If someone were to ask me, “What’s the best reggae band out there right now?”, I’d have to say (with great conviction) that there’s one band that takes the cake: Katchafire. Hailing from the vibrant island of New Zealand, Katchafire has been putting out a red-hot reggae sound since 1997. Originally, they started as a cover band doing Bob Marley songs, playing in local clubs and bars all around New Zealand. After some years, though, these seven guys found major success making their own music and haven’t looked back. They have dropped four stellar albums thus far: "Revival" (2003), "Slow Burning" (2005), "Say What You’re Thinking" (2007), and "On the Road Again" (2010).
Although many bands in the reggae world have several distinctive traits, none of them even come close to the melodious and spiritual vibe that these guys emit in every one of their songs. For example, a lot of reggae bands add harmony to their vocals to enhance their overall sound. Usually, this is done with two band members. However, with Katchafire, you get a full four-part harmony that just makes you want to close your eyes and float away.
Secondly, Katchafire boasts a horn section that compares to any in the business. What differentiates them in this regard, though, is their ability to tap into the old sound of legendary Jamaican artists who have put down famous horn lines over the years, such as Tommy McCook or Don Drummond. Really, when you hear their saxophone and trumpet players begin to toot their horns, you’re taken back in time to a dance hall in Kingston where reggae roots music originated. And even though they have the ability to encapsulate the sound of past reggae pioneers, Katchafire brings a new powerful force of sound that no one else can conquer.
Ranging from up-tempo ska tunes to rocksteady to fat roots rhythms, these guys play with spunk, funk, and extreme versatility. This is the over-arching characteristic that makes them the best reggae band- versatility. There are bands out there that have the same song format, or play the same type of hook, or have just one mode and one mode only. This is definitely not the case with Katchafire- these islanders keep you on your toes with their variations in timing and style, and they always keep you moving your dancing feet.
Not only that, their live performances have the same level of precision and sound quality as all of their songs on any of their albums. For instance, take the song “Get Away” on their “Revival” album: this song contains contains several layers of vocal harmonies, instrumental harmonies, dynamic rhythms, and a prominent horn line to go on top of all of that. As anybody with common sense would guess, this song must have taken weeks to record and master. They bring this very same perfection and quality from the studio to the live stage, and without an effort it would seem. You should see it for yourself- this is a world-class band playing world-class music (and they are at the top of their class).
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