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Medicine Man

[whitespace] Dr. Cosmo The Doctor Is In: Medical professor Cosmo Fraser is also a roots expert.

Dr. Cosmo cures with reggae beat

By Nicky Baxter

Medicine heals the body and music soothes the soul, and rarely do the two intersect. Cosmo Fraser, however, ministers to both. During the day, Fraser is a professor of medicine at UCSF. When he arrives home, he morphs into a reggae artist. Growing up in Jamaica, Cosmo was a math wiz and soccer star who could also trill like a bird. Today he lectures, writes for science journals and leads his own roots-reggae unit, which has just released a new album, Fire This Time.

"To me, science and music are one in the same," Cosmo says. "I was always good at math, sports and music. Even though my music career was put off, I knew I would come back to it." For Fire This Time, Cosmo has assembled a virtual who's who in reggae. Bassist and co-producer George "Fully" Fulwood, drummer Santa Davis and guitarist Tony Chin are all legends in Jamaican music. The disc is an heady mix of supple reggae/ska beats, urgent vocals and songs addressing romance, personal tribulations and social justice. Tunes like "You and Me" and "Meet Me in Negril" are pleasant tributes to newly discovered love; "Victim of the System" and "Love of Money" are forthright indictments of social injustices.

"I grew up listening to reggae and R&B," Cosmo says. "Otis Redding and James Brown--I just liked the style." At 19, Cosmo (also his band's name) came to America to attend Columbia University, majoring in electrical engineering, and computer science with a minor in premedical sciences. Still, he found time to express his music. "When I do medicine, it's with a passion, and when I do music it's also with a passion," he says. One of the things he is most passionate about is instilling real meaning into his music. He is unimpressed with gangsta rap and ruffneck reggae. "Today, the beat takes precedence over the content of the music," he complains. "I don't hear much of a message."

After achieving success in the medical field, Cosmo Fraser decided the time was right to crank up the skank machine. With the encouragement of fellow doctor/musicians, he formed Cosmo and recorded Reggae Music Man. The album created a buzz, and the band found itself opening for Toots and the Maytals, Burning Spear and other top reggae acts. Though he is reluctant to discuss it, Cosmo has attracted the attention from major labels with possible national tours on the horizon. Not surprisingly, he has an plan of action concerning his day job: "I'll just have to bring my PC with me and keep things going that way."

Cosmo performs Sunday (Sept. 13) at the 10pm at the Agenda Lounge, 399 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $5. (408/287-4087)

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Web extra to the September 10-16, 1998 issue of Metro.

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