Fresh off an Australian tour, Hawaii-based reggae artist J Boog stopped off in Sebastopol last week to pay respects to the 11th anniversary of the Monday Night Edutainment reggae dance party. His three-day stint in Sonoma County was a chance to catch Jamaican dancehall empress Tanya Stephens—and clean up with some new sneakers at the mall.
It was a quick stop on a whirlwind schedule; J Boog and his entourage have spent 2012 touring Amsterdam, Stockholm and Dubai, and in a couple of weeks leave for Europe's biggest reggae festival, SummerJam in Cologne, Germany.
J Boog (born Jerry Afemata) hails from the city of Compton and was raised by a tight-knit Samoan family who encouraged his singing in church as a youth. Linking up with Hawaiian reggae star George "Fiji" Veikoso, J Boog left the mainland for Hawaii to further develop an artistic style. His unique niche couples raspy R&B vocals and classic Jawaiian reggae rhythms with an urban style and laid-back West Coast influence that fits seamlessly into the island lifestyle.
J Boog's current tour highlights his excellent sophomore album, Back Yard Boogie. The rootsy, dancehall/lovers-rock infusion features collaborations with Peetah Morgan and Tarrus Riley. The album's standout song, "Let's Do It Again," is shaping up to be a lasting reggae anthem. Played at reggae club nights all over the Bay, this song alone is proving that Hawaiian influence is making a major impression on the current reggae scene. Pop superkid Justin Bieber recently proclaimed it his favorite song on the U.K.'s BBC Radio 1 chart countdown; play it in your car, and be instantly transported to cruising Kamehameha Highway.
Fueled by a variety of world-music influences and coalescing island rhythms, J Boog blends easily into his backup band. "When we meet up to tour, everyone plays their own style and we vibe off of them," he says. The California circuit is carried by Oahu's Hot Rain, a six-piece reggae band that backs stars like Tanya Stephens and Junior Reid. With less than a week to chill between tours, J Boog is ready for the Northern California vibe. "We got everybody back together," he says. "Can't wait for this run."
Multiple shows include J Boog; his Hawaiian brethren Fiji, noted as one of the most significant island hip-hop reggae artists; New Zealand's Katchafire, 'organic Aotearoa reggae' similar to South American ska reggae; and Santa Cruz reggae rockers Thrive on Saturday, June 23, at the Uptown Theater (1350 Third St., Napa; 8pm; $28; 707.259.0123) and Wednesday, June 27, at the Mystic Theatre (23 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma; 8:30pm; $30–$35; 707.765.2121).