||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2013)|
Christafari in concert
|Labels||Lion of Zion, Gotee|
Christafari is a Christian reggae band formed in 1990. It is centered on the personality of ordained religious minister Mark "Tansoback" Mohr (born October 23, 1971), an American, born-again Christian. Until the age of 17, Mohr was a Rastafarian. The essential goal of Christafari is to promote Christianity to Rastafarians.
As a rebellious drug addicted youth, Mohr found an affinity for reggae music and became a marijuana grower and Rastafarian after a visit to Jamaica in 1986. He became well-versed in reggae music and learned Jamaican patois, the dialect prevalent in most reggae music. In 1989 the seventeen-year-old Mohr stopped using marijuana and committed his life to Christ at JH Ranch, a Christian camp. Two weeks later at another Christian youth camp Mohr wrote and performed his first gospel reggae song "Give Me Everything I Need" at a talent show. The bass-player that day said; "So you're no longer a Rastafarian, you're a Christafarian." The name stuck. Initially called the "Christafarians" Mark was backed by the "Steadfast" crew for his first few shows (September and October 1989). Eventually Mohr shortened the name to "Christafari", (pronounced Christ-a-far-eye) and pieced together his own band members.
Their first album, Reggae Worship, reached the Billboard Charts and created a buzz in the industry, garnering the attention of DC Talk's tobyMac who then signed the group to Gotee Records. Soulfire proved to be an early success for the fledgeling Gotee Records. Valley Of Decision spent 15 weeks in the top 10 of Billboard's "Top Reggae Albums" chart. The label began as a production company. Originally intending to produce Out of Eden's Lovin' the Day, they couldn't find a label to sign the act to, and so began distributing the band's material on their own.
WordSound&Power marked Christafari's departure from Gotee and the birth of Mohr's Lion of Zion Entertainment record label. The album was nominated in four categories in the 2000 Caribbean Gospel Music Marlin Awards. Christafari then released DubSound&Power, the bands's first dub album and arguably the first Christian dub album ever recorded. After this the group released Palabra Sonido Y Poder (Word Sound & Power), the group's Spanish debut that featured the single "El Amor De Mi Vida" (No. 1 in 11 Latin American Countries). After this Christafari released Gravity (2003), Gravitational Dub (2004) and their first children's album Reggae Sunday School (2005). 2007 Marked the release of Christafari's To the Foundation and the birth of the Positive Music Agency. Christafari toured 180 shows in 20 countries in promotion of To the Foundation.
In early 2009 the group headed back into the studio to record their 20th anniversary album "No Compromise" with subsequent tours in Europe, Latin America and the USA. In late 2009 the band went back into their studio the "Zionic Sounds Dub Lab" to record their second Spanish album, Reggae De Redencion. This project was released in mid-2010. In late 2011 they released two dub albums; Majestic Heights in Dub and Dub Shots. They also released Gospel Reggae Praise, a compilation project.
In 2012, Christafari released Reggae Worship: A Roots Revival, their first worship album in almost 20 years. This breakthrough album once again catapulted them onto the Billboard Charts. The CD debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Reggae Chart, No. 10 on Billboards Christian Albums Chart and No. 39 on the Independent Albums Chart. Nearly nine months after this album was released, Christafari jumped to No. 1 on the Billboard Reggae Albums Chart. This marks the first time in Billboards history that a Christian artist has secured the top spot. The band was recently featured on ABC Family's The 700 Club, and TBN filmed a live concert appearance in Hawaii for a special broadcast.
Christafari has also started their own film company, "Rank and File", and filmed various music videos such as Christafari's "Try Jah Love", "Taking in the Son/Brilla Sobre Mi", Jennifer Howland's "Righteous Revolution", and three videos from Avion Blackman's Third World Girl album. Over the past five years Christafari has had a busy tour schedule. The band currently does around 100 shows a year in about 20 countries.
Christafari's lyrics are characterized by a heart for Rastafarians, a passion for reaching the drug-afflicted counter-culture and a distinctly evangelical Christian message. Two examples are the songs "Why You A-go Look?" (WordSound&Power) and "Teachings of His Majesty" (Reggae Redemption Songs II), which use the words of Haile Selassie I (former Emperor of Ethiopia) to challenge the veneration of this Christian king as Almighty God incarnate.
Musically, the group fuses rustic roots with modern dancehall and yardee culture to create their own singature sound. Full of vibrant horns and rich female harmonies (by Avion Blackman and Jennifer Howland), the group has nine to ten members. In 1997 there was a division in the group that led to a split. Many of the members wanted to go mainstream in both sound and message, while Mohr refused to compromise the group's authenticity of sound or their evangelical message just to sell a few more records.
Mohr came out of the split releasing the landmark, "WordSound&Power" and launching Lion of Zion Entertainment. Erik Sundin and others formed Temple Yard. While Christafari continued with roots reggae and dancehall, Temple Yard was fusion oriented, showing pop, reggae, soul, and gospel influence similar to mainstream artists like UB40 or Big Mountain. Temple Yard released one CD on Gotee Records and then were dropped from the label and subsequently broke up.
Through his ever-evolving band and various artist compilations, Mohr was arguably the first to record and internationally distribute the following subgenres of gospel music: reggae, dancehall, soca, me-reggae, jungle, raggamuffin hip-hop, dub and various other styles. Mohr has always placed the popularity of gospel reggae before his own band. He is the founder and president of GospelReggae.com, a webstore that boasts the largest selection of gospel reggae and world music in the world including artists like Papa San, Carlene Davis and Zema.
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Some Rastafarians are offended because Christafari members wear dreads and use their colors (red, gold and green) and the Star of David (an image prominent in Rastafari culture) in an attempt to become all things to all men and bring Rastas to Christ. Some Rastafarians reject this approach and view Christafari's message as a direct attack on the divinity of Selassie I. Christafari argues that they are only fulfilling the challenge set forth by Haile Selassie himself who publicly denied being Christ and said, "Let us labor to lead our sisters and brothers to our Saviour Jesus Christ." Selassie was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian and many Rastafarians identify themselves as such, though others identify as Jewish by religion and Rastafari by ideology.
Some Christians are offended because Mohr and other band members wear dreadlocks and sing in a style typically associated with Rastafari. They have also criticized Mohr over the name of the group and the use of the word "Jah" in songs to refer to the Judeo-Christian God. The band has previously defended the use of the word with the argument that "Jah" is a shortening for "Yahweh" (also spelled "Jahweh") as used in the Bible. They are not the only Christian musical group to do this however, a primary example is P.O.D..
Christafari has played with many musicians over its 20 year career. Thus it is difficult to construct a complete list of former members. The current line-up is:
- Mark Mohr — Founder, lead vocals, producer and key songwriter
- Avion Blackman-Mohr (Mark's wife) - Bass, background and lead vocals
- Makamae Auwae — Background and lead vocals
- Obie Zachary Obien — Lead Guitar
- Solomon Jabby — Guitar, percussion and background vocals
- Justin Nalimu — Keyboards
- Tyrone Rudulph — Drums
- Jacquie Gaviria — Saxophone
Former Members featured on studio recordings include:
- Drums: Jay Press, Ken Yarnes, Kevin Kelleher, Glen Pfaff and Fritz Madden
- Bass: Jimmy Connolly, Lyndon Allen, Johnny Guerrero and Jim Kleinman
- Guitar: Bill Kasper, Anthony Case, Rick Strickland and Rob Alo
- Keyboards: James Pach, Marky Rage, Rob Ray, Scott Whelan, Jeremy "Jezza" Borum, Bobby Cressey and Ryan Skiles
- Saxophone: Johnny Guerrero, Max Fulwider, Jayme Koerselman and Allen Mascari
- Trumpet: Joey Ko, Denver Bierman, Carlos Centeno and Matt Murdock
- Trombone: Danny Ramirez, Barry Greene and Stephen Scot Hughes
- Vocals: Erik Sundin, James Pach
- Background vocals: Jennifer Howland, Dyna, Letitia Eugweke and Wendy Marin
- Reggae Worship Volume I (1993)
- Soulfire (1995)
- Valley of Decision (1996)
- Word, Sound, and Power (1999)
- Reggae Worship: First Fruits (1999) - a re-release of their first album with some new material and previously unreleased earlier recordings.
- Dub, Sound, and Power (2000) - a collection of Dub versions of songs, mostly from Word, Sound, and Power.
- Palabra, Sonido, Y Poder (2001) - versions of their songs overdubbed in Spanish.
- Gravity (2003)
- Gravitational Dub (2004) - a collection of Dub versions of songs, mostly from Gravity'
- Reggae Sunday School (2005)
- To the Foundation (2007) 
- No Compromise (2009)
- Reggae de Redención (2010)
- Majestic Heights in Dub (2011)
- Dubshots (2011)
- Reggae Worship: A Roots Revival (2012)
- Reggae Revolution 2, Christafari and Friends (2012)
- Reggae Christmas (2013)
- Powell, Mark Allan (2002). "Christafari". Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music (First printing ed.). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. pp. 171–172. ISBN 1-56563-679-1.
- Cooksey, G. (2005). "Christafari". In Pilchak, Angela M., ed. Contemporary Musicians. Volume 51. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale Group. pp. 22–24. ISBN 0-7876-8064-8. ISSN 1044-2197.
- Price, Deborah Evans (1996-12-07). "Gotee grows into Christian boutique". Billboard Magazine 108 (49): 11–13.
- (unsigned) (May / June 2000). "News: Hip-Hop / Dance". 7ball (30): 16. ISSN 1082-3980.
- Kirk, Trevor (June 1999). "Temple Yard - Temple Yard". Cross Rhythms (51). Retrieved 2007-04-24.
- Powell (2002). "Temple Yard". Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music. p. 938. ISBN 1-56563-679-1.
- The Phantom Tollbooth review
- Akins, Debra (November 1995). "Christafari Makes Waves on Sunsplash Tour". CCM Magazine 18 (5): 28. ISSN 1524-7848.
- "Christafari". 7ball (6). May / June 1996.