Selection Section: SOJA’s Favorite Reggae Songs

by falsepriest

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:

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: J. Boog's Don't Worry from album, Wash House Ting

J. Boog – Don’t Worry (From the album, ‘Wash House Ting’)

It’s a song that talks about having faith and living right. Along the lines of classic reggae themes. I like to see new artists with these conscious messages like we try to convey.  – Bobby

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: Collie Buddz's Control

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: Passafire's Longshot, from the album Longshot

Passafire – Longshot (From the album, ‘Longshot’)

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: Bugle

Bugle – Be Yourself (From the album, ‘Be Yourself’)

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 

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: Wailing Souls' Bredda Gravalicious

Wailing Souls – Bredda Gravalicious

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: Midnite's Due Reward from the album, Unpolished

Midnite – Due Reward (From the album, ‘Unpolished’)

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: Luciano's It's Me Again Jah

Luciano – It’s Me Again Jah

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: Sizzla's I Wonder from the album, The Story Unfolds

Sizzla – I Wonder (From the Best Of album, ‘The Story Unfolds’)

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: Isreal Vibration's Practise What Jah Teach from the album, Unconquered People

Israel Vibration – Practise What Jah Teach (From the album, ‘Unconquered People’)

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: Culture Profectica's Boriken

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: New Kingston's Key To Life from the album, Kingston City

New Kingston – Key To Life (From the album, ‘Kingston City’)

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: The Black Seeds' Love Is A Radiation from the album, Solid Ground

The Black Seeds – Love Is A Radiation (From the album, ‘Solid Ground’)

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: Matisyahu's Coming Up Empty from the album, Undercurrent

Matisyahu – Coming Up Empty (From the album, ‘Undercurrent’)

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: Los Cafres' Barrilete from the album, Barrilete

Los Cafres – Barrilete (From the album, ‘Barrilete’)

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: Gregory Isaacs' Stranger In Town from the album 'Night Nurse'

Gregory Isaacs – Stranger In Town (From the album, ‘Night Nurse’)

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

SOJA's favorite reggae songs: International Dub Ambassadors' Nice And Easy from the album, International Dub Ambassadors Meet Gomba Jahbari

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

SOJA have made plenty of classic reggae songs in their own right. Check SOJA out on Discogs, and follow them on tour!