“Non Partial Non Political” – SOJA
SOJA, also known as Soldiers Of Jah Army, is a band based in Arlington, Virginia in the Northern Virginia / Washington D.C. area. Jacob Hemphill (vocals, guitar) and Bob Jefferson (bass) met in first grade shortly after Hemphill had returned with his family from living in Africa, where Jacob’s father was IMF resident representative in Monrovia, Liberia. He and Jefferson then met Ryan Berty (drums), Patrick O’Shea (keyboards), and Ken Brownell (percussion) in middle and high school.
The band has since created a moderate, but extremely dedicated fanbase. Most often my conversations with SOJA fans involve said fan having, at some point, traveled around the country for months on end following the band on tour. However, with music like this you can’t really blame them. Soja’s lyrics are laden with social commentary and spiritual messages. Lead singer Jacob Hemphill describes their approach to music thusly:
“To me, Rage Against The Machine, Wu -Tang Clan, Sade, Johnny Cash, Bob Marley – they’re all folk artists,” he says. “There’s no difference between Raekwon saying, ‘I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side, where staying alive was no jive,’ to Bob Marley saying, ‘Cold ground was my bed last night and rock was my pillow, too,’ to Johnny Cash saying, ‘I know I had it coming, I know I can’t be free, but those people keep on moving (around) and that’s what tortures me.’ Folk is all about storytelling and passing on a legacy. It’s timeless, it’s limitless and it crosses all boundaries. That’s what this band is striving for. It’s a tall order,” he laughs, “but we’re making our way.”