Lior Ben-Hur Interview

Time to send some new music your way, Murfie friends! Lior Ben-Hur is a reggae musician currently residing in the city of San Francisco, California. His band goes by the same name. Lior is from Jerusalem originally, and has seen a lot of different countries—which is why his reggae tunes are infused with an infectious “world” sound. His EP is currently available on Murfie, and it has contributions from musician Marcus Urani of Groundation.

I was lucky enough to chat with him the other day! Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Lior Ben-HurK: Thank you so much for calling in, how’s everything going?

L: Everything is great, and you?

K: It’s great! Where are you calling from today?

L: From San Francisco.

K: Ah, love it. You know, San Francisco—I feel like people have been talking lately about how expensive it’s getting to live there. Do you find it’s hard to keep a band in that city?

L: Very hard, and the city has been changing a lot—especially where I live, which is the Mission District. The city used to be a good place for artists when I moved into this neighborhood about 10 years ago, but it’s been taken over by high tech people with good income, and good paychecks, which makes the landlords raise the rent a lot. I think in the last three years probably most of the rent around me has been raised almost 100%, which means the artists are leaving the city. The art scene is not really here as much anymore. There are still some people, like myself and the band, but still it’s kind of hard because things are changing.

K: You spend a lot of time touring with the band and traveling, which seems to be the way musicians survive nowadays. And you’re from Jerusalem originally, so you’ve seen a lot of different countries. What types of music have stood out as your favorite?

L: Well I’ve been traveling a lot, and music that I’m really inspired by is Latin music and Caribbean music. I’ve spent some time in Columbia, and this summer we toured there a little bit, and it was really great to hear the music over there. Obviously I’m really inspired by Cuban music, Jamaican music, and the Caribbean style, and also Latin music as a whole. I’ve also traveled in southeast Asia, so I spent a lot of time in India. I’m not very knowledgeable about their music, but I’m inspired by their culture—their way of seeing musicians, and their place in the culture and society.

K: Do you like any other US-based bands that are considered “world” bands, like yours?

L: There are a few bands in San Francisco. We do kind of world reggae stuff, so the idea is to take a lot of inspiration from reggae and bring a new twist to it. There’s a great world reggae band in Israel, in Tel Aviv—their name is Zvuloon Dub System, and they combine Ethiopian music with roots reggae. Being here in California, one of my biggest influences is Groundation, and their take on reggae with their jazz and other influences. There are also bands here that are more on the world side and Latin side, especially in the Bay Area. It’s very inspiring for me and for the band.

Harrison and Marcus from Groundation on Kayla's radio show!
Harrison and Marcus from Groundation on Kayla’s radio show!

K: I love Groundation! They’ve come here to Madison and I’ve seen them play. Marcus Urani from Groundation, who played on your EP, played on my radio show as well. How did you link up with him?

L: Groundation has been a great influence in my personal journey into reggae and live music. I’ve seen them live in San Francisco many many times. The first time was about eight or nine years ago, and when I saw them live, they kind of blew my mind. I took a lot of inspiration and vision from seeing what they do. For example, the instrumentation—they have a vocal section and horn section. That always was my dream to do a full band. I’ve been lucky to get connected with them just by being around the Bay Area, and I reached out to Marcus and Jim Fox, who is the guy who mixes their albums, and the one who mixed the EP. So I reached out to Marcus, and he was very nice and generous, and offered to help out. He came to the studio and helped out, and we really formed a relationship. He is a great guy. We connected in not only music but on a personal level, and since then we’ve been friends. Of course they tour a lot, so it’s hard to see him because most of the year they’re gone. But actually, we’re going to get in the studio this month in California and record the new album. He’ll be helping engineer and produce it.

K: That’s awesome news! Do you have any new directions planned for this album, or will it be a continuation of what’s on the EP?

L: There is a concept and a direction. The EP is a reggae EP—we’ve done a lot of music throughout the year, a lot of world music, and the idea with the EP is just to bring our take on reggae. There is some in English and some in Hebrew, which are both the languages that I speak fluently and sing. The new album is going to connect a little bit of my Israel and Jerusalem roots to this musical experience, and tell the journey of coming from Jerusalem to Israel in the lyrics, in the message, and also in the music components.

K: Great. Well I’m excited to see what you come up with! Thanks so much for taking time to talk today—keep us posted about all the things you have going on in the future!

L: Sure thing, thank you for the time.


Kayla Liederbach
@djkaylakush

Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.

Album Review: “A Miracle” by Groundation

A Miracle Groundation

In the opening lines of “Riddim Hold Dem,” the first track of Groundation‘s 11th studio album A Miracle, frontman Harrison Stafford sings:

“Without woman, what would man be?”

This question marks the beginning of an album centered around exploring and cherishing the role of women in life. Something I always loved about Groundation, a jazzy roots reggae band hailing from Northern California, is their inclusion of female vocalists in their recorded and live productions. Over the years, vocalists Kim Pommell and Sherida Sharpe have emerged as powerful forces in the band, and they play a strong part in this album. “They’re not backup singers by any stretch of the imagination,” said Harrison in a recent interview we had on my radio show. “Groundation is about a balance of sound—everybody really taking part, sharing the spotlight…this is a part of our one-ness.”

Joining forces with Groundation on this album are two mighty, mighty queens of reggae: Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt. Marcia and Judy, along with Rita Marley, were the I Threes—the original backing trio of Bob Marley & the Wailers in their heyday. Marcia’s gorgeous, etheral voice is considered one of the best in reggae music, and she is featured on track two, “Defender of Beauty.” Judy is featured on track six—the title track—”A Miracle,” sounding enticingly bluesy and soulful, combining perfectly with the jazzy piano and brass which set Groundation apart from other roots reggae bands.

A Miracle is a solid continuation of Groundation’s other recorded works. You can expect the previously-mentioned jazzy keys and saxophone, and the heavy, heavy basslines that make you want to fall to the floor. Their live show is a must-see. It’s good for your soul!

Along with the woman-centric theme, Groundation covers familiar ground with their lyrics—the state of the world, a call for liberation, trust in Jah, and the power of music. Within the woman-centric theme itself lies the curveball—because very rarely, if at all, had Groundation sung about romantic love. But in this case, as you will hear on the last track “Cupid’s Arrow,” it’s far from wishy-washy. It’s about real respect and equality. “Respect me, do the right….oh love me absolutely, and you and I shall prosper.”

Track four, “Gone A Cemetery,” has made the list of my favorite Groundation songs. It’s about a freedom fighter who met a cruel end. I don’t know if it’s about a specific person—if it is, I’m curious to know. Besides the lyrics, the melody is great.

Groundation is an internationally-acclaimed band, and their message is spiritual and universal. I strongly recommend picking up this album, plus more from the Groundation discography, and anything created or produced by Harrison Stafford—someone who works tirelessly to preserve reggae history and spread positive music to the masses.

From the inner liner notes of A Miracle: “This album is livicated to the beautiful female spirit: The powerful empress who manifests creation.”

Big up Groundation!



Kayla Liederbach
@djkaylakush

Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.