Groundation, one of America's most popular reggae bands, has become internationally renowned for their infectious music that creatively melds influences of jazz and funk onto their roots foundation.
Taking their name from a Rastafarian holy day (Grounation), the band was formed in California in 1998 by three students in Sonoma State University's jazz studies program. The band has expanded to a nine-piece ensemble with a horn section, several percussion players and Jamaican backing singers, Kim Pommell and Jhamiela Smith.
"I wanted to be part of this positive movement known as roots-reggae music since very young childhood," explains Groundation's lead singer Harrison Stafford. "I also wanted to create a thought-provoking sound, not just in the lyrics, but also confrontational within the song and composition's structure, and this has come to define what we do as Groundation as truly a unique sound."
Groundation and the Abyssinians perform Friday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Yokouchi Pavilion.
Photo courtesy Groundation
New Riders of the Purple Sage are coming to Charley’s in Paia on Sunday.
Since their inception, they've toured more than 30 countries on four continents, released seven studio albums and collaborated with veteran reggae artists, such as Pablo Moses, Don Carlos, The Congos and Apple Gabriel of Israel Vibration.
"Groundation has gained fans around the world for their jazz-influenced roots reggae," praised Rolling Stone. Their dubs add a hypnotic resonance to their groove-based songs."
Their latest CD, "Building an Ark," is their best work to date. The mesmerizing title track, which opens the album, demonstrates their unique position in contemporary reggae, with its haunting, gospel-piano-flavored intro, almost operatic backing vocals and jazzy trumpet soloing.
Groundation and the Abyssinians perform Friday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Yokouchi Pavilion. Father Psalms and Roots Revealerz will open the show. Gates open at 6 p.m. Advance tickets are $35 ($70 VIP) and $40 ($75 VIP) day of show, plus applicable fees.
"The vision for the album came from the title song," Stafford says. "I had the line, 'I'm building an ark tonight, I hope we are ready,' and this started us off on the album's concept of calling all the good people of the earth together into some place safe, like Moses and Aaron's Ark of the Covenant that housed the 10 Commandments, or Noah saving humanity from God's flood in the ark. But this is a new ark, about music that rallies all true lovers of life."
Other album highlights include the uplifting "Keep It Up" and "Daniel," which features a searing lead guitar solo by Lukas Nelson.
"I have been a lifelong fan of Willie Nelson, and through Maui's Marty Dread, I got the chance to see both Willie and son Lukas perform on many different stages," he explains. "We set up a minirecording studio in his tour bus, and right there, Lukas recorded the lead guitar work for 'Daniel.' "
Interviewed following performances in Mexico City and Costa Rica's San Jose, Stafford notes how their innovative music has gained fans around the world: "We have now performed in 38 countries throughout Africa, Middle East, Europe, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand. For the last 10 or more years, we have found that our international audiences have really come to support the music of Groundation and push us to keep the fire burning. Oftentimes we are the only U.S. band on festivals, and we take pride in spreading the message of change and celebrating life with all culture and nations."
Legendary vocal trio, The Abyssinians, became famous for praise-filled Rastafarian religious music. Providing a template for a generation of roots-reggae performers who followed, Rastafarian's 1969 single, "Satta Massagana (Far Far Away)," became one of reggae's most popular songs. Setting a high standard for vocal harmonies and roots consciousness, besides "Satta Massagana," their hits included "Yimmasgan" and "Declaration of Rights."
In 2004, Manning and Bernard Collins reunited onstage for the first time in more than 10 years, along with singer David Morrison, performing on tour across Europe and America.
Their Maui concert with Groundation offers a rare opportunity to experience some authentic Jamaican Rastafarian legends.
What kind of music do we expect to hear around Christmas? Obviously Christmas songs, and that's what Willie K promises for his annual holiday concert, Willie Kalikimaka, at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Saturday. The extraordinarily talented, multiple Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winner says he will just focus on Christmas music this year.
"It will be all Christmas music," Willie enthuses. "We're going to give them all the Christmas songs they want, like 'O Holy Night' and new Christmas songs."
Uncle Richard Ho'opi'i will open with a few songs and then be joined by Willie, and then it's Willie Kalikimaka style all the way.
Looking forward to the New Year, Willie is also excited about his blues festival planned for Jan 11. "It's going to lead to something a whole lot bigger than just having a one-day event held every year on Maui," he reports. "It's going to be great."
Willie Kalikimaka takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Castle Theater. Tickets are $12, $28, $35, and $45 (plus applicable fees). Gates open at 5:30 p.m. for special preshow festivities, including live music, Hawaiian arts and crafts vendors and food.
Keyboardist Peter Kater was just nominated for a Grammy Award in the New Age category for his album, "Illumination." He will play a house concert in Makawao on Dec. 21. Call 298-8837 for details.
Having reformed in 2005, psychedelic country-rock legends New Riders of the Purple Sage are still going strong, and not just by living off their legacy but also by creating new music like their critically acclaimed latest album, "17 Pine Avenue."
Featuring 12 songs, including seven composed by NRPS co-founder David Nelson and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, the album captures the band revitalized.
"With 27 albums and nine compilations under their belt, you could say the New Riders of the Purple Sage have been pretty damn successful, and this latest release does nothing to tarnish that record," praised Acoustic Music. "From the outset, 'Pine Avenue' is a groove-filled, rollicking, rocking, solid set of Americana roots music that'll have you up out of the armchair and onto the nearest rug, cutting a high-stepping floor waltz to beat the band."
Comprising veteran members Nelson and pedal steel guitarist Buddy Cage, NPRS includes (former Hot Tuna) guitarist Michael Falzarano, bassist Ronnie Penque and drummer Johnny Markowski.
"The musical evolution keeps on going," says David Nelson. "We're writing new tunes just like we did in the past, and we're really enjoying playing with each other a lot more than we used to. We've been doing this new one, what we call the Renaissance of the New Riders for almost eight years now."
Having known the Grateful Dead's esteemed lyricist, Robert Hunter, since the early 1960s, Nelson enjoys composing new material with his old friend.
"We used to play in bluegrass bands back in the '60s, the Wildwood Boys and the Black Mountain Boys," he explains. 'We've just known each other for ever."
The late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia was also a member of these bluegrass bands. Garcia and Nelson had performed together informally throughout the early part of the 1960s. "It was basically a bunch of kids learning how to play music," he adds.
The seeds of the New Riders were sown at a time when country rock was emerging with seminal groups like The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers. The original lineup featured Nelson with guitarist John Dawson, Garcia on pedal steel, and the Dead's drummer Mickey Hart. Within a short time, Jefferson Airplane drummer replaced Hart, and steel guitarist Buddy Cage replaced Garcia in 1972.
The New Riders often toured as the Dead's opening act. In 1973, the band scored a major hit with the song "Panama Red," which became an FM radio staple.
After many years of touring, recording and member changes, the New Riders finally split in 1997. Then in 2005, they reconvened in their current incarnation.
"Johnny Markowski and Ron Penque had played with Buddy Cage, and they wondered about getting me to play," Nelson explains. "They called me and said, 'Would I do it,' and I said, 'Yes, if there are gigs, that would be great.' I'm really loving it now. It's busier than it has ever been."
The New Riders of the Purple Sage perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Charley's in Paia. Tickets are $40, and $60 for Gold Circle Tables. Doors open at 5 p.m. Advance tickets are available from www.lazarbear.com or (808) 896-4845.