May 24, 2007

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Soca in SoNH
Getting the island mindset with Jah Spirit
By Erica Febre efebre@hippopress.com

Good reggae music practically goes hand in hand with warm weather and Jah Spirit, a reggae-inspired band from Boston, will be in the area almost every week of the warm season to supply it.

But Jah Spirit isn’t just a reggae band. In fact, if you ask them, they aren’t a reggae band at all.

“We have always been classified as reggae for years now, but reggae is the national music of Jamaica and I am actually from Trinidad and Tobago. The music we play is more calypso, or what they now call soca, or dancehall soca,” said Mhykal Wolfe with Jah Spirit.

Wolfe is the founding member of Jah Spirit. He writes all the original material and takes lead with the band. The current lineup of Jah Spirit includes four members but, on occasion, they’ve been known to add a few extra members to the mix.

Jah Spirit is Wolfe, known as Ras Mhykal, on lead vocals and djambay; Steve Sidhly, known as Ninja, on guitar, keyboard and backup vocals; Kit Buckley, known as Jah Kit, on saxophone, keyboard and backup vocals; and Henry Fenton, known as Ipa, on bass, rhythm guitar and backup vocals.

For the last 15 years, since its formation, Jah Spirit has played all original music, with perhaps a few Bob Marley covers here and there.

Jah Spirit has been nominated three times by the Boston Music Awards and also received acclaim from New Hampshire magazine.

With four full-length albums and almost a dozen releases, Jah Spirit has become a New England standard for original island music. They’ve even performed at Harvard University and MIT.

“Jah Spirit incorporates a reggae experience, and also African and Trinidadian music. We have a unique sound that, yeah, most would consider it reggae, but it’s much more world beat, or world music. It’s crossing all that island music and African music together,” Wolfe said.

Soca music, known as soul calypso, is dance music that comes from Trinidad. Calypso is a specific style of Afro-Carribean music, which also originated in Trinidad but dates further back to the early 20th century. In short, soca music is the new-age version of calypso music.

“We’ve always been playing soca but people have always considered it reggae. We don’t want to put ourselves out there as Jamaica’s because we are not. We have our own unique culture and sound. Soca is the music of Trinidad. It’s much more upbeat but very very similar to reggae,” Wolfe said.

Jah Spirit conveys a strong spiritual message with their music, as well as with their name. Jah is a word used in mention of “The Almighty.” For Jah Spirit, the band, it’s about spreading values of peace, love and unity.

“To have that name and title, we strive to always show and mention the love and caring and respect and just those good vibes that would go along with Jah,” Wolfe said.

Jah Spirit
What:
dancehall soca reggae
When: Thursday, May 24 and 31, at Peddler’s Daughter, starting at 9:30 p.m.; Friday, May 25, at Harlow’s Pub, starting at 9:30 p.m.
Where: Peddler’s Daughter, 48 Main St., Nashua, 821-7535; Harlow’s Pub, 3 School St., Peterborough, 924-6365.
For more information: Show dates and live music samples are available at jahspirit.com or myspace.com/jahspirit.