Bring it on: Dancin' through the revolution
Soldiers of Jah Army
at Garden of Sheba
Soldiers of Jah Army are, by far, some of the best contemporary reggae songwriters I have encountered in a long time. Their debut album, Peace in a Time of War, is a well-produced collage of provocative material. The album addresses a wide range of political and social issues without coming across as too preachy or cheesy. Very impressive for a first time outing.
Soon after the album debuted, I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with the band in Harrisonburg. Aside from being great musicians, they radiate a positive energy very much in sync with the message they adhere to.
I caught wind they were scheduled to perform at Garden of Sheba's new Club Massive. After avoiding Halloween madness the day before, I was ready to get into some grooves.
Club Massive was supposed to be Sheba's extension into the old Live Arts' main space. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen issues, the space wasn't ready for the night's festivities. The performance still went on in normal music space.
Iron Lion opened for SOJA. A one-man reggae vocalist, he warmed up the room with mellow crooning over CD instrumentals. But it was soon obvious who the people came to see, because when it was time for SOJA to perform, the room morphed from a lounge to a dance hall within five minutes.
It wasn't long before the room was pulsing with positive vibrations and bass-heavy dub rhythms. They coasted through a few tunes from their album in road-veteran fashion and even made a few attempts at new tunes and while they didn't come across quite as well, they still managed to stay tight enough to keep me enthralled.
I could go on for days about why I like this band. However, there's one positive that can't be ignored, and that's the lead singer, Jacob Hemphill. His presence at the helm is undeniable. His voice teeters somewhere between Bob Marley and Maxi Priest. Whoever thought the revolution was going to be so soothing?
Club Massive is set to open next weekend with a DJ showcase of eclectic progressive and traditional dance music. If the vibe is anything like that of Garden of Sheba, we're in for a taste of good music and great energy every weekend.
Let's hope SOJA will be back soon to grace the stage.
Soldiers of Jah Army
PHOTO BY DAMANI HARRISON