As a multi-cultural, multi-ethnical band, from different age categories, with not one, but three lead vocalist, Jah Reflection considers themselves family. The Rotterdam based band says that they are united by the desire to leave a positive mark on this world through music. The winners of the 2019 Park Pop People Stage Award seek to raise awareness on various social issues through their songs, and be a voice of unity in an ever polarizing world.
The band now consisting of nine members, with each having a distinct cultural and musical background, started in 2015 in the underground reggae scene of Rotterdam. By performing at different venues throughout the Netherlands, the band has been gaining momentum and slowly becoming known in the mainstream reggae scene and outside of it.
As the winners of the earlier mentioned 2019 Park Pop People Stage Award, they were able to perform at one of the biggest venues in the Netherlands (Park Pop). Later that year another milestone was reached when the band took stage at “Reggae Lake”, Holland’s biggest reggae festival, performing alongside acts the likes of Alpha Blondy, Ziggy Marley, Etana, Jah cure, Third World, Don Carlos, Busy Signal etc.!
- How would you describe the music that you typically create?
We generally base our songs on Roots Rock Reggae. During the creative process of composing we spice the basics with chord changes from Blues music, guitar riffs from Rock and Brass-sections from Soul or Jazz. Depending on the feel of the song, it might turn into a Ska tune over time.
- What is your creative process like?
We often jam before or after regular rehearsals. The recordings of these jam sessions often lead to new riddims that are being elaborated at home or in the studio. We also see that our singers write the lyrics to a song and we match the music to the words.
- Where do you get inspiration for your songs?
Most of the songs we write, are a reflection of the world we live in. Written from a personal perspective and intended to motivate, console or inspire both ourselves and all around us.
- Tell us about your song “War Child”? What was your inspiration to write the song? How did the writing process go?
The inspiration for this song came to us when we were reflecting on the harsh realities of war and its impact on the most vulnerable groups in society. The song reflects on the horrible fate of children in warzones. They are brought to the attention of the world through press images like the Napalm girl in Vietnam or more recently the death of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea and washed ashore on a beach in Turkey while he and his family were trying to reach Europe as refugees.
- What is the meaning of the band’s name and who came up with it?
The whole idea behind us as a band is to reflect on the different aspects of the human experience through music. We had a brainstorm session about which name would reflect (!) best our diversity in age, culture, gender and background. Since our main inspiration derives from Reggae music, the reference to Jah seemed obvious. We had long discussions about this though because we did not want to limit our creativity to Reggae.
- What is the meaning behind your logo and what do the colors represent?
The logo is a visual translation of exactly what we try to communicate through our band name: unifying age, gender, culture through the shared love for reggae music, celebrating diversity. Paraphrasing Stevie Wonder & Paul McCartney: “Ebony and Ivory stick together in perfect harmony, side by side on my piano, so do we!”
- The band consist of a multi-cultural and multi-ethnical make-up with different age categories, which on itself is a very beautiful thing. A reflection of the almighty. But in the band’s case did or does it cause for communication problems, cultural biases, issues relating to the age differences and how do you guys effectively deal with it?
In general, no. There are always many ways in which we differ but if you scratch off the surface we are all connected through our shared goal and ambition to create inspiring music. The discussions actually never evolve around our differing backgrounds. They always deal with either creative issues or managerial aspects of dealing with a multitude of individuals at different stages in their respective lives. This understanding leads to mutual respect and gratitude for our differences.
- Some of reggae’s messages are the preaching of humbleness and humility, how does the band deal with praise from fans or just people in general?
To be truly humble is to realize that a great deal of your achievements is not of your own merit but that of a power that is higher than oneself. And although there are slight differences in the musical capacities of the different band members, everyone is very aware of the fact, that in essence music is a collective effort. The individual is only as good as the whole band performance. This realization is very humbling in itself. We also do admire the work of befriended bands and artists and support them whenever we can.
- If you could go open a show for any artist/band who would it be?
Well that depends on who you will ask within the band. As a band we enjoy different genres of music from Jazz, Ska and Modern Roots to Soul, Pop and Afrobeat. But I guess that we would be very honored if we could open for an international reggae artist with a similar band setup like Alpha Blondy & Solar System or Steel Pulse.
- If there was one message that you would give to your fans what would it be?
In short: Never Give up! (….and keep on supporting Jah Reflection!). We hope to inspire you through our music and the message we’re sending out. Keep giving feedback, positive or with constructive criticism to help us grow.
- Which musicians/bands do you admire?
We admire Alpha Blondy, he’s a legend who created his own sound with Solar System, his lyrics are strong and we love that he includes a very strong message in most of his songs. Another icon in the same genre to us would be Lucky Dube. The lady lead singers admire Jah9 for her spirituality, lyrics and the fact that she’s a female icon in reggae music.
- If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
Women should be more apparent and more appreciated in the reggae scene. It’s very confronting, frustrating and intolerable to see that by default lady singers are considered backing vocalist. We see it as part of our mission to change that image and be an active part of that change.
- What’s next for the band?
Beginning of 2020 we are planning on releasing our debut EP and kicking off our first official tour. In the run-up to our EP release we are planning on releasing a number of singles. Furthermore, you’ll be able to see us around performing on different locations in the Netherlands throughout the next year.
Questions for Lead Singers
- What first got you into music and who inspired you?
Sab: My brother and father inspired me to make music. I always liked music and I used to save the lyrics of all the songs I liked to sing along to. My father is also a great musician I look up to. When I was little, I used to listen to the songs and poems he wrote.
Gen: My grandmother inspired me to make music. When I was younger, I used to sing gospel music in harmony with my grandmother while she was cooking.
An: I grew up in a musical family and used to sing in church. After winning a music contest at a young age, I started to believe more in myself and started making my own music. My dad, my brother and my boyfriend saw potential in me and pushed and inspired me to make music
- How did you guys meet?
We met through mutual friends and family in the reggae music scene. Some joined after we put out an ad on internet saying we’re looking for musicians to join the band.
- Have you ever gotten performance anxiety? And how do you deal with it?
In the beginning we were anxious before we went on stage. As time passed and we grew closer together, we learned to manage fear and overcome anxiety. We also had a motivational vocal coach that taught us that we are like shackles. When one of us becomes weak, it is our duty to pull that one up so we can stand strong together as one.
- How do you keep the audience engaged while performing?
Having fun with them not only through music but also dancing and heart to heart conversations. We always address them personally, whenever we see long-time supporters or fellow musicians in the crowd. Next to the standard sing-alongs we encourage the crowd to join the dancing routine of our lead singers, making the audience part of our performance.
- The band has something unique, the fact that all three of you are lead vocalist, how do you decide, who is going to sing lead on track A or track B. What are your criteria for deciding?
Most of the time the one who wrote the lyrics to a song will sing lead. Sometimes we co-write to help each other out and sometimes we each write a verse for a song and sing it together.
- Where do you see the band going within the next 5 to 10 years.
We hope to keep a steady pace in creating new songs and keeping the band together while getting more opportunities to perform. We have the opportunity to perform in Germany in the summer and see this as a stepping stone to more gigs outside of the Netherlands. A tour in Suriname would be our ultimate goal of course.