Enjoy rich reggae with Edmonton’s Souljah Fyah

Popular band slated to perform at next month’s Central Music Festival

Edmonton-based Souljah Fyah can’t help but lift spirits with their lively, simmering reggae sounds.

The acclaimed band performs at the Central Music Festival Aug. 13, with their set slated to start at 3:15 p.m.

Fronted by lead singer and bassist Janaya ‘Sista J’ Ellis, Souljah Fyah is a high-energy reggae band with tunes that meld a smattering of genres.

But the foundation remains reggae.

“I think it’s important to say that reggae is not bubble gum music – it comes from the deep place of contemplation,” explains Ellis during a recent chat.

She describes the genre as originating in Jamaica with influences running the gamut from American pop radio to a range of African sounds and musical sensibilities.

Ellis started building the band back in 2001, and they landed their first gig in 2002. They released their self-titled debut in 2004, followed by Truth Will Reveal in 2008. Tears of a Fool followed in 2009 and I Wish was released late last year.

Ellis gave birth to her second child this past winter, so the band has been taking some time off before delving into the busy summer festival season.

She is excited to get on the road again, and the great thing about festivals in particular is that the kids can come along, she says with a laugh. Ellis was raised in a family that treasured music.

Her dad was from the West Indies so the music of that region was a household favourite. But other genres were very much appreciated as well, from country to classical.

Ellis did start piano lessons as a child but there was something about reggae that really captured her heart. She also knew early on she wanted to have a career in music.

“It didn’t seem like I had any other choice,” she explains. But education was also of interest, so she became a teacher as well. After graduating from university, she spent six months teaching on the Caribbean island of Anguilla. It proved a culturally rich time, and was absolutely inspiring for the young musician. “It was like coming home – I loved it there.”

She returned to Canada and set to work forming Souljah Fyah. They quickly garnered attention with their engaging, colourful style and sincere devotion to the music they love so much.

The band has headlined at the Winnipeg Soca and Reggae Festival and opened for Morgan Heritage and Mikey Dread. They have also been showcased at Cariwest in Edmonton, Carifest in Calgary and receive lots of airplay on local radio stations as well as CBC radio.

Ellis has also landed several accolades of her own over the years. She has received Global TV’s Woman of Vision award and the Big Miller Award for music achievement for her work in building Edmonton’s music scene.

For Ellis, there is nothing like engaging with audiences. And the music itself offers constant inspiration. “I feel empowered by it.”

Meanwhile, excitement is building for the Central Music Festival which is described as a family-friendly event showcasing an array of musical artistry.

Genres run the gamut from rock to blues to country to inspirational, with acts including the Steve Arsenault Band and Charlie Jacobson on Friday evening; Don Swift, The Odds, the Amy Bishop Trio and Jonas & the Massive Attraction on Saturday and an inspirational workshop with The Larsgaard Family Bluegrass Band and Friends on Sunday.

Other Sunday performers include Micah Turchet and Back Porch Swing.

Wrapping things up on Sunday afternoon is a songwriters’ circle/acoustic jam at 3:15 p.m.

Several other artists are set to perform as well throughout the event, which also includes a shuttle service from the Red Deer Lodge through the weekend.

Meanwhile, there are opportunities for sponsorship involvement and for volunteer help as well. Check out www.centralmusicfest.com for details.

Weekend passes are available for purchase at the web site as well.