Tuesday 9 April 2013
SOJA with Three Houses Down & Swiss
SOJA Live at The Powerstation April 9 
US reggae octet SOJA bring their legendary live show to New Zealand for the first time this April, with a much-anticipated concert at Auckland’s Powerstation.
It’s a kind of spiritual homecoming for the band, who have been playing a socially-conscious fusion of roots reggae and rock since their formation in Arlington, Virginia in 1997. Their style will be familiar to and appreciated by New Zealand’s vast homegrown reggae audience, with a style reminiscent of Aotearoa Roots greats like Katchafire and Fat Freddy’s Drop.
Lead singer and guitarist Jacob Hemphill first connected with reggae upon hearing Bob Marley’s classic Exodus album, made after the Jamaican great’s trip to Africa. Hearing its philosophically-inclined lyrics and strident voice made Hemphill connect to his own African experience in a way which directly informed the band he would soon start.
“I was 13 or 14 when I listened to it for the first time and it triggered all these long-forgotten memories of when I lived in Africa as a kid,” he recalls. “My dad was an IMF res rep in Liberia in the late 80's. I remember when the coup first started – my family had to hide in these iron bathtubs for 3 days because the military was shooting at everything. I was seven and that was one of my first memories. We made it out on the last flight.”
Since those dramatic events Hemphill has developed an affinity for the more thoughtful approach and strident politics of folk music – a genre he considers broader than most.
“To me, Rage Against The Machine, Wu -Tang Clan, Sade, Johnny Cash, Bob Marley – they’re all folk artists. Folk is all about storytelling and passing on a legacy. It’s timeless, it’s limitless and it crosses all boundaries. That’s what this band is striving for. It’s a tall order,” he laughs, “but we’re making our way.”
That fusion of rock, folk and reggae has become SOJA’s signature sound, and they have honed it over thousands of gigs. The band are known as quintessential road warriors, often playing upwards of 300 shows to promote an album, with their diehard fans following the band in caravans to every appearance. They’ve supported the likes of Matisyahu and the Dave Matthews Band, whose leader was so impressed he signed them to his own record label.
It’s yet another sign that this band is peaking over 15 years after they first hit the off beat – and the perfect reason to make sure you’re in the audience for their New Zealand debut.
Joining SOJA for their Powerstation show are New Zealand Reggae Heavyweights THREE HOUSES DOWN and gold selling solo artist SWISS.