Won’t you take me to Funkytown?

Jah Soul brings a refreshing sound to Dayton

 By Deon Jefferson

Editor’s note: Jah Soul’s performance on June 15 was originally scheduled to take place at J-Alan’s, which recently closed. We would like to thank J-Alan’s for providing an eclectic, enthusiastic home for Dayton musicians over the years.

What do you get when you combine buzz-worthy music, uniquely crafted performances, innovative musical concepts and multi-talented vocalists? Music from bands that reside in Dayton, Ohio should have been your obvious answer. In fact, with the recent formation of the party band Jah Soul, Dayton shows no signs of slowing down.

Jah Soul is an eight member band that incorporates elements of soul, reggae, funk, disco and dance music into their live shows and their toe tapping original music. The future of “feel good music” has arrived, and in due time Jah Soul will be a saturating a dance floor near you.

Generally speaking, the story of how the band started reads like a page from a modern day fairy tale. Lead singer Adam Casada met bassist Brian Fortune on the hugely popular Craigslist back in 2011. The two performed with percussionist Terry Butts in a seven-piece band where they made their debut at the Yellow Cab Building for a skate park benefit. For that particular performance, the band did not have a name. They decided to perform nameless mainly because they were still trying to work out the group dynamics. Before long, the seven-piece band turned into a nine-member band that quickly became a force to be reckoned with.

Today, the Jah Soul Family consist of guitarist Greg Clem, percussionist Erich Reith, Lynetta Montgomery on keyboards, Justin Moore on the drums, bassist Brian Fortune, as well as lead vocalist/guitar player Adam Jah. The group also includes the Jah Sistahs, who serve as the sassy backup singers. Do not let the ladies fool you; these are not your traditional backup singers that are accustomed to occasional ooh’s and aah’s. The Jah Sistahs bring a certain swagger and sophistication to the group’s live shows that audiences always seem to thoroughly enjoy.

“They don’t just sing backup, they are a very important part of our show. We perform right next to each other all night. Together, they sing backup and keep the crowd entertained with their sultry dance moves,” added Casada.

The foundation of the Jah Soul sound is heavily rooted in reggae music, which is clearly evident in every high voltage performance. Jah Soul has a catalogue that features some cover songs from mainstream artists and original music that is produced and written by members of the group. Each member is from Dayton, so when it comes to writing original music they tend to reflect on the good times while living in Dayton. Rightfully so, they have a song that was penned about the Salem Mall.

“Back in the day, the Salem Mall was huge to all of us, it played a huge role in our adolescent days,” Casada said. “The mall produced so many good memories for us, so we decided to put it in a song.”

One song in particular, “Love is a Stranger,” is an upbeat, percussion-heavy song that finds the group singing about the universal topic of affection. Casada’s honey-like falsetto sings, “Love, love, love is a stranger/And the stranger is after you” on the funky track. Due to high demand, the band will be recording new music this spring/summer coinciding with the release of their first full-length album, which will be released later this year.

Jah Soul’s influences include musical icons such as Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, Prince, Michael Franti and Jimmy Cliff. By the same token, Jah Soul also marvels the life and illustrious career of Bob Marley, who is arguably the most influential reggae artist of all time.

For the most part, the band operates well together. They have a system of getting things done so that each member can share any thoughts or suggestions openly, this way everybody is included in the creative process. One of the proudest moments thus far came when the group had a chance to perform at last year’s reggae festival. Hundreds of people from the Dayton area gathered as the group brought the party to the annual downtown Dayton extravaganza. Jah Soul is relatively new to the Dayton area, but that has not stopped the group from mapping out a long-term legacy.

“We want to be remembered as a band that brings authentic music to the Dayton area, and a band that brings their A-game as well as the party,” said Casada. “We want to be respected as a band that makes people feel good in addition to a group of friends who appreciate Dayton funk bands that came before us like Zapp and Roger, Lakeside, Slave and the Ohio Players. We celebrate Dayton’s artistic scene with every live performance that we give.”

Jah Soul is scheduled to perform Saturday, June 15th at Canal Street Tavern, 308 E. First St. Also on the bill is Cricketbows. Doors at 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for 18 & up. For more information, please visit jahsoulfamily.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Deon Jefferson at DeonJefferson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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