ï»¿(Soldiers of the Jah Army)
Article By: M.J. SmithÂ |Â Photos By: Eric Fowler
Hailing from our nationâ€™s capital of Washington D.C., SOJA is one of the best known reggae bands around the world. This is due in part to their relentless touring schedule. In 2010 alone, they completed a European tour, an East Coast U.S. tour, and are about to embark on another tour through Brazil. The five piece band is comprised of childhood friends: Jacob Hemphill (vocals, guitar), Bob Jefferson (bass), Patrick Oâ€™Shea (keyboards), Ryan Berty (drums), and Ken Brownell (percussion).
Their need to create â€œmusic with a messageâ€ as their influences Bob Marley and Peter Tosh did, led to the release of their first self-titled EP at the beginning of 2000. Their first full-length album followed shortly after in 2002. By 2006, their second full-length album debuted in the Top 10 Reggae Albums on iTunes and has remained in the Top 100 ever since. After releasing another EP, a documentary DVD chronicling their 2008 Hawaiian tour and their third full-length album â€œBorn in Babylonâ€, they have achieved international notoriety.
The band has shared the stage with notable artists such as Matisyahu, Ben Harper, Slightly Stoopid, Damian Marley, and Steel Pulse, just to name a few.Â Some of their YouTube videos have been viewed 2-4 million times! After seeing them perform live at the West Beach Music Festival in Santa Barbara in September, we had to catch up with this band to find out more about them and share their music and message with our readers.
NUG: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers here in San Diego! Have you guys ever performed here before? Any plans on heading this way soon?
SOJA:Â Yeah, we played at Canes a couple of times.Â San Diego is beautiful, we love it there.
NUG: Reggae is very popular here in SD as it seems to mix well with our laid back lifestyle. Howâ€™s the scene in Washington, D.C.?
SOJA:Â I think reggae fits all places, but in different ways.Â For San Diego, it may be the chill lifestyle, but for D.C., I guess itâ€™s more about the political messages.
NUG: What are some of your favorite destinations to tour and play?
SOJA:Â Like I said, everywhere has something special.Â Thereâ€™s something to like about every place on this earth.
NUG: Tribal Seeds is a big local favorite! We noticed they joined you on stage at the West Beach Music Festival. Do you have a special connection with the band?
SOJA:Â Weâ€™ve done a couple of shows with them and were excited to have them on stage.Â The security was so tight that Steve barely made it past; I think he had to run. Whatever the circumstances, we had a great time with those guys.
NUG: How was the West Beach Music Festival experience for you overall?
SOJA:Â Great!Â We love West Beach.
NUG: You guys have played with some amazing performers! Who are some of your favorite bands?
SOJA: Of course our homies Rebelution, Tribal Seedâ€™s killing too, and tons of great bands in Cali. My crew right now is Mambo Sauce and Fear Nuttin.
NUG: You seem to work really hard. How do you manage touring so much?
SOJA: By working hard.Â Thatâ€™s the whole thing. Music is a full-time job if youâ€™re doing it the way we are.Â Weâ€™re lucky to be here, so we work hard to stay here.
NUG: What is the message behind the music?
SOJA:Â Thatâ€™s for the listener to decide I guess.
NUG: Whatâ€™s in store for SOJA in the future?
SOJA:Â More music, more change.Â The world is completely Fâ€™d right now.Â We want to be the change that earth needs.
You can find out more about SOJA online at www.sojamusic.com