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Word to the Wize: Salinas' Dubwize are more brothers them band mates.

Boys in the 'Hood

Hometown heroes Dubwize haven't lost their roots in the tight-knit neighborhoods of Salinas

By Cindy Campo

There's something different about certain Salinas neighborhoods. Perhaps it's just that they're real neighborhoods, in the classic sense. Unlike many suburban folks who keep perfect lawns but never actually sit in the yard, these Salinas residents are the type of people who are not afraid to come out of their houses and talk to each other. The type of people who don't call the cops just because they hear an eight-piece reggae/Latin band next door playing at 9 or 10 on a Wednesday night.

And not just because it's a great band, though in the case of Dubwize--a hometown Salinas favorite and the chief beneficiary of its neighborly attitude toward eight-piece reggae/Latin bands--it certainly is.

The members of Dubwize are more brothers than band mates, and they all live within five minutes of each other. Bandleader "Mony" (Jose Ramon Lujan III), who is the bassist, lead vocalist and songwriter, says they got their start "out of high school with me and Steven [Sagrero, keyboardist, organ, backing vocals]. But we've always been friends in the neighborhood. I hit him up, then started recruiting more players."

Everyone in the band is multi-instrumental. At a recent practice at Sagrero's home, Mike Tuttle, "General Ras Mike T.," percussionist and vocalist, pulled out a cute plastic Samick Melodihorn, a keyboard that operates like a horn, with detachable mouthpieces. Victor De La Cruz, sweet-ass trumpet player (and youngest band member, still in high school), proved he can also rip on the melodica. And Mike showed up with another innovative piece of equipment--their soundboard, which offers a lot of digital play and vocal effects for venues that don't have an established sound system.

On rhythm guitar and backing vocals, they have Juan Ramos Jr., "June-I," who has been with the band four years. He and Mony both prefer headless instruments--no, not because they don't talk back.

"Since the tightness of the strings is down on the body," Mony explains, "you can get some really big sounds."

Their drummer John, a.k.a. Juan Perez, really gets the energy flowing. He's also the owner of the band's roadmobile, a yellow school bus that has the cushiest setup for lounging and playing while riding. Vocalist Terry, "Mr. English," freestyles with a technique that sometimes evokes Eek-A-Mouse.

As far as the main message Dubwize brings, both Mony and June-I vote for "peace." Mony adds, "Love and unity." The band is ethnically diverse, which has led to an equally diverse fanbase.

Still, not everyone in Salinas is down with peace, especially some of the youth, and the members of Dubwize say they're here to change that.

"A lot of our songs are about what it's like here," says Mony. "It's about stopping the fighting, and educating the youth now so they can rise up and lead us."

Dubwize. Friday, Nov. 28, at 8pm at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $8 advance, $10 at the door; 831.423.1336.

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From the November 26-December 3, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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