Thursday, October 8, 2009
SOJA to bring reggae culture to The Green Elephant in Dallas
The October 13 concert will also include Columbian trio The Movement Vibe and Dallas band Ugly Lion.
Dallas isn’t a place usually associated with reggae music or reggae culture. Hippies don’t roam the streets, independent vendors lining popular squares are nonexistent, and there are no big fields in which music lovers can congregate. However, Tuesday, October 13 will be a landmark day for the reggae scene in Dallas. Washington D.C.-based band SOJA is coming to The Green Elephant with Columbian trio Movement Vibe and local reggae innovators Ugly Lion to play their first show ever in the great Lone Star State.
Soldiers of Jah Army, SOJA for short, began when middle school friends Jacob Hemphill (vocals and guitar) and Bob Jefferson (bass) met Patrick O’Shea (keyboards), Ryan Berty (drums), and Ken Brownell (percussion). They all had one thing in common: a growing passion for peace and reggae music.
As a band birthed in the new millennium, SOJA produced three full length albums, two EPs, and a collaboration disc under the name Syr Mahber. Their newest album, Born in Babylon, released in August 2009, is arguably a collection demonstrating the perfect form of reggae.
The ability to directly integrate the audience into the song is what sets Born in Babylon apart from other reggae compilations. The disc opens track two, “Losing My Mind,” with a drum roll and then immediately seduces the listener with a fluid horn section. Caught in a trance, the listener follows Hemphill’s voice down memory lane as he proclaims nostalgia so earnest, it provokes a personal desire for the past.
The CD’s first single, “I Don’t Wanna Wait,” can make an advocate out of anyone. Hemphill calls for action to right societal wrongs claiming that time is a luxury we, as humans, have run out of. The lyrics are heartfelt and the music is lush, filling every emotional cavity to the point it’s physically uncontrollable. It would take a full body straight jacket to keep from dancing.
Born in Babylon above all demonstrates SOJA’s creativity and musical diversity. Track four, “Bleed Through,” is a hip hop fusion featuring Black Boo of Mambo Sauce. When he interjects over the melody, “I swear you never really miss until it’s half gone; then you tighten up your grip tryin’ to hold on,” Boo creates intrigue and balance unmatched anywhere else on the album. It’s like putting that one ice cube in your glass of wine.
The integration of string instruments on “You and Me,” activates a visual storyline of two people. The lyrics describe time spent close together dancing and in bed, but the strings depict the two separating and walking down an endless horizon in opposite directions.
Born in Babylon is SOJA’s most honest and illustrious album. It utilizes the fundamental concepts of Bob Marley, the airy vocal style of Rebelution, and the emotional conviction of Grimy Styles, but it doesn’t sound like any of these artists. It’s original and unique as each song sifts through universal questions, self-discovery, heartbreak, and desire for peace and unity.
SOJA is leading a wave of modernism in music by adding new ideas to familiar styles. If they do all this from a stereo, can you imagine what they will do live?
Tickets cost $15 and are available to purchase at the door the day of the show. In addition, tickets are available before the day of the show at The Green Elephant, from Mike McDonald of Swamphouse Industries at 214-506-8292, from Luke at Retro Revolution on Greenville Ave., or by e-mailing email@example.com.
Christine Ricciardi is an SMU student.