Breaking ground, expectations about reggae
As long as there have been faith and spirituality, music has coexisted with it — from the field songs of the slaves to pop songs with religious lyrics or themes. However, in Rastafari, Harrison Stafford said, music, specifically reggae, plays an integral role beyond what is found in other religions. Stafford fronts the California-based reggae band Groundation and previously taught the history of reggae music at Sonoma State University.
Groundation tends not to stay in one area for too long, so be sure to check them out at The Star Bar tonight at 8:30 p.m. They’ll be sharing the stage with Dub Skin and DJ LC Dub.
Stafford has long since ditched the classroom gig and instead been touring internationally with Groundation for the past five years. The band’s foundation members met 10 years ago at Sonoma State University in California while pursuing jazz degrees. It consisted of Stafford on guitar and vocals, Ryan Newman on bass, Marcus Urani on keyboard and Kelsey Howard on trombone. In 2000, trumpeter David Chachere joined the fold followed by drummer Paul Spina in 2001. The group rounded out its lineup with Mingo Lewis Jr. on congas, timbals and percussion, and Kingston, Jamaica-based chorus singers Kerry Ann Morgan and Kim Pommell.
Most of Groundation’s tours take place in Europe, the Middle East and South America. In Europe they have a record label, booking agent and production company. In places like France and Brazil, they can bring in crowds by the thousands.
Stafford said their music seems be better received overseas. He credits Europeans with seeking out fine arts and an openness to different musical stylings. "We’re just trying to be there with the people," he said. "People in Israel, Argentina, Canada and wherever need that bond that music creates there are no boundaries"
Stafford said though that "it’s an honor to represent America the way we do" at international festivals and to show the reality of progressive minds in America.
At home, Groundations is a grassroots effort they load their own equipment and produce, mix and record their albums, preferring traditional analog to digital recording. Their integrity and unwillingness to compromise with "Big Name Label" is a double-edged sword.
"I think what we do musically and culturally is current," Stafford said and credits this to their growth in an industry that is failing. "When there’s a group coming through playing progressive music, with progressive-conscious lyrics, it’s not going to be on your radio station. It’s not going to be in your record store. It’s not going be all over your television. You’re going to have to search and find it."
But the faithful will know how to find it and will, hopefully, bring non-believers.
"We’ll get people who will say, at the end of the show, ‘I really don’t like reggae, but I love Groundation.’"
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