years.

Onstage, the band's guitar riffs fall on the off-beats and the snare drum cracks in that familiar, drowsy reggae way. But it is the friends' effortless, honeyed vocal harmonies -- more reminiscent of the Supremes than of Bob Marley -- that sets Strykers' apart.

"In the history of reggae music, women were always in the background," doing background vocals, Cole explained before a recent gig in Hyattsville. Locally, her group is one of just a handful of bands with prominent female members.

"First and foremost, we're ladies," Cole said. "We bring elegance, we bring taste, we bring the look, you know, it's something different for you to look at."

When they perform, Cole and Deane-Hibbert seem to sense, without so much as a glance between them, whose voice should fade into the background for a moment and whose voice will lift a song.

You can hear them for yourself tonight when the band -- which has played The Washington Post's free summer concerts twice before -- takes the stage at Carter Barron Amphitheatre as the headliners of goingoutguide.com's Weekend Summer Concerts.

The women of Strykers' Posse met in 1978, not long after Cole, a Jamaican native, arrived in the United States for a short trip to perform as a dancer at the Jamaican Embassy.

It was Deane-Hibbert's then-boyfriend who was charged with showing Cole and her dance group the sights; when the women met, it was clear that they had more in common than their Jamaican heritage. Deane-Hibbert was a member of well-known Baltimore reggae band Mighty Invaders, and Cole was a musician, too: a keyboard player.

The Invaders were looking for a keys player, and in no time, members were encouraging Cole to change her visa and stay in the States. She did (though she had never played in a band before), and she performed with Mighty Invaders until 1983, when the group split.

Almost immediately, Cole began dreaming up a new project. She had become frustrated with reggae bands performing variations on Bob Marley's greatest hits.

"Me, being who I am, I wanted to do more original material," Cole said. She launched Strykers' Posse (whose name, she explains, is a reference to the idea that the group is "coming at you" with music). One of the first people she enlisted was her old friend Deane-Hibbert to sing.

"Ichelle," Deane-Hibbert said, "is the mastermind."

Cole plays keyboard, sings and writes all of the group's songs, drawing from her eclectic set of influences: Bob Marley's famous backup singers (known as the I-Threes), Diana Ross, Jamaican popular bands, Johnny Mathis and Ray Charles.

"Folks admired us because before, if you didn't play a Bob Marley, they thought you weren't doing anything," Cole said. "But we were able to play material that I wrote, and people accepted it, they responded to it. That was a blessing to me."

After 32 years as friends, the women have been through it all. Cole raised four children, now ranging in age from 22 to 30; Deane-Hibbert raised three kids, now 20 to 29. Somewhere, between raising babies, day jobs and driving kids to basketball practice, the women found time to practice, write songs and perform.

"We sort of made it work," Deane-Hibbert said. "I remember being on stage pregnant."

"We have more time to work on the music now," added Cole, beaming.

And that is exactly what they're doing. Their schedule is brimming with summer festivals, including Baltimore's Caribbean Carnival and Jamaica Day. Though Cole and Deane-Hibbert frequently perform with other local bands, there is little they'd rather be doing than playing with each other. "We identify with this. Strykers' Posse belongs to us," Cole said.

"We always joke, when we get old and we have walkers, we're going to be on stage singing."