Irie Vibrations, pandemic style

After live-streaming sessions on Instagram, a local DJ is rapidly building a worldwide following and scoring big gigs

Not even a shelter-in-place order can slow down DJ Jahmar Anthony's hustle.

The 32-year-old is known for being one of Southern Arizona's hardest working DJs. By day, he works with the non-profit Dee-Jays Against Hunger. By night, he's getting the party started.

Recently, Anthony hooked up with international reggae group Inner Circle, best known for the song "Bad Boys"—bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?—after tagging the group in a recap of music played during one of his COVID-19 livestream shows on Instagram.

Soon after, the members of Inner Circle tuned in to Anthony's next livestream. Impressed by the DJ's musical knowledge, the group asked Anthony to put together a birthday tribute mix of music from Inner Circle's late lead singer, Jacob Miller, who tragically passed away in a car accident in 1980.

"(Inner Circle) had me go live on their Instagram and the fans loved it. The following week, they brought me back to do a reggae party and the fans loved that too," Anthony said. "So, we just kept it going and it just kept growing and growing."

So far, Anthony and the group have reached more than 500,000 people worldwide with their pandemic Instagram shows, with the number continuing to grow each month, the DJ said.

"It's like having my own radio station. People are watching. The artists in Jamaica are supporting it and everyone is happy," Anthony said. "It's crazy just to see the love people have for the Jamaican DJ culture all over the world."

Inner Circle marketing director Abebe Lewis said he was impressed by Anthony's drive and persistence after their collaboration on the Jacob Miller tribute livestream. The marketing director is the son of Ian Lewis, who founded the group with brother, Roger, back in the late 1960s.

"You got to have drive during this COVID thing. It defines people right now," Lewis said. "His drive is amazing, so I was like, 'Hey, let's vibe and do something.'"

Anthony's musical versatility and understanding of his audience has made him an "asset to the group," said Lewis.

"When we do virtual stuff, sometimes we're targeting an older community and sometimes we're targeting a younger community. (Anthony) knows what to play and when to play it," Lewis said. "Jahmar works close in hand with Roger and Ian Lewis. He's often on the phone with them about sound and talking about how the Instagram shows went."

DJing is in Anthony's blood. His father, Papa Ranger—longtime KXCI reggae DJ and owner of the now-shuttered Twelve Tribes Reggae Shop—started back in the early 1970s in Jamaica. After moving to the states in 1980, Ranger sought out the hot spots for reggae music and built a name for himself as an authentic, top-ranking, Jamaican DJ in the Old Pueblo.

When Ranger was diagnosed with cancer years later, Anthony began covering DJ gigs for his father at 16 years old to keep the bills paid.

"I would go DJ my dad's gigs at Chicago Bar because I had a fake I.D. at the time. I would be filling in and people were like, 'Jahmar knows music,'" Anthony said. "It went from doing my dad's gigs to people booking me. I just stuck with it."