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'Reggae Is More Than A Genre': JAHlistic On Peace, Love And Finding 'Jah' In Charlotte

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Photo courtesy of the artist.
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Latin reggae band JAHlistic share music and memories in Charlotte. (Pictured here: JAHlistic lead singer Tania Vejar with daughter Asia.)

"Jah" is more than a shortened form of Jehovah. For Charlotte artist Joel Aloise, founding member and guitarist for the Latin reggae band JAHlistic, the word "Jah" is a mantra to be fully, transparently and wholeheartedly authentic in both life, love and music.

"Reggae is on the rise. Latin music as well. It was always there - it’s nothing new - people are just embracing it more."
– Joel Aloise, guitarist for JAHlistic

Interview Highlights:

On Joel Aloise starting JAHlistic in 2007 with his brother Ezequiel:

Joel Aloise (guitarist): There was an opportunity [to compete] in a talent show, and [Ezequiel and I] didn’t have people to complete a full sounding band. So both of us decided to get our two sisters involved, and the four of us started … something! We made a song, and we presented it at the talent show. We didn’t win anything, but that’s how JAHlistic came about. It was an idea of making music with the little that we had.

On Tania Vejar joining the band:

Tania Vejar (lead singer): We first met at that talent show [laughing]. I was visiting the country back then, and my dad (without even asking) put me down on the list for that talent show. So I went … and I was one of the winners! I was doing something very different, more like a romantic-style balada. I saw [Joel and JAHlistic] playing that night, and I thought they were the only band that actually presented something that was theirs, something that was original. I loved the vibe that they had.

On performing Latin reggae music:

Aloise: I’m from Argentina, and when I first came to the United States, I didn’t quite speak the language. I heard a lot of music, and reggae was the one that I wanted to translate and understand. There’s a lot of social connotation to the songs, and reggae was always something I wanted to do. And being from South America, Latin rhythms are always a part of genres that we’re used to.

Vejar: And it’s funny how in different decades of our lives, we were in different places [and listening to the same music]. For example, at 16 years old, Joel was living in New Jersey and listening to Bob Marley while he was trying to translate the English. And at the same time, I was in Chile listening to the same artist and feeling something similar.

On recording their 2019 release Love Songs:

Vejar: I think that we learned to share our space with one another. This was made in our home, in our home studio. So it’s still our space. We learned that you can live in a space that belongs to you, but you can still make space for others to be there and be themselves in your place.

Aloise: I learned that love is not just a feeling, it’s a decision. It’s something you decide everyday. Compromise. Our daughter might be asking for a piece of cheese while we’re recording, and it’s like, “Where’s the love in that?” You make room for people in your life, and you act and react out of love.

On the meaning of reggae:

Vejar: Reggae is not just a genre for me. It’s about memories.

Aloise: Definitely. It’s a sound, but it’s supposed to come from experiences. Reggae music is our life experience put to music.

Music featured in this #WFAEAmplifier chat:

JAHlistic - “Along the Way”
JAHlistic - “Locos”
JAHlistic - “With Love”
JAHlistic - “My Reflection”
JAHlistic - “Volver A Amar”
JAHlistic - “Love Song”
JAHlistic - “One of Those Days”

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Joni Deutsch is happy to call Charlotte home as WFAE's manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, where she's led the first Charlotte Podcast Festival (named one of the “best podcast conferences” by Buzzsprout) and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. In addition to being an NPR Music contributor, Joni is also the creator and host of WFAE’s Charlotte music podcast Amplifier, named “Best Podcast” by Charlotte Magazine and honored for excellence in arts and music podcasting by the local Edward R. Murrow Awards and The Webby Awards (called “The Internet’s Highest Honor” by The New York Times).