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Curtis Cartier shares a special moment with reggae star Lloyd Brown and Santa Cruz veteran skanker Haile Maskel.

By Curtis Cartier

Bringing a sweaty climax to summer, September ushered in temperatures nearing 100 degrees last weekend, and a scantily clad Mūz got sticky on the dance floor with some classic roots reggae at Moe's.

Born in London and cultured in Kingston, Lloyd Brown has been rocking dancehalls for more than 20 years, although Sunday's show at Moe's Alley marked his first steps on California soil. And with local reggae maestro Haile Maskel and San Francisco DJ Don-Ette G, Brown turned out a night of pure, unfiltered reggae grooves.

In front of a sparse crowd of about 75 people, the show kicked off with an intro and traditional Jamaican blessing by Santa Cruz MC Rocky Bailey, and when Maskel hit the stage it was clear the theme of the night would be "tradition."

In a brilliant white outfit, Maskel hopped and shuffled around the stage, displaying nimble footwork to complement his easy flowing vocals. After an encore-extended set that included a cover of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," a modestly dressed Brown emerged and, with the help of two talented harmony singers and a full band, soon had every foot in the house moving.

"When I say 'rasta,' you say 'fari,'" Brown shouted to the audience, which responded enthusiastically. "Feel the love, Santa Cruz. Tonight is a special night."

Mūz got down with Mr. Brown outside Moe's before the show, where reggae rhythms were already pumping out of some curiously smoke-filled cars. With a pearly smile stretching ear to ear, the husky Rastafarian explained that reggae music is also played with instruments not onstage.

"Reggae music comes from your heart and is a gift to the people," he said. "It's about giving thanks and praise and spreading love. I've just been humbled by all the love from Santa Cruz and the rest of California."

Brown talked about growing up in North London--coincidentally, near the same Islington neighborhood where Mūz lived last year. He pointed to his father, a Jamaica-born musician, as the source of his inspiration and said his first trip to Jamaica in 1977 changed his life forever.

"I went to Jamaica and Exodus was the biggest album in the world," says Brown. "It was like, 'There it is.' I got the bug for reggae and never looked back."

Although Brown has yet to break through to mainstream success, the tall and jovial rastaman believes his music could touch the lives of millions. And although Brown's brand of old-school reggae is not pushing boundaries, his set revealed a solid musician and polished songwriter.

"My music is about uniting people, it's about forgetting the hate in this world and believing in love," says Brown. "Come in, see the show, you'll know what I mean."

Maskel joined the conversation before long and, functioning as somewhat of a Santa Cruz tour guide for Brown and Co., he called Northern California a "reggae paradise" and promised his fellow musician that he would be "blessed by the people here."

"We, right here, are original Rastafari dub soldiers," said Maskel with a smile only slightly less enormous than Brown's. "This isn't just music, it's a movement!"

Move Mūz: [email protected]

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