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Jewish Journal

Reggae grows another Jewish branch

by Karla S. Blume

January 11, 2007 | 7:00 pm

Elan.  Photo by Paul Parks.

Elan. Photo by Paul Parks.

One of the most meaningful Jewish gifts would have to be the planting of an elan, Hebrew for tree, in Israel in one's honor.

And in the case of Los Angeles-born musician Elan, no other name would suit him quite as well.

His reggae and dancehall-inspired music has firmly planted him in the genre, and after a handful of years fronting for Bob Marley's mighty musical outfit, The Wailers, Elan is reaching out to audiences worldwide with his mid-2006 debut solo release, "Together as One."

Elan Antias, 31, was born in Los Angeles' Fairfax district to a Sephardic Moroccan father and an Ashkenazic American mother.

"Because of my parents' different Jewish backgrounds, I got to eat gefilte and hot fish," Elan said with a laugh.

The clashing cultures at home inspired Elan's interest in world music. At 20, he was introduced to the head of A & R at Virgin Records.

"My two friends had told this guy that I was a singer and he just assumed that I was a professional," Elan recalled. "The truth was, they'd only heard me singing for fun. I didn't have anything recorded, so at the meeting I told him what I would like to do, which was a mixture of roots and dance hall."

While under deadline to produce a demo for the music exec, Elan ran into The Wailers' longtime guitarist Al Anderson. Anderson was so impressed with the way Elan could duplicate the emotional tenor of Bob Marley's vocals that he asked Elan to tour with The Wailers.

Elan performed his first show with the band in front of 6,000 people without so much as a single rehearsal, and he stayed as their singer for three years touring the world.

In 2003, Elan recorded a reggae-inspired version of Bryan Ferry's 1985 hit, "Slave to Love," for the Adam Sandler film, "50 First Dates." Around that same time, Elan got to know Tony Kanal, the London-born bass player for the O.C. pop group, No Doubt. The two made fast friends and vowed to work together. When No Doubt went on hiatus in 2003, Kanal signed Elan to his Kingsbury record label and the two got to work on "Together as One," an album that incorporates their common love for reggae, dancehall and alternative '80s music.

Kanal and Elan enlisted the talents of such artists as Sly and Robbie, Fatis, DJ Cutty Ranks and even Gwen Stefani, the singer for No Doubt. The result is a tantalizing gem filled with beats, words and feelings that properly represent a genre that has suffered from a lack of commercial success ever since Bob Marley's untimely death.

The second single to be released from the album will be the title track, and Elan is hoping to enlist the support of organizations like Amnesty International to put together a video for the song that depicts positive footage of people helping others in need. And despite his incredible success, which he passionately credits to God, Elan still lives in the Fairfax district where he grew up, perhaps proving that the roots of any tree are always a solidifying force in life.

Elan will perform a free concert in the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at 3726 S. Figueroa St. on Sat. Jan. 13, 2 p.m., after the USC-UCLA basketball game.
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