Two decades ago, they were just a group of high schoolers in Washington D.C., hanging out in a basement, getting into roots reggae music and teaching each other how to play music. Today, SOJA (Soldiers Of Jah Army) are the larger than life reggae band who have amassed over 7 million followers online, been nominated for 2 Grammy awards, hit over 300 million YouTube views, and headlined massive concerts all over the world.
Despite their international success and the colossal dedicated fanbase they’ve grown over the years, SOJA always want to remember their time together in that basement, connecting over music and getting inspired by each other.
Their most recent studio album, ‘Poetry In Motion’, out on October 27 2017 through ATO is a journey back to their roots (no pun intended), where the magic first sparked 20 years ago. The album’s 11 tracks embrace reggae in its entirety, focusing on what the genre can do best. The band looked to their 2009 release, ‘Baby In Babylon’ as a reference point to remind them of where they’ve come from and where they’d like to move forward.
‘Poetry In Motion’ is a continuation of the band’s philosophy that the music should speak to people and uplift them. “The biggest thing about this record is that we agreed that we’re a reggae band,” lead singer and guitarist Jacob says. “We wanted to go back to the idea that we make roots reggae and we do it together.” With each song the band asked itself “How do i make the human condition come into this song?”. It’s the start of a new chapter, but also a revitalization of what made SOJA so special to begin with.
As well as finding inspiration in their earlier work, SOJA also looks to reggae legends. For this Selection Section, band members, Bobby Lee, Ryan Berty, Patrick O’Shea, Kenny Bongos, Trevor Young, Hellman Escorcia and Rafa Rodriguez tell us about their all-time favorite reggae songs.
Check out the gospel of reggae, according to SOJA:
Collie Buddz – Control
This song speaks to me because Collie is being real and talking about the temptations that come with success/money sometimes, and reminds people that everything happens for a reason. – Bobby
This song is a good representation of how American reggae bands have evolved and feel more and more comfortable expressing their influences other than reggae in their music. – Bobby
I love Bugle, and this song in particular because he’s telling people to stop trying to please other people, that’s their problem, stay true to yourself and what you believe in. – Ryan
There’s so many great aspects of this song. The bass line, the horns, and the organ, make a perfect bed for the amazing vocals to float on. It’s all so well written and recorded. Classic. – Ryan
This is a very nostalgic song for me. Such heavy groove and so much emotion in the vocals. This whole album always reminds me of seeing them live at a tiny club in DC around 98/99 and buying their homemade cassette tape! – Ryan
We used to see the video of this jam on the cable TV show “Tropical Beat” back in the day. Kind of like an anthem for mid-90s reggae and really made us fascinated with the genre as teenagers. – Patrick
Another anthem we loved growing up. Solid songwriting and flow. Sizzla was definitely a pioneer in conscious dancehall – one of my favorite songs by him – with Dean Fraser on sax. We played this song out, but for a good reason. – Patrick
The whole album was the perfect example of classic roots harmony trio reggae. The title track epitomizes how good they were. While most of their albums were recorded with Roots Radics, this one was with some of The Wailers at Tuff Gong, and you can definitely tell its Carly on drums. Classic tune – another one that we would eventually wear out the cassette tape. Also the dub versions are sick. Fun to listen to when we were getting into herb. All three of my picks have Dean Fraser on sax – no coincidence there! – Patrick
Cultura Profética – Boriken
My heart and mind is on my friends in Puerto Rico and all people effected everywhere by the recent devastating hurricanes. – Kenny
Uplifting tune with an incredible hook that has a unique cadence. They opened a tour with us and I’d always make it a point to be FOH to catch that song. – Trevor
Sick band from New Zealand that we played with a few years back. They do a lot of live dub and their records sound classic. – Trevor
This is off his newest album which technically is under the alternative genre on iTunes. This song is one of my favorites but honestly I enjoy the whole album. – Trevor
An older song that’s still always fresh with its message and reality, to inform people that together we are more powerful. There is always going to be people that they are going to try to confuse or separate us, but music is the way to unity and the fight against the wrong. – Hellman
One of the “classics” of reggae. We had the blessing of touring with him in Brazil a couple months before he passed. That was a great experience to share with him. – Rafa
International Dub Ambassadors – Nice And Easy (From the album, ‘International Dub Ambassadors Meet Gomba Jahbari’)
In my opinion, this dub band from PR have the best classic reggae sound out there these days. – Rafa