Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bringing soul to the streets of Melbourne - Bonjah

Pretty well all of us know how soulless a big city can be; and pretty well all of us have been part of those amorphous crowds that seem to bustle along city streets from nowhere in particular to nowhere else in particular. So when, in the middle of a busy Friday lunch break, in the middle of a busy Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne, you find a band singing out a message of hope and humanity, to incredibly good music, it’s nice to see so many people taking the time to stop and listen.

The band is Bonjah and, fortunately for me, they’re also selling copies of their debut album Until Dawn, which, needless to say, I buy.

Bonjah has come to Melbourne, and settled there, from New Zealand; but its lead, Glenn Mossop, hails originally from South Africa and, as a child, joined his family as they sailed the oceans in their home made yacht, looking for somewhere to call home.

The result throws soul, reggae, rock and folk into the melting pot, heated by a flame that burns in celebration both of home and of open spaces, both of rest and of flight.

Until Dawn is all about believing in who you are, and in the life you’ve got, and doing it with honesty, a readiness to dream, and to hold one another’s hands as you do it.

And the thing that gives this album the right to tell you all of that is the way that its music practices what it preaches – it takes hold of your hand, it gives you a reassuring smile, and then it dances with you to those incredible reggae-like rhythms, driven by the drums of Dan Chisolm, and underlined by the percussion of James Majernik. Listen to those percussion outbursts in “Fly”, flying sparks in all directions, and see if you can resist the temptation to feel some optimism. Add to that the comforting but gutsy vocals of Glenn Mossop and Regan Lethbridge (who between them wrote all of the songs on this album) and the solid bass of David Morgan giving it all a backbone, and you’ve really got something to believe in and to rely upon.

But don’t for a moment think that these songs are about closing your eyes to loss and sadness. You only need to listen to the impassioned song of the electric guitar in “Rise and Fall”, or the anguished harmonica that weaves in and out of “The Weight of Imagination” and “Blue Mountain”, to know that this roadmap out of the despair has been drawn up by someone who has been there.

Until Dawn is an album that sings to you when you’re in the darkness, but assures you that there is sunrise on the way – and when it is done with music as good as this, and as honest as this, you’re going to believe in it. And that’s not something you expect to find on the streets of a busy city in the middle of the day – but thank Bonjah that you do!

Bonjah is cetainly a band worth following and supporting. You can check them out on MySpace or Facebook and you will see from there that they are keen to rouse the rank and file into spreading their word. Not only do they, and their music, deserve to be heard - but also all of us who at times find ourselves bustling from nowhere to nowhere, need to hear them.

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