Lion of Zion Entertainment (release date: April 13, 2018)
By Bob Marovich
Toward the end of Original Love, Christafari’s seventh consecutive album to debut at #1 on the Billboard reggae charts, we hear the gospel reggae band’s founder and lead vocalist, Pastor Mark Mohr, offer his testimony.
Although he grew up in a religious household, the teenaged Mohr turned to drugs and alcohol, started to sell marijuana, and eventually ended up living on the street. At rock bottom and nowhere to go but up, he had an encounter with God. It turned his life around.
Since his first love was reggae music, naturally Mohr expressed agape through reggae. A friend of his commented that he was no longer a Rastafarian but a Christafarian. The name stuck.
Mohr’s testimony puts the album’s songs in perspective, especially “The Love of Jah,” which lyrically integrates the Rastafarian word for God, culled from the Hebrew name for God (YHWH), with the name of Jesus.
Working within a genre where the beats are intentionally static and formulaic, Christafari differentiates its songs with an impressive variety of charming melodies, sassy blasts of brass, infectious choruses and, on “Wounded for Our Transgressions,” smooth Northern Soul harmonies.
The lyrics are essentially proclamations of praise and worship, though the object always returns to the reciprocal love between humans and their creator, such as on “The Love of Jah” and “Love Supreme.” The title track refashions the concept of original sin into original love. This line sums up the album’s premise: “If you know not God, you know not love,” and “If you know not love, you know not God.”
One lyric of specific interest is “Aloha Ke Akua,” (God is Love). It tells the story of Henry Opukahaia, a native Hawaiian missionary who helped bring Christianity to the Hawaiian Islands during the nineteenth century. The song concludes with the group’s head shaking warning that people have strayed and need to get back to God. It’s a fitting selection, as the members of Christafari consider themselves “musicianaries,” or musical missionaries.
The highlight of Original Love is “Beautiful Name,” a lovely melody that rocks lightly as the group gushes over the “wonderful name of Jesus.” It is an excellent example of the multicultural, multi-continental Christafari’s musical mélange of CCM and gospel fueled by the relentless drive of reggae.
Four of Five Stars
Pick: “Beautiful Name”