Album Review :
Christafari - Reggae Worship: A Roots Revival
- How Great Is Our God (feat. Avion Blackman & Jennifer Howland)
- He Is Greater Than I (feat. Avion Blackman)
- Hosanna (feat. Avion Blackman & Jennifer Howland)
- He Is Coming (feat. Sherwin Gardner)
- Everlasting God
- Great Things/Psalm 126 (feat. Avion Blackman)
- Agnus Dei (feat. David Fohe)
- Faithful One (feat. Tiago Costa)
- To Obey
- Song of Hope/Heaven Come Down (feat. Dominic Balli)
- Celebrate You (feat. Monty G)
- Every Day of My Life
- I Surrender All (feat. Tiago Costa)
- I Shall Not Be Moved (feat. Solomon Jabby, Vanessa Mardueno & Avion Blackman)
- Roots Revival (feat. Dillavou)
- Resolute/Old Rugged Cross/At the Cross (feat. Avion Blackman)
Forming in 1990 by Mark Mohr, Christafari’s mission is clear: to spread the word of Christ to Rastafarians, a group of people who immerse themselves in the Rastafari movement, one which arose in 1930s Jamaica and whose followers worship Haile Selassie I, emperor of Ethiopia and believed by Rastafarians to be God incarnate. Filled with plenty of reggae sounds birthed from the Caribbean, Christafari have released their latest album, Reggae Worship: A Roots Revival; to much acclaim with many listeners respecting the band’s mission to influence the Rastafari people. With the name of the band taking roots from the Greek word Cristoforos meaning ‘the Christ bearer’, the band’s latest musical offering incorporates many worship covers and original melodies, all infused with a traditional Caribbean flavour with listeners able to hear their beloved worship songs heard in a new arrangement as we realise the band’s goal to promote Christ’s message to those who need it more than ever. Full of colourful musical arrays, Reggae Worship: A Roots Revival is one of the most musically diverse releases of 2012!
Full of musical instruments reflecting Jamaican culture, Christafari has managed to have a great mix between covers and originals, giving me enough interest to listen to their renditions of Hillsong’s ‘Hosanna’, Chris Tomlin’s ‘How Great is Our God’, and Michael W. Smith’s ‘Agnus Dei’. With their focus firmly on Christ, Christafari have created a great rendition of ‘Agnus Dei’ in particular, complete with backing vocals, guitars, shakes, and a choir to soak in the Caribbean spirit as listeners cry out ‘…Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, Worthy is the Lamb…You are Holy…’ Filled with horns, sliding guitars and other interesting instruments, this timeless Michael W. Smith melody is given a great Caribbean re-imagining. Chris Tomlin’s ‘How Great is Our God’ is also applied the Caribbean treatment, with plenty of brass instruments, electronic keyboards and a swaying percussion to move even the distant of listeners. Sounding at times to both Marc Martel and Jason Germain of Downhere, Christafari have created a unique and distinct first track to submerse listeners as they proclaim ‘…how great is our God, sing with me, how great is our God, and all will see how great, how great is our God…’ ‘Hosanna’, written by Brooke Fraser, sounds drastically different from the original, filled with plenty of ‘call-and-response’ ‘ayah, heyoh’ backing vocals as Mark Mohr teams up with his wife Avion Blackman and singer Jennifer Howland for one of the most reggae-like tracks on the album. With a heavy bass-line and great harmonies amidst the horns and electric guitars, ‘Hosanna’ excels nicely as one of the most celebrated worship songs of the decade. A lesser known ‘Song of Hope’, originally recorded by Robbie Seay Band, is complete with a heavy emphasis on vocals and keyboards, slowing the tempo and creating slower melody, equally as powerful as listeners reflect upon the lyrical truths of how our lives are ‘…all things new, I can start again, creator God, calling me a friend…’ At times sounding like Robbie Seay himself, Mark offers up a great rendition to a great song!
Christafari’s ‘He is Greater than I’ is the first single from the album, and showcases the very message of how we should see ourselves in the story of Christ. Filled with plenty of musical ingeniousness creating an electro-dance melody filled with the same Christafari reggae sounds of their previous covers, Mark and Avion have created a song to be revered for its message as we understand that as Christ increases, we ought to decrease. God is greater than everything we can ever muster, and through plenty of backing vocals, and a distinctive Jamaican sound featuring loads of percussion; this melody imparts to us something that though only a small phrase ‘…he is greater than I…’, is so profound in how we look at the world around us. As we immerse ourselves in the knowledge of who we are and who He is, and how we are loved, forgiven and accepted in His sight, we are free from everything that has held us down.
Hymns ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’ and ‘I Surrender All’ are both on this album lineup, each unique and distinct as the Caribbean influence infuses throughout each song. Though not familiar with ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’, listening to it and being reminded about how our foundation is in Christ alone, gives all who hear the melody a reason to cry out as we stand firm in the Word of God and His promises for us. Starting with an electronic keyboard, ‘I Surrender All’ encompasses an extra tag ‘…surrender my heart unto the throne, Lord I cannot on my own, surrender I heart unto You King…choose me, use me with this song I sing, make me, take me as Your offering…’ that is refreshing as Christafari create one of my favourite renditions of this timeless hymn. Original song ‘Faithful One’ features a slow acoustical percussion hook as guest singer Tiago Costa proclaims that Christ is the ‘…faithful one, You are the God of my salvation, You are the faithful one…’ Sounding familiar to another song that I can’t remember, this is a refreshing melody about our faithfulness to Christ, knowing that He first gave us everything in Himself dying and rising to life; to take our punishment. Featuring plenty of brass instruments, ‘Faithful One’ is a certain highlight on this 17 track album! ‘He is Coming’ starts off with a ‘…He is coming…’ vocal reminiscent of The Lion King’s ‘Circle of Life’, creating a hymn-like melody with a repetitious hook reminding us of Christ’s return and for us to be ready for Him. Percussion driven, ‘He is Coming’ is a great lively addition as I can’t help up and join in the celebration of Christ’s return. The final song on the album is the medley ‘Resolute/The Old Rugged Cross/At the Cross’, as singer Avion Blackman distorts the melody of the hymn ‘Old Rugged Cross’, creating a song that fits together with the tag ‘Resolute’, filled with a plethora of percussion and brass. Similar to how Leigh Nash wrote different melodies to her hymn covers, this 5 minute melody encompassing 3 songs showcases a 21st century melody filled with timeless biblical truths, worthy to be placed as the album closer!
Overall: Featuring a conglomeration of unique Caribbean renditions of favourite worship melodies, as well as some original Christafari tunes, this reggae worship band have created a unique album and will place a smile on anyone who listens to it. As I listened to this album, which gave me more of an appreciation of the reggae genre, I am able to remind myself of Christ’s holiness and how He is ‘…the everlasting God, You do not faint, You won’t grow weary…’ (‘Everlasting God’). Featuring some of the most well-known and respected melodies of today’s generation, this album is a blessing for anyone with an appreciation for worship music with a reggae twist. Well done Christafari on such a compelling album!
RIYL: Bob Marley & The Wailers, Burning Spear, Israel Vibration & Johnny Clarke