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Reggae Has a Home in Boston

Reggae band Ila Mawana performing at Boston's Middle East

Hey everybody! It’s been a while! This past weekend I got to see a small show at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA. Featuring three bands, Bearquarium, Buffalo Soul, and Ila Mawana. These three bands performed together to honor Bob Marley on his birthday. I was also fortunate enough talk with Ila Mawana, a segment of which I will include later in the article — so keep reading!!

I am a fan of reggae music especially Bob Marley and some other older stuff as well as new stuff like Easy Star-All Stars; now, I’ve become a fan of bands like Ila Mawana and Buffalo Soul who are revolutionizing reggae and re-surging it back into the mainstream. Mastering the sub-genre of reggae known as “dub”, Ila Mawana in particular is creating original music that has the same feel-good qualities and messages as old school reggae, while bringing something new and fresh to the genre.

For those of you who don’t know, “Dub” is a musical technique that includes modifying a song by dynamically adding extensive echo, reverb, panoramic delay, and occasional dubbing of vocal or instrumental snippets from the original version.

Anyway, like I said Ila Mawana has truly mastered this technique, and have done so during their live performances which I never though was possible, since this was my first reggae concert. Not all of their songs are in dub, but a lot of them are, and it really adds a whole new element to live performances. Their stage presence was happy and soulful with the front row of guitar, lead vocals, sax, and trombone feeling the groove the whole time; the entire band just looked like they loved what they were doing and every show is a ton of fun for them.

Their music was not just good, but it was captivating, you felt it in your bones, and it just brought a smile to my face at least. The entire audience was feeling it on some level whether just tapping their foot or fully rocking out to the songs, which is impressive. This venue was in a college town, so the crowd was young in general, and a lot of people, myself included, looked like they didn’t fit in with the true fans and friends of the band, but by the time Ila Mawana hit the stage, everyone was just enjoying the sound and feeling good inside, which is what I think, as a band, Ila Mawana is trying to deliver.

Reggae music is not in the mainstream, but hopefully these younger generations of bands like Ila Mawana will shed some light on this amazing musical style. True harmony is created between nine different instruments and amazing music that just make you feel good is the result.

As I said earlier, I had the opportunity to talk to Sammy (Drums) and Dave (Guitar) before the show, and so I just asked them a couple of general questions to see what they are all about. Here are some of those.

Me – “Where did the name Ila Mawana Come from, and what does it mean?”

Dave – “Ila Mawana just kinda came up cause we really just wanted to create something that was really unique to ourselves, something that no other band would have, something really personal, and you know it kinda just flowed off the tongue, it’s kind of like our Hakuna Matata, it’s our like good vibes.”

Me – “How did you guys all meet and become a band, and how long have you been together?”

Dave – “Well you know we’ve been playing together for a little while, recently the band really jumped off when we met Sammy Wags and Jason his roommate, that’s when things really started picking up, you know we met just around Boston in the local scene, we played a show together kind of improv, and it was just so nasty that we had to stick with it, and we got a really good group of guys right now.”

Sammy – “Yea they’d been playing a bunch, and me and Jason the organ player had been playing a bunch, and he heard about them and we kinda just got together and formed the band.”

Me – “Alright sweet, so what are your songs generally about, and who or what are your influences?”

Dave – “Our songs are less religious and spiritual than a lot of reggae bands you might here out there, but you know, we sing about the things that influence us like nature, and just things that are directly involved in our lives, uh we have some songs about not wanting to work, uh you know the 40 hours a week, and you know we just want to live our lives differently then the normal might be, but our songs kind of portray who we really are.”

Sammy – “Yea we want to keep the lyrics grounded, you know grounded in who we are and what we know and we try not to go over our heads too much, you know simple, good vibrations, and a good positive message.”

Me- “Cool, yea I get that vibe, So who writes the songs?”

Dave – “The songwriting is collective, it’s a collective process, you know lyrics come mostly from our singer, and we pretty much sit down in a room and jam out, and we write things together rather then one person writing all the material and telling everyone how to play it, you know it’s part of what makes us so close as a band.”

Sammy – “Yea really open minded, especially tonight we are playing a lot of new material, and it really came from each of us bringing little snippits of things to the table, and then everybody really keeping an open mind about the feel and the idea, and not necessarily saying we have to play this strict reggae sound or vibe, saying hey we can improve on our own sound.”

Me – “And your influences?”

Sammy – “Uh Bob Marley obviously is huge, he’s a legend, but there’s a lot of new reggae bands that really influence us. We have the great pleasure of opening up for Groundation next week, I know at least for myself and Dave, they are such a progressive, positive force, uh John Brown’s Body, we know people in these bands, we see them constantly, you know we really just try and find the artists out there that are not gonna do the same electronic drums, electronic this and that, people that are actually out there with a full band and just play good music.”

Me – “Ok. Now weird question, you guys are on Twitter, do you like it? has it helped your fan base grow?”

Dave – “Haha yea, everything helps, you know to a certain extent we want to put ourselves out there, everywhere, but I wouldn’t say being on Twitter helps us any more then talking to people on the street would help us, and we’re all about just word of mouth.”

Sammy – ” You know it’s hard electronically especially if we have a show coming up, it’s hard sending out the text blasts and the email blasts, I mean I know we all really try and pick up the phone and say ‘hey, you know, I’m playing, come check it out’, with an actual personal greeting as much as possible.”

So that’s about half of my interview with Dave and Sammy of Ila Mawana, just to give you readers a little insight to the dynamics of the band and what they are all about. They put on a great live show, and they currently have a EP on iTunes, so check out this new wave of reggae music and definitely check out Ila Mawana, follow them on Twitter too @ilamawana.

Here is their setlist from that night:

  1. Jigyo Keta
  2. Grow My Way
  3. Frankly
  4. Soldier’s of Sound
  5. Golden Age
  6. Heaven’s Beach
  7. Burnin
  8. Voodoo Spell
  9. Heavy Circles
  10. Mortal Motion
  11. Green Bridge
  12. Wake up and Live/Forever Loving Jah
  13. Dub Electa
  14. Karmaland

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1 Legacy Comment

  • Comment by Lala posted February 01, 2011 at 19:21

    I’m going to listen to Ila Mawana this weekend, 2011 celebration at the Middle East, I was there recently and the place really has character, I checked out what was playing and found these guys. I haven’t heard them before, just on youtube now, and they really rock, they have a great sound and I like the fact that it’s not so religious as other tunes can be.
    Anyway, I’m hoping for a good crowd and a good mood on friday…
    Nice hearing about them and what they stand for…
    Cheers!!!