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.

VOTE: 2015 Murfie Listener’s Choice Awards

If you’re like us at the office… then maybe you enjoy the excitement of the GRAMMYs, but you think the nominees aren’t really THE best out of all the music out there. Obviously a lot of it has to do with what’s mainstream, what’s played on commercial radio, and things like that.

The Murfie staffers discussed this a bit, and we came up with our own list of nominees and categories. We have a broad range of musical taste here and totally pride ourselves on exploring what’s not popular, without denying the popular stuff that’s rightfully good.

Now, you, the people, can choose the winners in our 2015 Murfie Listener’s Choice Awards! Voting ends on Thursday, February 5th at noon—one vote per person, please! We’ll let you know who the winners are before the GRAMMYs air on Sunday February 8th!

Click the “Vote” button after each category to save your vote.

[Click “Continue reading” to view all categories]

Continue reading VOTE: 2015 Murfie Listener’s Choice Awards

Your Dose of Cool: Gregory Isaacs

Gregory Isaacs is the Cool Ruler. He is widely known for his “Lovers Rock” style of reggae, singing songs about women, heartache, and of course, lots of lovers.

Gregory was born in 1951 in Kingston, Jamaica, which was a hotbed of talent for reggae in the 1970s by the time he reached adulthood. He was, and still is, known for his unique voice and catchy melodies. He recorded songs with some of Jamaica’s most well-respected producers, including Lee “Scratch” Perry and Niney the Observer. During his lifetime, he reached international success alongside others like Bob Marley and Dennis Brown. Sadly, Gregory died of lung cancer in 2010, but his musical legacy lives on today, and his music is loved by those who truly appreciate great reggae.

One of his most popular songs is “Night Nurse.”

In 2011, over a dozen modern reggae artists joined together to make a compilation of Gregory Isaacs covers for the album We Remember Gregory Isaacs. The album contains performances by Tarrus Riley, Jah Cure, and Busy Signal, to name a few. The lovely ladies Etana and Alaine put their own spin on Gregory covers as well. Disc two of the album has the same track list, only with saxophone instead of vocals, played by the famous Jamaican saxophonist Dean Fraser who has contributed to hundreds of recordings over the course of his career. The album is certainly a treasure and a wonderful tribute to Gregory.

Check out our selection of Gregory Isaacs albums on Murfie and get some Cool Ruler in your collection!


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.


Thankful for Music!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we at Murfie wanted to share some music that we’re most thankful for. Music is what we’re all about—we listen to it all the time at work, at home, and everywhere. Here are the bands and genres that we couldn’t possibly live without.

Matt is thankful for Latin Jazz.

“I’m quite thankful for latin jazz. I’ve always been fascinated with the intricate rhythms and thick chord structures present in the genre. Plus, the music is downright fun. I had the privilege of taking in one Tito Puente‘s final concerts, and have been hooked for life. As a piano player, most of my favorite latin jazz picks involve strong keyboard parts. Just about everything by Eddie Palmieri is amazing. Learning latin jazz piano is on my bucket list.”

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Brandon is thankful for music recommended by his friend Cole.

“These are some of my good friend Cole’s favorite albums. I am thankful for them because even though Cole passed away in 2012, I still feel close to him when I play these tunes. It’s amazing how music can do that!”

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Kayla is thankful for Reggae.

“I am most thankful for reggae music. Ever since I started listening to it, my life has become so much more positive. This music has connected me to the most amazing people, and being able to play it for people on the radio gives me a sense of purpose and meaning. Older artists like King Tubby, Burning Spear, The Gladiators, Augustus Pablo and Barrington Levy drew me in deep. Later on I fell in love with new bands like Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, 10 Ft. Ganja Plant and John Brown’s Body, and I’ll travel far and wide to see them play, whenever I can!”

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Jeff is thankful for Noise Rock.

“What is that ungodly sound? Noise rock is an inverted umbrella of bands using standard rock instruments to deconstruct, mangle, and reassemble popular music into new challenging styles, often pushing as many buttons as boundaries. Bands like Big BlackUnwound, The Jesus Lizard and US Maple use weird tunings, nonsensical rhythms, and a healthy dose of nails on a chalkboard singing. More diaspora than unified camp, noise rock emerged from post punk, no wave and art school experimental scenes (Sonic Youth, Swans) but it’s knotty tendrils stretch into metal (Helmet, Melvins, UnsaneToday is the Day), mathcore (Dillinger Escape Plan, The Locust) and electronic music (Space Streakings).”

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Andrew is thankful for Hip-Hop.

“I’m thankful for hip-hop. I’d like to thank great producers like Madlib, Prince Paul, and Cut Chemist for perfecting the art of recycling music. Digging through crates of vinyl and old tapes to find and reshape long-forgotten music is a true art form, and it’s an added bonus when DJs use samples that introduce you to new styles or artists. I’d also like to thank longtime MCs like MF DOOM, Aesop Rock, and Del The Funky Homosapien and newcomers like Joey Bada$$, Chance The Rapper, and Chuck Inglish. To all hip-hop artists out there, your creative use of drum machines and the English language is marvelous and fascinating, and I look forward to spending the rest of my life geeking out over new beats. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of great hip-hop, and I strongly suggest that anyone who shares my feelings of gratitude ought to check out some Zion I (Amp Live is another great DJ) or some Busdriver.”

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We are also very thankful for you, our Murfie members! Have a very Happy Thanksgiving! :)
—The crew at Murfie

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.


Favorite New Releases of the Week!

Oh man, such great new music we’ve been listening to! Here’s what some of our staffers recommend for you…


Flying Lotus You're DeadFlying Lotus
You’re Dead!

(John’s Pick)

You’re Dead is the long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s Until the Quiet Comes by Flying Lotus. While the tracks often feel too short, FlyLo’s signature production style is in full force throughout the album’s 38-minute run time. Perhaps it’s best to view You’re Dead as one large piece, since many of the tracks bleed from one to another. In that case, it was maybe a mistake to separate them. The biggest departure for Flying Lotus on this album is the inclusion of several featured verses, including FlyLo’s alter ego, Captain Murphy. But it works out well. Overall, a great addition to the Flying Lotus discography.

Going Back Home Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey
Going Back Home

(Marc’s Pick)

Roger Daltrey sang with The Who that he hoped he’d die before he got old. At the age of 65, Wilko Johnson demonstrated he’d do just that. After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012 Johnson, the original guitarist for British R&B/pub rock band Dr. Feelgood, but better known on this side of the pond as the mute executioner on Game of Thrones, opted to go down with his axe in hand. As part of his continual touring he cut this album in late 2013, planned with Daltrey a couple years prior. The pair roll through classic cuts from throughout Johnson’s career, with a Dylan number thrown in for good measure. For what may be Johnson’s final run, this is an excellent introduction and encapsulation of his career and influence. For bonus points, check out this video from his early days with Dr. Feelgood and see him float jaggedly around stage with the gaze that got him on Game of Thrones. And also check out the 4 disc set encapsulating his time with that band, which was released a couple years back. Finally, he announced just a few days back that after undergoing extension surgery to remove 3 kilograms of tumor he appears to be cancer free. Now if I can just convince him to make a victory lap through Madison, perhaps with Richard Hawley in tow…

77 Jefferson Let Me Know EP77 Jefferson
Let Me Know EP

(Kayla’s Pick)

Midwest reggae! These guys are from Missouri. I’d closely compare them to the rootsy lovers-rock-reggae singer Josh Heinrichs, who is also from the same state, and runs the record label they’re affiliated with. This EP came out in July of 2014, and it fits well on a summer playlist since their mood is super positive. I especially love the first song, “Rocksteady.”

More new releases are on the way! Go to murfie.com/preorder to see what’s coming, and pre-order your favorites.

Which albums are you excited to see? Tell us in the comments!

New to Me: Newly-found music gems

It’s funny when you stumble across music that’s new to you, only to find out it’s been around a while! That’s happened to us here more than once.

Sometimes these discoveries are intentional. For example, it can be as simple as finally getting around to checking out a band you’ve been meaning to check out, and getting a copy of their album. But other times it’s not-so-intentional. Since thousands of members all across the country send CDs here, we have an incredibly eclectic mix of albums and artists, including some of the rarest stuff you can find. Often, we’ve found ourselves accidentally discovering something awesome!

Bad BrainsKayla found Bad Brains by Bad Brains

I was initially drawn to the awesome rasta-colored cover art on this album. I found out Bad Brains is influential hardcore punk / reggae crossover band from the 80s who inspired bands like Sublime. Skunk Records’ 30th Anniversary set at Cali Roots Fest in May 2014 was shrouded in mystery, and said to have “surprise performances.” During the set, a group came out and started playing the song “Leaving Babylon,” sung by someone I recognized as H.R. Everyone around me was wondering who this surprise guest was, so of course I said “Bad Brains!”

6 Feet Deep GravediggazAndrew found 6 Feet Deep by Gravediggaz

I started listening to hip-hop just a couple years ago and for the most part my friends introduced me to newer acts like Danny Brown and Kendrick Lamar. After exploring the genre on my own for a couple years, I’ve found that I also really appreciate older artists like Jurassic 5 and A Tribe Called Quest. I had never heard of Gravediggaz until a couple weeks ago, but it caught my attention when I noticed that Prince Paul and RZA, two of my favorite producers from the genre’s earlier days, were members of the group. It was cool to find music from 20 years ago that I didn’t even know existed but was still relevant to my taste.

Something Else The KinksJeff found Something Else by The Kinks

I can’t believe I went 36 years without hearing “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks, but all was put right thanks to a recent recommendation from ex-Opster, Elsa. Now I sing it to my dogs on a daily basis: “Everyday I chomp at the world out my windooooow!”

What’s a gem that you found on Murfie? Let us know in the comments!