Over the years, the Washington, D.C. music scene has become best known for its hardcore (Minor Threat) and go-go (Trouble Funk) alumni, but as evidenced by the great Bad Brains, reggae has been represented as well. SOJA has risen to the forefront, picking up right where the Brains left off – creating their own blend of conscious roots music entwined with the traditional rhythms of reggae, it “comes across with passion and depth.” (Washington Post ’06)
That said, SOJA is not that easy to define. Although they are rooted in reggae, they are not limited to it; their fan-base reflects this with a very diverse population. The music includes and embraces all walks of life - it has no prejudice – it is for everyone. The band grew up listening to reggae, hip-hop, and rock. In their sound, reggae became the predominate influence because it is dedicated to a real message and promotes revolution.
The group, which includes a pair of lead singers who also pull double duty - Jacob Hemphill (guitar) and Bob Jefferson (bass) – as well as Patrick O’Shea on keyboard, percussionist Ken Brownell, and drummer Ryan Berty, originally came together in 1997. Since 2000, the quintet has issued three full length albums and one EP – their latest, ‘Get Wiser,’ is their third for the group’s own label, Innerloop.
Hemphill explains the meaning of the album’s title. “The new album is called ‘Get Wiser’ – that’s the idea. We as a society tend to have blinders on. We are trying to uplift peoples’ consciousness by breaking down what makes us blind. To do this, we got to bring back truth. People get wiser.”
“Every song is different of course.” Hemphill continues, “I found music to be a way to express myself - through my life I’ve never been able to express myself well in conversations, but I can do it through music. It’s like my way to talk.”
Ever the road warriors (SOJA averages 150 gigs per year), the group will be supporting their latest release with a healthy amount of live dates this year on the “Get Wiser Tour”. With such a list of accumulated live dates, a specific high point is hard to pin down, but O’Shea remembers a particular performance. “One of the shows that remains in the front of my mind was playing at the Tito Puente Amphitheater in Puerto Rico with Gomba Jahbari. It was amazing to see thousands of people, many that may not speak English, singing along to the songs.”
With SOJA calling their own shots, ‘Get Wiser’ proves that the band’s message and music will only continue to grow stronger with each successive release. In support of their latest release, “Get Wiser”, SOJA is embarking on a journey around the world. Their message and live show will hit Hawaii, California, Oregon, Guam and all over the east coast for the next few months, spreading “equal parts (of) blazing fire and healing water, full of locked in riddims and quietly powerful vocals” (The Beat, Feb ‘05). Not only will you find them in your favorite local club – SOJA’s playing the big summer festivals as well – check them out at Reggae on the River & the All Good Festival.
Jacob Hemphill -
Lead Vocals, Guitar
Bob Jefferson - Lead Vocals, Bass
Ken Brownell - Percussion
Ryan Berty - Drums
Patrick O’Shea- Keyboards
Get Wiser (2006)
Dub in a Time of War (2005)
Peace in a Time of War (2003)
SOJA EP (2000