SOJA - A new Brand of Reggae
SOJAs music and energetic stage shows speaks for itself. Brimming with well founded confidence, and backing it with a set filled with infectious energy, SOJA provided a glimpse into their promising future, and gave credence to their current success, as they both promoted their pending release, Born in Babylon, and supported their 2008 release Stars and Stripes at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver this past weekend.
Although the majority of SOJA inspiration comes from the offbeat of Reggae, inflections of rock, funk and hip hop also combine to create a dynamic sound which has become all their own. Dancing around various styles while keeping true to their reggae roots, SOJA continues to give evidence to the critical acclaim that has followed them the past few years.
I rarely plan the show ahead of time, Jacob Hemphill, the confident and forward looking SOJA front man commented before the show. The first song is where I start to gain my focus, and I let the crowd help determine where we will go. With inspirational and passionate showmanship, and a voice which inflects well with the variety of SOJAs sound, Mr. Hemphill quickly worked with the crowd to inject, as well as draw, energy.
Mr. Hemphills melodic vocal approach is balanced well with Bob Jeffersons enigmatic and driving voice. Mr. Jefferson is the vocal force of the dancehall inspired bass rhythms (note that he plays the bass himself in double duty) mixed throughout the set and draws inspiration, as he will let you know, by artists such as Anthony B. Together, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Hemphill combine to create a dynamic variety of styles indicative of the approach SOJA brings to the stage and to their music.
The quintet has been together since 1997 and produces a polished sound behind the inspired and thoughtful vocals. Refreshingly, they are quick to note that their success can be given to a strong bond of solidarity and focus on a common goal.
With much of the music coming from Jamaica flirting with hip hop more than the offbeat, the fast growing American Roots genre within the reggae tree has been flourishing, as evidenced by a packed house at Cervantes in Denver this past weekend. SOJA, heralding from the DC region of the US, is yet another example of this growing trend in roots reggae.
Following the success of John Browns Body, from upstate New York, and Groundation from the west coast, SOJA is another successful and inspirational American reggae band that brings their own legions of fans to the positive and dynamic approach to their music. They are dialed in and their attention to detail with their set supports that fact. With an average of 150 road dates a year, a new DVD release SOJA: Live in Hawaii and a pending release of their new album Born in Babylon, SOJAs future is bright indeed.
Local talent in Denver, and Colorado, continue to impress each year. Lion Vibes matched the energy that would soon come with SOJA with a polished set of their own. DJ Yahru continues to improve upon every previous performance, and his well thought out approach has helped sets have become a much anticipated draw.
Reviewed by Reggae Larry for The Reggae Movement