The room was swarming with movement Saturday, August 29, at Funk ‘n Waffles downtown. The quintessential roots reggae mixture of djembe and melodica tones reverberated throughout the cozy, recently carpeted space. Lead vocalist Yao Foli of Mosaic Foundation expressed an exuberant passion for social issues close to his heart, proclaiming how the power of love is an important mechanism for effecting positive change.
Combining sequences of fluid dance moves with strings of powerful words, Foli’s band mates melodically bolstered his noble messages, adding a grace to a performance whose content could easily be formatted as a stripped down, straightforward public speech calling citizens to action.
Between songs, Foli offered positive pearls of encouragement to his audience. “To free Africa we must free ourselves” and “Love knows no boundary my brother.” Foli knows how to make his audience feel welcome and powerful all in one breath. Working up a decent sweat through all of his dancing, Foli brandished a small white towel to pat his face dry during song breaks, a testament to his hard work and dedication on stage. Mid-performance, Foli stepped to the front of the stage, grasping the mic with his other arm outstretched, getting as close to the crowd as possible, standing not only before them, but with them. Foli is not just a showman, but a leader and organizer in his own right, as his spirit brings people together to share a love of music and spread positive messages.
Following Mosaic Foundation, Root SHOCK delivered their own high-powered compendium of positivity. Bringing uplifting messages to an already revved up crowd. Opening their set with the always awe-inspiring love ballad to lead vocalist, Jessica Brown’s mother, “Sweet Reunion.” Prompting fans to reflect on and cherish their own familial relationships. Brown’s striking, soul-grasping vocals and incredible range continued to command the crowd. Daring them to dance harder and cheer louder during a bouncy performance of the upbeat “Sunlight of a Brand New Day.” The lyrics challenged listeners to “Live the life you want to live, love to live the life you want to give. Give the love you want to feel, the kind of love that empowers and heals.” The high-energy atmosphere fostered a connectedness and comfort level allowing several liberated spectators to remove their shoes, showing off some fancy footwork, toes unrestricted.
A crowd favorite cover of indie pop group Miike Snow’s highly danceable “Animal” continued to sustain movement as Brown took to the tambourine with guitarist Phil Grajko assisting on vocals. A rendition of “Rough Cuddle,” a song Grajko recorded with fellow reggae group Morning Sun & The Essentials, describes a dreamily mysterious and thought-provoking woman figure who asks, “what’s stopping you from seeing more?” This question is perhaps meant to awaken listeners and remind them to be more aware and present in their own lives.
A Stevie Wonder cover of “Master Blaster” followed, during which Grajko is known for sporting a set of shades as an ode to the beloved musical legend. Root SHOCK finished off their set with the more reflective Stephen Marley cover of “Pale Moonlight,” which tenderly recounts a love that has since been lost. Both reggae groups took the room on an awakening emotional journey where observers could connect more with themselves, the people around them, and reflect on their relationships with society as a whole.