Irie Magazine - August 2015 - Katchafire


Hailing from the mighty H-Town (Hamilton), Aoteoroa (New Zealand) the all-Maori Reggae band Katchafire have evolved into a global Roots Reggae phenomenon. Bringing their soulful blend of Roots Reggae infused with an undeniably Maori sound to music lovers worldwide, they have steadily become one of New Zealand’s most loved Reggae bands over the last 18 years. As a result of a relentless touring schedule, Katchafire have also grown a huge international following.

They were founded by lead guitarist Grenville Bell and his two sons Logan and Jordan in 1997; current members are Grenville Bell (lead guitar), Logan Bell (lead vocal, rhythm guitar), Jordan Bell (vocals, drums), Leon Davey (vocals, percussion) and Tere Ngarua (bass guitar).

The band started out jamming in their garage as a Bob Marley tribute band, naming themselves after ‘Catch a Fire’, The Wailers’ debut album. Everything changed when Grenville Bell moved with his two teenage sons from the family home to a building in town where they could practice music all night, pursuing his lifelong dream of starting a Reggae band. Still very much a cover band at that stage they began to find success with their own songs, creating their own brand of sunny Ska and Reggae.

Their hard work and determination paid off when they won an important local talent search. The prize was huge for them, $5,000 of recording time in a real studio, where they laid down two original tracks, ‘Giddy Up’ and ‘Bounce’. Taking their Marley-inspired original music to the bars and clubs, Katchafire built a fan base of thousands. Their first song, ‘Giddy Up’ became the highest-selling single of the year, and the album that followed, ‘Revival’, went double platinum.

In 2004, for the recording of their next album ‘Slow Burning’, the horn section of French Reggae band, Mister Gang, was brought in to expand the band’s big sound even further. ‘Say What You’re Thinking’ was released in 2007, followed by ‘On the Road’ in 2010.

All four studio albums have gone platinum and in 2013 Katchafire followed up with their compilation album ‘Best So Far’, an impressive selection of their chart-topping hits. In 2014 they climbed the charts once again with their latest single release ‘Down With You’, written by drummer Jordan Bell and recorded in Reggae icon Bob Marley’s legendary Tuff Gong Studios in Jamaica. The band is currently working on their next highly anticipated studio album.

Known as one of New Zealand’s hardest working bands, Katchafire have already toured all over Europe, the Pacific and the USA (SXSW, Reggae On The River, House of Blues and more) as well as Brazil. They have become a staple on the burgeoning California and Pacific Roots scene and today, with years of touring under their belt, the band is in great demand around the world.

All accomplished musicians, they are well known for trading instruments among themselves during their marathon live shows. They have played to sold-out crowds on some of the most popular stages in the world and continue to solidify their status as one of Reggae’s most respected bands, sharing the stage with Damien Marley, Steel Pulse, UB40, The Wailers, Michael Franti and Spearhead and many more.

“We see people coming back to their 30th show and still reacting the same way as when they first saw us. It’s something about the boys and our connection with our fans, how personal and down to earth we are.” – Katchafire

A band that has always stayed true to their whanau roots, Katchafire spreads the good will of Reggae from their rural foundations. There is a united spiritual bond between the band members and the land they come from. The Maori call this ‘tangata whenua’, a term meaning ‘people of the land’.

The Maori are the torchbearers of down-under Reggae and Katchafire’s protest song ‘Lead Us’ provides fans with a glimpse into the history and struggles of the Maori people. Music has always had a profound importance to the Maori; Te Reo (the language) was not a written language until the 1820’s.

“Harmonies play a huge role in our music, and I think we draw the spiritual harmonic influence from our pre-European Maori ancestors. The traditional Maori people were very religious and spiritual and used music not only for singing hymns and praises, but also as a tool for teaching, learning, leisure, to tell a story, history … on a whole, it was a large part of their everyday culture.” Bell goes on to say “I think spirituality and music is felt within the hearts of our people, passed down from our ancestors, locked into our genes, hardwired into us, and will always remain a natural part of our identity.” – Logan Bell; Interview with Deep Central California Surfing Magazine

A family affair from day one, Grenville, Logan and Jordan Bell remain the core of the band to this day. After almost two decades of performing, with highly successful studio albums, multiple awards, platinum sales and top-selling singles, Katchafire isn’t going anywhere but up!

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