The End of An Era
5:05am Monday morning. Just came in from the last party at The Wild Hare Reggae Club. It was bittersweet. So nice to see everyone “coming home.”
I grew up in the Wild Hare, as did my children, literally. The Wild Hare was where we learned the true meaning of ‘international.’ It was owned by Ethiopians, with employees from Ghana, Mexico, Jamaica, Europe, Puerto Rico and the hood.
It was Black owned as was nearly that entire strip at one time. There were three Ethiopian Restaurants, a Jamaican restaurant, another reggae club—not to mention the Chinese, Japanese, Middle Easten and Indian owned establishments that were once there. The white businesses in the area used to call that section of Clark street “Nigger-Row.”
The first reggae band that I ever saw was New Era Reggae Band in the 80’s. https://vimeo.com/136800478
Back then the Wild Hare was a one room shack and you had to go through the men’s bathroom to get to the dirt floor dressing room downstairs which was basically an unfinished basement. There’s a great story about the Staple Singers being run out of that dressing room by rats!
Oh, but there were some great bands and performers there. International Stars like Mutabaruka, Steel Pulse, Anthony B, Mighty Diamonds, Eek-A-Mouse, Israel Vibration and Third World. Local Stars like Nyan Como, Dallol, Debbie DeFire, Gypsy Fari, Kwame, Kelly Ranks and Devon Brown to name a few.
After that first trip to Jamaica or the Carribean and you needed a little of the flavor to hold on to, you'd go to the Wild Hare.
New 3rd world immigrants that needed to find like minds, they could always find fellow country-men or at least folks from the same continent at the Wild Hare. That includes many east Indians and Chinese. Remember there are many East Indian and Chinese Jamaicans.
Your first crush on that cutie pie with the sexy accent, you’d go dancing at the Wild Hare.
If you just needed something different to lift your spirits, you could go to the Wild Hare.
It didn’t matter what brought you to the Wild Hare, once you got there you were there to stay.
Jimmy Cliff, Ziggy Marley, Gregory Issac, members of the Chicago Bulls, Bears players, Cub fans, movie stars and so many others were all there. After a big concert this is where you finished the night.
It was the place to be, not just for the music but for the culture. Where else were we going to learn about world music and culture? It was a place to meet people from all over the world and interact with them in a party atmosphere.
The Wild Hare was a reflection of the real world: multi -cultural, intergenerational and crossing all classes.
So what happens now? Where will future generations cut their teeth on global culture. We are at the mercy of culture vultures who call themselves our friends then overcharge us to experience our own culture with $20 drinks. Buddah’s Shrine is not that funky.
I am happy that Ethiopia will get an international cultural center with all green energy and they certainly need it more than Clark street needs another bar. I do wish we could have both Wild Hares, cause Chicago still needs international cultural too.