Beats to move to, lyrics to educate - California-based Groundation will take its musical message to the stage Oct. 7

Groundation is bringing its unique, jazz-funk-infused and reggae-added conglomerate sound to Brixton in Redondo Beach Wednesday, Oct. 7. The nine-member band will surely inspire with its positive, powerful and in-your-face lyrics. But don’t fret. If you want to dance and witness a good live band with horns, percussions, keys and Jamaican-born female vocalists, all wrapped in a plethora of moving melodies, you will be taken care of.

Formed in 1998, with three original members still trucking — Harrison Stafford, Marcus Urani and Ryan Newman — Groundation is on the heels of releasing its seventh album, “Here I Am,” which is in memory of their old Sonoma State University jazz professor, Mel Graves. Lead singer Stafford chatted it up with The Beach Reporter last week, taking a break from soundcheck prior to a Champaign, Ill., gig.

Groundation is in the midst of a six-week tour, so take advantage of its South Bay visit as the band’s frequent jaunts overseas are inevitable.

The Beach Reporter: What’s the back story behind Groundation?

Harrison Stafford: Myself and Marcus Urani on the keyboards and Ryan Newman on the bass, we started the group in 1998. We were going to (school) at Sonoma State University in Northern California, earning our jazz degrees, and that’s where we met fellow trombone player, Kelsey Howard. We formed the group with roots reggae music as the foundation, but of course all of our jazz backgrounds came to kind of produce this fusion sound that people have known us for.

What drew you to Jamaica and the Rastafari movement and reggae music?

I’m California born and raised, white kid from the suburbs. When I was 7 years old, roots reggae music was my music. That’s the music that moved me. It always struck me funny that there was a time when this station called MTV that used to have music on it … and they never had any reggae music. There wasn’t any jazz hour. It was clear what society was trying to push and where we were at, and I did not like that. I was always wondering why this music was coming from a Third World, poor, black people, and they were so focused on equality and justice and why nothing was giving it the time of day. I didn’t like that.

I wanted to be a part of spreading that message because I believe that that message is the right message, it’s a true message. So I’m going to do whatever I can coming from this society, from this world of Western privilege, and I want to try and make music that makes people think about life and about the understanding of equality and love to a better degree.

Where do you draw inspiration when you are writing?

From everything. From all life experiences. From reading as many books as I can, whether it’s the Bible or the Quran or biographies.

Before, the lyrics were very much allegories and very much descriptive words and imagery in the language and “Here I Am” is very much more direct, much more straightforward in its language and that kind of has to deal with the music, with this moment, it has to deal with where we are.

I also get a lot of inspiration, a lot of thoughts and things from my fellow band mates — we talk about life, we talk about things that surround us and over the last five years or so we have toured … throughout the world. So obviously meeting people and forming families, relationships in these countries it really shakes who you are and you start to see maybe a different view of the world.

Does the group have a mission aside from spreading good music and good vibes?

We have a different mission than I think a lot of people. We’re trying to create music that moves people and that moves us, music that we feel good about.

When we listen to a lot of the people that inspires us from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s — these were people who created music that they loved. Today’s society (likes) much more of a commercial, much more of a consumer-based music. We want to return back to the time when musicians were leading the way of music. We want to show people that music is not done and there is a lot to be created and a lot more to happen.

The message is one of social concern and one of talking about togetherness and talking about growing different foundations of communities and love in your areas and beyond while at the same time the music is pushing.

What can people expect at a Groundation show?

Expect the unexpected. We are not playing the same set night after night after night, like most bands do. We perform songs from all of our albums and expect anything. Who knows what’s going to happen that night. We improvise a lot of our music, so depending on where the crowd is and where they want to go and what energy they bring to the table … Because music is not just made by the musicians on the stage — music is made by everybody in the house.

Are you working on any side projects?

I did finish myself, a 10-year production of a documentary film that we will be releasing at the film festivals for 2010. We just went to Sundance last week and it’s called, “Holding onto Jah.” I’m very happy with that film. It’s about the entire history of the island of Jamaica, of the Rastafarian movement, from Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie to the development there in Jamaica. Where reggae music came from and its connection to Rasta and it’s told by the musicians, the historians who were there and lived it.

Groundation is Stafford (vocals, guitar), Urani (keyboard), Newman (bass), David “Diesel” Chachere (trumpet), Howard (trombone), Te Kanawa Haereiti (drums), Mingo Lewis Jr. (percussion), Kim Pommell (vocals) and Stephanie Wallace (vocals).

Brixton is located on the Redondo Beach Pier, 100 Fisherman’s Wharf. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

Load comments