Jazz and Blues Promoter Walter Elmore hails Soja’s Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album

Jazz and Blues Promoter Walter Elmore hails Soja’s Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album

MONTEGO BAY,  April 5, 2022 - Jamaica Jazz and Blues Promoter Walter Elmore says the Grammy Award for best Reggae Album won on Sunday night by almost all white Reggae Band SOJA, should act as a wake-up call to Jamaican musicians that Reggae music is no longer the exclusive precinct of Jamaican Reggae artistes.

Elmore said he was happy that the Grammys picked a non-Jamaican as this will probably move the international appreciation of the music to a higher level, knowing that our music is popular and respected in the world.

SOJA lead singer Jacob Hemphill performing at Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival in Falmouth in 2015 (Photo by Claudia Gardner)SOJA lead singer Jacob Hemphill performing at Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival in Falmouth in 2015 (Photo by Claudia Gardner)SOJA (“Soldiers of Jah Army”) is an eight-member band made up of mostly white musicians from Washington DC, in the United States who have been playing Reggae since the late nineties.

They have been making music since 1997, and were brought to Jamaica for the first time in 2015 by Walter Elmore to perform on Jamaica's 19th edition of   Jazz and Blues in Montego Bay. Despite this, many reggae fans appeared to have only heard of the band for the first time when they were announced as winners of the Grammy for Best Reggae Album.

But of course, they are no stranger to Reggae.The media bulletin from November 2014 in announcing SOJA to the Jamaican Jazz and Blues audience said: The mega-popular SOJA is confirmed to perform at the 19th Jazz & Blues Festival, Jan. 29—31, 2015 at the Trelawny Stadium, Falmouth, Jamaica. This performance marks the band’s first visit to Jamaica and its debut performance on the Reggae island.

“SOJA has been on our radar for years and for their first visit to Jamaica we’re glad that it’s to be part of Jamaica Jazz & Blues”, says Festival Producer, Walter Elmore. “They are known for having die-hard fans follow them to every city they perform,” added Elmore, “and we hope some of these fans will come along with the band to experience the beauty, warmth and magic of Jamaica”.

Jamaica Jazz and Blues Promoter Walter ElmoreJamaica Jazz and Blues Promoter Walter ElmoreSOJA is an 8-piece ensemble, based in Washington D.C. that blends reggae, go-go, D.C. hardcore, Latin, rock and Hip-hop into sweet packages of music. Their latest album, Amid the Noise and Haste, entered the Billboard Top Selling Reggae Album Charts at No. 1, where it remained for six weeks.

SOJA’s massive popularity earned them an appearance on the Late Show with Jay Leno and the Bob Marley Entertainer of the Year Award from the International Reggae & World Music Awards 2014. They have collaborated with Damion Marley, Michael Franti, Collie Buddz and many others.

“This will be our first time in Jamaica,” said one of the founding members Bobby Lee. “We’ve been waiting for the right time, for real vibes.” Commenting on the band’s mission, Lee says, “We come with the message that we have to keep this world alive and take care of the planet. That is what we were put here to do.”

SOJA has sold more than 200,000 albums worldwide, headlined in more than 20 countries, enjoys more than 3 million Facebook fans and more than 65 million YouTube views, resulting in a global cult-like following. “We played a festival in Brazil, in front of 80,000 fans,” lead singer Hemphill remembers, “and everybody was singing every word – in English! I live for that.”

SOJA beat five Jamaican nominees for the Grammy. They include the Queen of Dancehall Spice, who was nominated for her debut album 10; Reggae songstress Etana, who earned a nomination for Pamoja; Sean Paul for his album Live N Livin; Jesse Royal for Royal and Gramps Morgan for Positive Vibration.

This marks the third time a non-Jamaican artiste has won Best Reggae Album. SOJA won the Grammy for its seventh studio album, Beauty in the Silence. British band Steel Pulse won in 1987 with their album Babylon The Bandit, followed by British singer Sting who teamed up with Shaggy for 44/876 in 2018.

This is SOJA’s third Reggae nomination and first Grammy win. They were  nominated for the Best Reggae Album for SOJA: Live In Virginia which was released in 2016, while in 2014, they were nominated for Amid The Noise And Haste.

SOJA was gracious  in their surprise victory. According to lead singer Jacob Hemphill, “Starting our reggae band was kind of our dream and the only thing we wanted to do” when the bandmates were growing up, “then one day people started coming to the shows.”

Other members of the group “To the founding fathers of Reggae music into the island of Jamaica, you inspired us all.  Give thanks. One love.”

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