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The 57th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony airs on CBS this Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015 in the U.S. and the theme this year appears to be on music with messages. With a planned performance by hip-hop artists Common and John Legend on their collaborated song, Glory, which was crafted for the movie, Selma, the 2015 Grammy Awards show may be emphasizing strong messages relating to civil rights and justice.
According to Elysa Gardner of USA Today, Ken Ehrlich, the Grammy awards show executive producer, said several performances will be influenced by a “sense of societal change.” He noted performances last year had included a tribute towards same-sex marriage. Ehrlich also stated that most people who watch The Grammys appear to do so because they do not know what they will see.
Indeed, one genre and nominee in which many music fans may be unaware of is a band called SOJA, which originally stands for Soldiers of Jah Army. An eight-piece band based out of Virginia, SOJA has risen to the top ranks of American Reggae Music. Their latest album, Amid the Noise and Haste is nominated for Grammy’s Best Reggae Album category.
The Grammy Awards ceremony is aiming to address music with messages and the music of SOJA has tons of messages. Although Reggae music is often associated with Bob Marley and music which stems from Jamaica and other islands in the Caribbean, American Reggae music has seen a lift-off since the days of Sublime, a band from Long Beach, California whose front man, Bradley Nowell died in the mid-1990s due to a drug overdose.
At one time, Nowell had praised Reggae music as being a direct influence to some of the band’s music, which also utilized Punk Rock, Ska, and Hip-Hop as well. It is no surprise, then, that the music of SOJA also includes Folk, Latin, and Hip-Hop influences too.
Originally formed in 1997, SOJA has been a non-stop force in the American Reggae scene. The band has produced at least four albums, has toured 20 countries, and has nearly four million Facebook followers. The message in their music appears to be about living life in truth and observation while also maintaining a sense of love and hope.
The song, Glory by Common and John Legend at one point refers to the recent issue in Ferguson, Missouri regarding Michael Brown, a young, unarmed man who was gunned down by a police officer for unspecified reasons. The song appears to deliver a message aimed towards justice, hope, and current issues, not only tailored to the movie, Selma and the actions of deceased Civil Rights Leader, Martin Luther King Jr., but also from current struggles found in the U.S. regarding justice and the possibility of racism and law enforcement.
The Grammy Awards ceremony appears to be aiming at music with messages that speak of current issues. Although Reggae music has spoken for years on the issues of struggle and poverty, the hybrid of American Reggae and that of original music from Jamaica appear to continue sending these types of messages, while also reaching worldwide audiences. It appears the genre may finally be receiving the recognition it deserves.
Opinion By Liz Pimentel
Photo courtesy of SOJA