Jahfé, A Haitian Roots Reggae Band, Transcends Cultural Boundaries Amid The Pandemic
Percussions, conga drums, horns, base, guitars, keyboards — all mixed with some traditional Haitian rhythms and baselines. Jahfé is a roots reggae band that has been performing in South Florida for nearly 20 years.
As cultural institutions and live concerts open up across South Florida, the eclectic band is cementing their message surrounding unity during the pandemic, which they say transcends ethnic, racial and cultural boundaries.
“The message for me is what I want to put first, as opposed to looking at where we come from,” says Esther Fortune, co-founder and lead vocalist. “Our purpose has always been to just bring that message of love and raise that consciousness as much as we can to the point where they even called coming to our show church because you come and get the good vibes.”
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Jahfé, who've opened up for reggae stars like Damien Marley and Steel Pulse, has been on hiatus since the pandemic started last year but recently performed at The Oasis in Wynwood. They’ll begin touring again in July.
The band's frontwoman says the pandemic amplified her introspective take on society, beyond musical inspiration. The cultural spirit has been alive during Haitian Heritage Month but the pandemic has inspired her to view her music-making experience from an existential lens.
“You have to make sure the self is in total alignment,” Fortune said. “I think it’s my perception in how I view myself in life and what my contribution is in my immediate environment — I feel that it has grown.”
The Miami-based band has toured internationally and usually hits the stage with up to eight session musicians at any given time, players from all walks of life.
Sasha Sanon, co-founder and vocalist, named the band by combining “Jah,” a Hebrew word for God, with “Fé,” a Haitian creole word for “to do.” The name Jahfé means “creation.”
Sanon says, as music fans trickle their way back into concert venues, he believes the pandemic shutdowns inspired him and their fans to place even more value on “simplicity” because “we come and go.”
“No one had ever thought that the world could just collapse at once. So I think that is an inspiration in itself, just knowing that we are interconnected,” Sanon said.
The musician, who plays conga drums that are often seen in drum circles in Gonâve, the northern part of Haiti, says Haitian Heritage Month is a great unifier for anyone fighting for their rights.
“Where there is rebel music, you’re celebrating Haitian culture. When there is revolution, you’re celebrating Haitian culture,” said Sanon. "Because Haitian culture is for all — for everybody, because when we got our independence, we didn’t do it for Black people only.”