Since we came together in 2007 around one of the Toronto reggae scene’s true lions, Friendlyness(Big Sugar, Culture Shock, Truth And Rights), The Human Rights have become one of the most beloved and respected Canadian independent reggae bands. In 2014, our longtime bredren Tréson joined the band to give us a uniquely powerful two-man vocal front line that delivers roots reggae, soul, R&B and dancehall vibes – backed by the propulsive rhythm section of Tyler Wagler (bass) and Eric Woolston (drums), Canadian reggae legend Dave Jackson on keys, two blazing guitarists and the Declaration of Human Rights horn section. By the end of this year, we’ll have played over 200 club and festival shows across Canada, and earlier this year we toured the United States for the first time to a fantastic response. We’ve released three full-length albums, with a fourth on the way in late 2024.
On their most recent album Reggae Strong, The Human Rights more than live up to its title following an extended break since releasing their 2016 self-titled album and the 2018 single “I Need You.” Recorded with producer and former band member Patric McGroarty, and mixed and mastered by renowned Canadian reggae artist Dubmatix, Reggae Strong finds The Human Rights coming as close as they have yet to achieving a truly Canadian Reggae sound, with a little assistance from Toronto’s Ras Yunchie, Caddy Cad, Isax, and Carol Brown.
That sound is on full display with the album’s first single “Peace Gun,” a song whose deep groove and powerful lyrics convey a timely message about the current state of the world. That theme is carried on through the title track, which magnificently shows the contrast between Friendly and Tré’s voices. However, the latter gets to shine on his own with the catchy and danceable “Tell Me That You Love Me,” while other tracks such as the cover version of Sly & Robbie’s “Red Hot” (itself being a cover version of Karl “Cannonball” Bryan’s “Red Ash”) pay tribute to Toronto Reggae history.
In keeping with that theme, The Human Rights have also dedicated Reggae Strong to their keyboardist Bernie Pitters, whose face graces the back of the record, and also the inside as part of the mural on Reggae Lane in Toronto’s Eglinton West neighbourhood. As Friendlyness explains, “Bernie is a godfather of the Canadian Reggae scene. He came to Canada in the ‘70s and studied organ with Jackie Mittoo. He toured with Toots and the Maytals for 10 years and thought of Toots as a father figure. He also played with countless Jamaican artists when they came to Toronto, including Gregory Isaacs, Johnny Osbourne, and John Holt. Along with Jay Douglas, Leroy Sibbles, Glenn Washington, Carol Brown, JoJo Bennet and others, Bernie really made Toronto an important part of the international Reggae community.”
It’s fair to say The Human Rights can count themselves among that company now too, having performed at major Toronto venues including Roy Thomson Hall, the Sound Academy and Harbourfront Centre, as well as major events across Canada such as the Calgary Reggae Festival. Further, their songs have become staples on Reggae radio shows everywhere, and on CBC Radio programs like Big City, Small World, while fans of the Trailer Park Boys will know them for their version of the Trailer Park Boys theme song featured in the movie Don’t Legalize It.