Virginia reggae-rock band SOJA (the name stands for Soldiers of Jah Army) take the mellow music of uplift and head-nodding rhythms, giving it a nice American spin. Frontman Jacob Hemphill spent some formative years in West Africa as a child, and that doubtless shaped his understanding of how music can be a transformative force in the face of hardship and suffering.
Hemphill admirably avoids the pitfall of fake patois that many American reggae singers tumble into. Reggae has been a remarkable tool for giving voice to the oppressed, and SOJA takes up the challenge. The band’s latest record, “Poetry in Motion,” released last fall, touches on the dark state of current events. “Bad News” addresses current-events fatigue. “The lowest-common-denominator is president,” sings Hemphill. “It’s getting old, the bad news,” goes the refrain.
Despite that, SOJA has been making music for 20 years, and the band’s not about wallowing in negativity. Its music conveys the idea that life on earth could be a lovely communal, peaceful thing if people would just not be such violent, greedy, lying jerks to one another. The band has a huge following in South America and Hawaii, places where reggae and positive vibes reman popular.
SOJA performs at College Street Music Hall, 238 College St., New Haven, on Tuesday, March 6, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 to $35. collegestreetmusichall.com.