Local musician Christian Craan finds niche in reggae music

Local musician Christian Craan finds niche in reggae music

August 11th, 2011 by Barry Courter in Life Entertainment

Christian Craan

• Age: 48.

• Hometown: Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

• Education: Forest Lake Academy, Florida; UTC (1991).

• Son: Elijah, 20.

• Vocation: Bass player with Milele Roots.

Favorites

• Movie: "Delicatessen."

• Actor: Clint Eastwood.

• Book: "Candide."

• Opera: "Carmen."

• Song: "Now That We Found Love" by Third World.

• Quote: "By deporting me, you have cut down the tree of our liberty, but it will grow back because our roots are deep and numerous."

-- Toussaint Louverture.

Growing up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Christian Craan believed it was his destiny to be a businessman. His family ran a school that taught secretarial and bookkeeping skills, so he thought he would naturally land in that vocation.

Then he heard Bob Marley's "Rastaman Vibration." Craan was 12 and didn't speak English, but the beat drew him in. It would be years later before reggae music fully took over his life, but the seed had been set.

Craan moved to Florida to attend high school in the early 1980s. He learned English and enrolled in the business school at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1984. A few years later, he bought a bass guitar at a pawn shop just to pass the time, but eventually he started playing with some fellow students and friends. That led to the creation of a reggae group called Irie Nation.

Today, Craan is the bass player for Milele Roots, a locally based reggae band that plays regularly around the Southeast.

Q: How did you come to Chattanooga?

A: My sister graduated from UTC in the business school. She went to Southern [Adventist University] first and then transferred.

Q: What did you study at UTC?

A: Business. I was an accounting major. My family back home has a commercial school where you learn bookkeeping and secretarial skills. What I really wanted to do was study music or journalism.

Q: Have you always played music?

A: I took piano when I was very little, but only for a few months. I started playing music in college. Just one day I decided I wanted to play bass. I went to a pawn shop and got a bass mostly just for a stress release. Then I met some guys who also had a passion for playing and for reggae music.

Q: When did you decide to pursue music as more than a hobby?

A: My senior year I switched majors from accounting to marketing. When I graduated, I moved to Japan and worked there for a year at the Haitian Embassy in Tokyo. Even there, there was always something drawing me toward the arts. I ended up doing more of the cultural stuff, planning outings and events.

I moved back to the states and got divorced; and so I thought, since I was starting my life over, I would do it my way. I came back and had a job in Jacksonville (Florida), but Chattanooga has very long arms I guess, so I came back here. I moved back and bought a bass amp and started jamming.

Q: When did Irie Nation start?

A: We were jamming in 1989. We didn't have a name. In 1990 we came up with a name and we started playing. Then I moved. I came back around 1995. We were jamming with some new people, a couple of guys from the jazz program at UTC and we were practicing trying to get it right. At the end of 1996, we became Milele Roots.

Q: Are you guys just a reggae band?

A: That is what people know us as. I learned to play music listening to reggae and we were founded by a bunch of guys who like reggae, but at the same time, we come from so many different influences. We are not purists. We have a reggae foundation, but it is fusion. Lots of blues, rock, which is what reggae is anyway. Right now the direction is to play the music from the heart.

Q: Are you doing covers or originals or both?

A: People want to hear some of the classic stuff from Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Steel Pulse. We play that. We are more about original music, but to be honest, we love playing those covers as well.

Q: What is it about reggae music you love?

A: The groove and the beat. The way it's set up. I heard Bob Marley when I was 12. It was "Rastaman Vibration." I was a kid in Haiti. I said, "What is this?" A friend said, "It's a guy from England." Another said, "No, he's from Jamaica. Next to us."

None of us spoke English. Then I went to high school. When I came home, "Uprising" came out and now I knew how to speak English. I caught onto the lyrics and they meant a lot to me. It was politically conscious. I lived in Haiti and it was really messed up.

I just really love the bass and the message.

Q: When is your next local gig?

A: We are doing a benefit for artists in Haiti called Epple Seed Arts Haiti Sept. 8 at the Honest Pint.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6354.