SOJA returns to Kilohana tonight

LIHU‘E — Virginia-based reggae band SOJA — or Soldiers of Jah Army — closes its three-night Hawai‘i run tonight with a return performance on Kaua‘i.

Presented by BAMP Project and Tom Moffat, this all-ages concert begins at 7 p.m. at Kilohana Pavilion in Puhi. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Last year, SOJA released its fourth full-length album “Strength to Survive,” an intoxicating mix of hot-rod reggae grooves and urgent, zeitgeist-capturing themes, according to the band’s biography.

Jacob Hemphill, the band’s lead singer and guitarist, says the album was greatly inspired by the 1979 Bob Marley & The Wailers’ album “Survival.”

“That’s the greatest reggae album ever made,” he says in the band’s bio. “It has the best basslines and the best lyrics ever heard on one record. Marley wrote it after he went to Africa. I was 13 or 14 when I listened to it for the first time and it triggered all these long-forgotten memories of when I lived in Africa as a kid.”

Hemphill grew up in Africa, where his father was an International Money Fund representative in Liberia. After returning to the U.S., he met bassist Bobby Lee in the first grade in Virginia.

“The two instantly became best friends, finding common ground through their love of hip-hop, rock and reggae, which they performed together at their middle school talent shows,” the bio states. “Throughout high school, they met Ryan Berty (drums), Kenneth Brownell (percussion) and Patrick O’Shea (keyboards) and together formed SOJA.”

The rest is history. Over the last few years, SOJA has sold more than 150,000 albums, headlined large venues in more than 15 countries around the world, amassed more than a million Facebook fans and attracted an international fanbase resembling that of the Grateful Dead, according to their biography.

And the 7-piece band is no stranger to Hawai‘i — or Kaua‘i. In 2008, SOJA recorded their live performances in O‘ahu, Maui and Big Island, which were released in the 2009 DVD “SOJA — Live in Hawai‘i.” Last year, they performed on Kaua‘i along with Mauai-born singer/songwriter Anuhea.

With their latest album, the band makes an impassioned call for unity and change, with universally relatable songs about faith, hope and love.

“I could go on and on about the horrible damage we’ve done to the Earth or the problems that arise when countries compete for money over an imaginary border, but the album has one central theme, and that’s our hope for the world to be one family,” Hemphill says.

General admission tickets for tonight’s performance cost $35, plus fees. For more information visit SOJA’s website at sojamusic.com.

Kilohana Pavilion is at 3-2087 Kaumuali‘i Highway in Puhi.

• Chris D’Angelo, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or lifestyle@thegardenisland.com.

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