If you are heading to the Souljah Fyah show this weekend, you might consider bringing a small towel.
“You can expect to sweat at a Souljah Fyah show,” says bassist and vocalist Waymatea “Sista J” Ellis, laughing.
The hardworking roots reggae band and Western Canadian Music Award winners put a lot of energy into its live shows. And the band is really serious about getting everybody up and dancing.
“I used to make cookies at our old shows or give CDs away to make people dance,” she says. “We’re not above bribery to make sure people dance and have a good time.”
Since its debut in 2002, the group has fostered Jamaican 1960s genre in Edmonton.
Souljah Fyah was born when bassist and vocalist Waymatea “Sista J” Ellis put an ad out in SEE Magazine that said: “Looking for players to start a Caribbean band.”
Ellis met percussionist Bongbiemi “The Original Tribesman” Nfor and continued adding members. Eventually, Ellis and Nfor picked up bassist and keyboardist Dr Paul Joosse and two other Edmonton reggae veterans, drummer/vocalist Dorant “Saint” Ricketts and keyboardist Stormin’ Norm Frizzell, who were original members of the seasoned Edmonton reggae band Reality.
Souljah Fyah’s lyrics promote positivity and political awareness, but the message of the song is never preconceived. The groove and feeling of the song helps form the lyrical content.
And sometimes those politically alert lyrics originate from the natural chaos of the world. This is most obvious in Souljah Fyah’s 2009 song “Rwanda,” which is easily just as powerful now as it was during its release.
“That sort of juxtaposition with jovial sounding reggae music with extremely raw lyrics can sometimes be the interruption that gets people’s attention,” Ellis says.
Since forming almost 15 years ago, Souljah Fyah has released Tears of a Fool, an EP, and three full-length albums—Souljah Fyah, Truth Will Reveal, and I Wish. The band’s fourth long-waited album The Long Walk will be available on August 19.
In putting together The Long Walk, the band travelled to Jamaica to record a large chunk of the tracks.
“I think that going there evolved the album, too,” adds Rickett. “We went there with sort of a box mind-set and it expanded when we started to incorporate some of the locals on the album.”
One such find was session horn player Frank Aird, who has toured with the likes of James Brown and Michael Jackson.
“It was so surreal. Here we were in Negril and we just happened upon this long-haired Rastafarian guy on the beach carrying his horn and it turned out to be Frank Aird. We were like ‘wanna come to the studio?’ and he just blew our minds,” Ellis says.
The Long Walk also captures a unique time for the band, when they felt the most cohesive.
“While we love all of the other albums it finally feels like we captured what we actually sound like,” Ellis says.
The mood of “All Is Still,” (the lead track featured on the upcoming album) is immediately felt with the sombre sounding accompaniment of keyboards and Ellis’ lyrics. The song then explodes into a catchy and energetic ballad with a powerful message much similar to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”—no matter what problems you and the world face, there will be moments where everything is still and everything will be all right.
“All Is Still” is a very personal song for the band. The lyrics were written by their friend Kelly Callin, a founding member of The Soulicitors who sadly drowned in Cabo San Lucas three years ago when a wave pulled him out to sea.
“Just listen to the lyrics. If you truly know how Kelly died, it’s really quite eerie and powerful.” Ellis says.
Souljah Fyah has made its mark as the core reggae band in Edmonton, but it would love to see others dabble in the genre.
“We need a bigger community and more mindedness for reggae. People just like to hold on because there is such a shortage of bands. Let’s change that. If any musician or band wants advice or to collaborate with us we’re open to it,” says Ellis.
“The reggae scene has grown since we started out, but I think that when people come to Edmonton they don’t think of reggae. We need to baptize them. Don’t take that literally, but I know the people are hungry for it,” Nfor adds.
It seems that Edmonton will soon be in the middle of a Reggae revolution, and we have Souljah Fyah to thank for that.
Fri, Aug 19
The Long Walk CD release party
The Needle, $15 in advance