With a new lineup of musicians and pressing, politically-charged lyricism, Samuel Walukouw’s reggae group, Java Jukebox, is re-introducing itself to the local scene. Their latest single, “Rise Up,” recorded at Allston’s The Dojo, brings to mind Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up.” With lyrical themes of modern social injustice and the hope to overcome, JJB are bringing a vibrant diversity to Boston’s musical landscape.

“Rise Up” marks JJB’s first release since their debut EP, It’s About That Time, in 2016. Aside from vague hints at a broken system, JJB has gone from writing songs about escaping reality to confronting and breaking it down.

“This song is about police brutality,” said Walukouw, JJB’s founder and lead vocalist. “There has been shooting after shooting the last few years with videos everywhere, everyone was protesting. But then after that, everybody felt numb about it, like, ‘Oh, it’s just another shooting.’”

Walukouw felt compelled to start writing after remembering Eric Garner, who was infamously killed by a horde of police officers in 2014. “He was laying there breathless down in the street,” Walukouw sings. “What has he done so wrong that cost him his life? Tell me.”

Walukouw’s lively call to action—“Don’t you stop, fight, my people rise up / Stand up for what is right”—is backed by Virginia Alves’ eerie, swelling vocal harmonies. Together, these two infuse “Rise Up” with an intriguing dichotomy, as if the title is provoking a spirit shared by both the living and the dead. The horn section, bass breakdown, and rhythm changes maintain the song’s ability to get a crowd dancing while the chorus invites everyone to sing along. JJB personify the true power of any music, which is to unify and speak out.  

JJB is heavily influenced by a mix of old school reggae—roots and gospel—and new emerging reggae artists like Jesse Royal and Chronixx. “We’re probably the youngest Boston reggae band right now,” said Walukouw. “That’s why we’re trying to hold it down and bring in the younger cats.”

In striving to create a wider reggae platform in Boston, JJB recently gained a residency at the Middle East. They play Roots Night the first Saturday of every month. Planning on releasing a full length record before the year’s end, JJB will continue to record and hone their new sound.

Check out “Rise Up” below! JJB performs at Brighton Music Hall on February 2nd.


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