Peter Tosh Live at the Oklahoma City Zoological Park Amphitheatre, October 17, 1982


The following article was published in the Oklahoma City Paper on Monday, October 18, 1982 and was recently re-issued at  The article details Tosh’s performance at the 7,000-seat Oklahoma City Zoological Park Amphitheatre on Sunday, October 17, 1982.  I was clued in to this show by one of our readers named Dennis Whiteman who also took the photo of Tosh performing.


“The first annual anything is always rough. The First Oklahoma World Reggae Festival at the Zoo Ampitheatre Sunday afternoon was no exception.

Reggae music is hard to describe. It’s part Caribbean calypso, part gospel, part soul, part rock, and a big part mellow. Although many people at the concert were not totally informed about reggae, the music made everyone feel good.

Singers sing a lot about smoking dope, getting by in the world as painlessly as possible, avoiding trouble, being happy, and about being unhappy while trying to get happy. The dope-smoking aspect of the music is as inherent as a seemingly sincere belief in the savior.

Musicians play instruments that are not usually seen the kind they probably make out of kitchen utensils as well as traditional guitars and keyboards. The music was alive with sounds, expecially percussion, and the singers had just the right accent to make the music sound exotic. The rhythm was subtle, but constant.

Reggae is chic now, and many Oklahoma fans were at the concert for the reggae happening. And it would have been a real happening if it had not been so cool and rainy.

Fans braved the early afternoon clouds, mist, on-and-off rain and chilly temperatures to dance, drink, smoke and listen to the intoxicating sounds of Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff.

Cliff didn’t appear something about a slipped disc. He became famous after his Jamaican film, “The Harder They Come,” about making it in the music business. He got to be friends with Mick Jagger, who produced the film, and the rest is history.

About 3,500 people were there to see the show. Once Cliff canceled, that meant Tosh had to play extra long and extra hard. Tosh, once a member of Bob Marley and the Wailers, the first Jamaican group to make a breakthrough in this country, struck out on his own in about 1975.

I don’t know about the other 3,499 people there, but I couldn’t understand a word Tosh sang. Was he singing in a foreign language or what? Because of my difficulty in understanding, I made up some words of my own, which isn’t difficult in this type of music.

“What’s all the fussin’ and fightin’?

Got to find a better solution.

Just lay back and smoke some stuff.

When you’re high, life ain’t so tough.”

Once I had my words down, I could pretty much sing them to any of the songs.

This is not to say that reggae is boring. It’s not. Tosh kept the crowd moving by pacing up and down the stage with his microphone and umbrella in hand. The truth is, reggae is just plain hard to figure out.

I’m still trying to figure out how Tosh fixes his hair. The style is known as dreadlocks and it is in keeping with the revolutionary doctrines of the Rastafarian faith.

The music also is hard to figure. How can a song be at the same time sad and happy, depressing and uplifting, soulful and exciting?

Fans were not concerned about who was singing. They were not really concerned about the names of the songs, which is good, since I didn’t catch many song titles during the concert. Like one concert-goer said, “I don’t know much about the groups, but I like the music.”

There is no typical reggae fan. The audience was dotted with blacks and whites, people dressed up and down, old-time hippies and new punkers, bikers and business-types.

“It takes a certain kind of person to enjoy this kind of concert,” said Richard Dickerson, Zoo Ampitheater manager. “It doesn’t attract just everybody.”

And what kind of people did it attract?

“Well, you can’t really put your finger on it,” he answered.

There were many colorful berets in the crowd, which might have had something to do with reggae.

Not wishing to make do with plain old Frisbees, Reggae fans had Hackysack. It’s played with a small, soft leather pouch that players keep in the air by kicking it with their feet. “It goes well with reggae because it’s rhythmic,” one player said.

Fortunately, the sun came out just before Tosh’ performance.

“Even the sun gives praise,” said Tosh. “The sun is the reality of all those fantasies.”

Whatever that means, I liked Tosh and I probably would have liked Cliff. The rest of the concert was so-so.

The Street People, an Oklahoma City reggae band, was good, but too loud.

But an Austin, Texas, band called The Lotions should have stayed in Austin. They play for free in many Austin clubs, and now I know why.

Maybe there’s a little bitterness hidden in my disappointment. I would rather have been in Kingston, Jamaica, listening to Bob Marley, drinking a tall, cool drink, soaking up the sun. Well, Marley’s dead, and instead, I was in Oklahoma City, huddled under an evergreen tree with a heavy coat on, trying to stay warm and dry.

Still, I must be that certain kind of person who enjoys reggae. It just makes me feel good. But let’s have the second annual Oklahoma World Reggae Festival in Jamaica, OK?”

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