Artist Name: Christafari
Birth Name: Mark Mohr
Birth Place and Date: Los Angeles, CA, October 23rd
Christafari are trailblazers, continually pioneering the genre of Gospel reggae in the U.S. and throughout the world. They have performed in 46 states, 50 nations, at two Olympic Games and even before the President of the United States of America. This multicultural 9-member group is lead by vocalist and founder, pastor Mark Mohr. With their blend of traditional roots and contemporary dancehall reggae, they proclaim an uncompromising message of hope and salvation to this lost generation. After two decades, the band is going stronger than ever with a new album and a relentless tour schedule that will have them performing 100 shows in 25 nations.
Christafari was founded in 1989 by songwriter, producer, and lead vocalist, Mark Mohr. Raised in a Christian family, Mark strayed from his spiritual upbringing during his teens and turned to hard drugs, alcohol and even growing marijuana. After having an undeniable encounter with God at a youth camp just before turning 18, Mohr re-committed his life to God and took what he now calls his "Freedom Step” out of addiction. At that point, his greatest desire was to help others step out of the same bondage that once entangled him. He felt God impressing on his heart to start the first gospel reggae band in America. It would be a counter-cult, drug aversion ministry that used the uplifting sounds of reggae to bring the lost into the light. This fledgling band was birthed just two weeks later at a camp talent show. He initially called the group The Christafarians and then later shortened the name to Christafari (pronounced CHRIST-AH-FAR-EYE) inspired by the Greek word given to a group of people who collectively represent Christ.
"The best advice I was ever given was to go to Bible College so I could be theologically and doctrinally sound," says Mark. He studied at BIOLA University in Los Angeles, majoring in Christian Education. During his years at BIOLA, the group continued taking shape as Mark wrote songs for Christafari's first three albums, "Reggae Worship Vol. 1" (Frontline), "Soul Fire" and "Valley of Decision" (Gotee). "Valley of Decision" went on to become the best selling gospel reggae album in the history of the genre.
LION OF ZION
In 1999, after recording two albums with Gotee Records under the tutelage of Toby Mac, Mark branched out on his own, founding his own record company Lion of Zion Entertainment with the goal of "Reaching the World Through World Music." With their broad distribution channels, Lion of Zion has had a hand in introducing the rest of the world to artists like Sherwin Gardner, Monty G, Stitchie, Mr. Lynx, 'Imisi, Tiko & Gitta and three-time 2006 Marlin Award winner Avion Blackman (Who is also Mark's wife and the bassist for Christafari). Over the years, Lion of Zion has released 40 recordings including Christafari's growing catalog of albums; "WordSound&Power", "DubSound&Power", "Palabra Sonido Y Poder", "Gravity", "Gravitational Dub", "Reggae Sunday School" (Kids), "To the Foundation", and their latest offering “No Compromise”.
Through his ever-evolving band and various artist compilations, Mohr was arguably the first to record and internationally distribute the following subgenres of gospel music; reggae, dancehall, soca, me-reggae, jungle, raggamuffin hip-hop, dub and various other styles. Mohr has always placed the popularity of gospel reggae before his own band. He is the founder and president of GospelReggae.com, a webstore that boasts the largest selection of gospel reggae and world music in the World.
In 2009 Christafari became honorees at the Holy Hip Hop Awards and Mohr collected 2 Marlin awards. In 2007 Christafari's "To the Foundation" made the 50th Annual Grammy Awards ballot (Best Reggae Album category). In 2006, Mark received a lifetime achievement award for his significant contributions to Caribbean gospel music, Christafari received 4 Marlin Award Nominations, 5 Urban Gospel Industry Award nominations and were nominated for Best Reggae Album by the En Sound Music Awards. The group took home Album of the Year in 2005 (UGI) and received 3 awards for Album of the year, Best Artist/Group, and best Producer from the Urban Gospel Industry Awards in 2004. Their "Gravity" release was also nominated for 2 Marlin Awards in 2004. The band's dynamic performance in Sweden in 2003 landed them a Concert of the Year nod from the Connection Awards. Christafari was nominated for the 2002 Marlin award for International Artist of the Year. Their album, "WordSound&Power", was also nominated for 4 Marlin Awards in 2000. Christafari even received a Reggae Album of the Year nomination by the Tamika Awards in 1997 and a Dove Award nomination in 1996.
TELEVISION, FILM AND MEDIA
Christafari has been featured on CNN Headline News, MTV News, MTV Brazil, The Family Channel, TBN, BET, The 700 Club, TBS, Steel Roots and the Day 7 show with Greg Laurie. Their videos have been in heavy rotation on channels such as BET and their albums have held strong positions on the Billboard Magazine charts. Their music has landed three movie soundtracks including the Sundance Film Festival Selections, "Naturally Native" and "Meet me in Miami". Mohr and his wife Avion also regularly produce songs specifically for the ABC Network/Disney and have earned placement on shows such as "General Hospital" and "One Life to Live". They have also been featured in such publications as Billboard, CCM Magazine and The Beat. There is no doubt Mark Mohr and Christafari are recognized as one of the main forces in American reggae and Gospel music.
"Their music is beyond that of Bob Marley." - Makeda Dread, Reggae Makossa 91X
Mark Mohr and Christafari have brought their own unique brand of gospel reggae to nearly every state in the U.S. and some 50 countries around the world. The band's first major tour was in 1995 with Reggae Sunsplash, North America's premier reggae tour, traversing 46 cities and performing before more than a quarter of a million people. They have played at virtually every major festival and many of the country's most prestigious venues like the Greek Theater and Irvine Meadows. When Christafari played at Reggae on the River, the "World's Greatest Reggae Festival," Mohr had the privilege of baptizing three new converts in the river. Over the years the group has shared the bill with such top names in the reggae industry such as Aswad, Bunny Wailer, Lucky Dube, Big Mountain, Burning Spear, Pato Banton, Dennis Brown, Freddie McGregor, The Wailing Souls, Capleton, Israel Vibration, Culture, Buju Banton and Wayne Wonder.
"They were a great bunch of guys to have on the road. I've nothing but praises for Christafari in terms of their professionalism and the kind of people they are. I would definitely consider them for another Sunsplash tour." Reggae Sunsplash Tour Producer Wayne Sinclair
In Washington D.C., on the steps of our nation's capitol, Christafari ministered to their largest audience to date - a crowd of over half a million. Additional performance highlights included the 1997 Presidential Inaugural Ball, They played in the main amphitheater of the Olympic Village during the 1996 Olympic Games and performed at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
"Christafari is one of the most entertaining live acts in Jah Kingdom." - The Beat Magazine, Tom Orr
In early 2009, the band ended their 150-city To the Foundation World Tour (spanning 21 countries before crowds as large as 80,000). The group hit the studio in March to record No Compromise, which was released on August 18th (Infinity Music Distribution).
Two decades in the making, “No Compromise” is an exciting milestone of Christafari’s 20th anniversary. It’s jam packed with 15 new gospel reggae anthems and an arsenal of guest appearances. Blending their signature roots reggae sound with elements of hip-hop, dancehall, soca and even rock, “No Compromise” showcases an unprecedented new gospel sound: a fitting nod to Christafari’s past, and a bold step into their bright future!
No Compromise has long been a theme with Christafari, mentioned in songs like "Christafari," "Warriors," "Soul Fire" and "WordSound&Power." It also pays homage to Keith Green, one of the greatest influencers in Christian music (who had an album and biography by the same title). True to its name, the album delves into various hot button issues like abortion (The Protestors), Rastafarianism (Gwaan Natty), falling away from God (That None Should Fade Away) and marijuana use (Pure Meditations). On "Most High," for the first time on a recording, Christafari founder and vocalist Mark Mohr vividly shares his testimony as a drug and marijuana addicted youth. The chorus tells of his salvation and that "there is no high like the Most High!"
At the 2009 Marlin Awards in the Bahamas, Mohr made a surprising announcement, "Given the present financial turmoil that many of us are facing, for three weeks prior to the street date, we've decided to give away our next album as a download for whatever you can afford. If you don't have the money, then our next album is on us. That's right, it’s free!" The response was overwhelming. During the first few days, Christafari’s servers crashed twice because of the sheer volume of traffic.
In promotion of this album, Christafari went on a 20-day European tour playing major festivals like Frizon and Flevo. The band continues its relentless touring schedule, traversing the USA, Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond--leading thousands to the Lord each year!
Exclusive Interview with GospelReggae.com
GospelReggae.com: I love the new album "To The Foundation"! It reminds me of the earlier Christafari albums, was this intentional?
Yeah, I missed the classic Christafari too. I guess that I had to venture away from our original sound on previous albums in order to get some perspective and truly appreciate it. When it was time I decided to take it back "To The Foundation". While it's impossible for me to unlearn all of the things that I have learned as a producer and songwriter over the past 10 years, I tried as hard as I could to create a rootsier album with no programming or sequencing. I set out to record something that couldn't be dated and was essentially timeless. As any artist will eventually learn, there is no joy in recreating the same thing over and over again. If it's not original, it's probably not worth saying. For a long time I have been determined to pave my own way and refused to be a Christafari cover band. When you get to a point where you are just trying to recreate previous inspirations, it's uninspiring. So on this one I set out to forge a new sound that, while being unique, still paid homage to the Christafari of yesteryear. I am glad that you like it. It's really fun to play this stuff live-especially with the horn section. I am more comfortable singing this new material onstage than any of our previous albums.
GospelReggae.com: So Mark, before we get started, please give us your brief testimony so that we can get an idea of where you come from:
Mark: I came to Christ at the age of 4 or 5 years old, but strayed away a few years later. Heavily influenced by peer pressure, by the tender age of 10 years old I had started smoking Marijuana and drinking alchohol. Marijuana truly was a gateway drug for me. Just a few years later I was smoking anything that would get me high from opium to crack. I became heavily involved in Cocaine, LSD, pre-marital sex, and a small local gang. As they say; "misery loves company," and I kept some pretty miserable company those years. Until the age of seventeen I was heavily addicted to Marijuana and even grew a small plantation. It was during a short trip to Jamaica at the age of 15 that I first caught the reggae bug (reggae-mylitis). Indoctrinated by the lyrics of the likes of Peter Tosh and Marley, I began praising "Jah Rastafari" in my daily surf sessions and attempting to justify my daily sacrament of weed with the Scriptures (that by then had given me chronic bronchitis). I had been through a plethora of 12 step programs, seen a host of counselors, ran away from home and was busted by the police for cocaine--basically, I was a complete rebel in every sense of the word. But all the while, my parents, and their Bible study group kept praying for me. The straw finally broke the camel's back just a few weeks before I was to turn 18 years old. My parents all but forced me to go to a Christian camp called JH Ranch. It was at this high adventure camp that my life was transformed forever through a simple modern day version of the Prodigal son--that was me! I fell to my knees, repented of my sins and never looked back. Shortly after, I was baptized +and I began writing songs during my quiet times with God. Just two weeks after I repented I started Christafari at a talent show at another Christian camp. As for the Drugs, I've been sober ever since!
GospelReggae.com: Wow, that's intense! What happened after that?:
Mark: After I came to Christ at the age of 17, I started Christafari in 1989 and went to Bible College (Biola University). In the last 16 years of ministry with Christafari I have been to 32 different countries, and visited Jamaica as a missionary 13 times. It is a real privilege to serve the Lord by doing what I love most. In 1996 I was ordained by Pastor Bob Beeman (Sanctuary International). In 2003-2004 my wife Avion and I lived in her home country of Trinidad and planted a church together called "The Gathering." It was a blessing to pastor a congregation for some time--that was always one of my dreams. In April of 2004, Avion and I moved back to the Los Angeles area where we now reside.
GospelReggae.com: Cool! Let's get some more background information on you; what's your favorite Bible verse:
Mark: I have a bunch, but one that I always include in my autographs is Matthew 6:33. Seeking God first is truly the solution to all of our problems. It is such a simple concept yet such a hard principle to live by.
GospelReggae.com: Besides Christafari, do you have any hobbies?
Mark: First of all, I am very busy, I often liken my average day to juggling chainsaws and machetes! As you may know, I am a husband, band leader, artist, producer, I write and record music for network television, I am a manager, performer, booking agent (The Positive Music Agency) and own Lion of Zion and gospelreggae.com--that's a whole lot of irons to have in the fire! What keeps me sane is spending time with my wife--she is my best friend. We are very active and love to go surfing, skateboarding and spend time in nature. Nothing relieves stress like dropping in on a wave or bombing (skating) down a steep hill at 4am! My wife and I also love to cook together. I can make a mean Chicken tikka and love to grill up some jerk chicken. We are also extremely nocturnal and rarely go to bed before 4am.
GospelReggae.com: So what are you favorite foods:
Mark: Pretty much anything that ends with "ian"--specifically; Ethiopian, Brazilian, Hawaiian, Trinidadian, Indian, Peruvian and of course Thai--you gotta have that curry!
GospelReggae.com: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
I was possibly the biggest DEVO fan around. Then it was the Thompson Twins and Oingo Boingo. Oingo Boingo gave me a huge appreciation for horns-something that I carried into Christafari. I actually got to meet Danny Elfman a few times backstage at some of their concerts. Those discussions inspired me to want to be an artist when I grew up. I was heavily into new wave, but I also went through a rap and break dancing phase and a skate punk phase. Still to this day I cannot stand country western or heavy metal. I didn't get into reggae until I was in high school, but once I bought my first album I was hooked!
GospelReggae.com: Why did you choose reggae music?
Mark: I didn't choose reggae music, reggae music chose me. I was first introduced to it through my Jamaican neighbor. Then when I visited Jamaica for the first time at the age of 15, I was captivated by the Caribbean sounds. What began as an enticement to the rhythms developed into a full-fledged fascination. Since I was a habitual marijuana user in my teenage years, it was probably the teachings of Rastafari and their pro-marijuana stance that initially drew me in the strongest. When I was in the world I tried to start a band based on marijuana, but it never came to fruition. After I saw the light and became born again as a senior in high school, I realized that I had been deceived. The Lord delivered me from my drug use and gave me a new life in Christ. However, still having a love for the music and a strong compassion for those who play and listen to reggae music, I felt the Lord calling me to reach the reggae industry with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With new songs in my heart and a burning vision in my eyes I set out to start Christafari, the first Christian reggae band in the U.S.A.
GospelReggae.com: Who are your major influences today? Who do you listen to:
Mark: For secular music, I appreciate the High fidelity Dub Sessions series, any vintage dub reggae, John Brown's Body, Dub Side of the Moon, Gi Gi, Bill Laswell, Aswad, Steel Pulse, Bob Marley and Zap Mama. My wife and I love world music (especially West African). We listen to Gospel Reggae artists every day as there is always a stack of demos on my desk and I help manage the webstore on a daily basis. I decide whether an album is added to our http://www.gospelreggae.com webstore or a song is placed on one of our compilations and I don't take these decisions lightely so I pretty much live and breathe Gospel Reggae. To be honest with you I don't really like too much other Christian music. I am friends with a lot of the artists, but I struggle to enjoy most of what the CCM industry is pumping out these days-I guess that's the way that God wired me. I do admire Keith Greene and am blown away by his heart for the Lord and the passion that he had for the lost-he was a no nonsense kind of guy.
GospelReggae.com: Do you prefer being in the studio or on the road?
Mark: I like them both equally. When I am in the studio, I long for the road, and vise versa. However, though it may be far less personal, the studio is much easier on you physically than the road, but you don't get to see the spiritual fruits first-hand. What frustrates me about being in the studio is the huge chunk of your life that an album takes from you-usually around 6 months per album! I wish that there was a way to speed this up. As for touring, I simply love traveling the world for Jesus and playing my favorite style of music with my wife and best friends--I love my life!
GospelReggae.com: Why do you feel God chose you to pioneer gospel reggae?
Mark: Because I am not worthy to. On my own strength, I am the last person in the world that should be singing, much less pioneering this genre of reggae. But this is how God works, He always chooses the most unlikely and undeserving messengers to proclaim His simple message. I believe that God chose a weak person such as myself for this calling to prove to the world that it is Him alone that is strong. God uses the simple things of the world to confound the wise. By no means do I deserve to be a voice in the reggae industry. It is a black music started in the ghetto of Kingston Jamaica. I am a white guy that was raised in white suburban America. When I think about this from time to time it makes me laugh! I do not deserve this and should not be doing this. You could find more raw talent in any 10 year old Jamaican boy than in me. But once again, this is how God works. I believe that he chose me so that He would receive all of the glory. One look at the Bible and you will realize that this is how he chooses leaders; from Moses who was a murderer with a speech impediment to King David who was an unlikely shepherd. God must get the glory at all times-- I pray that my life gives him the glory that He deserves.
GospelReggae.com: Why do you feel so many people get hooked on the music of Christafari?
Mark: Our music is original and unlike anything out there in the gospel market. The unique roots sound cannot be replaced by the latest industry manufactured pop sensation that is on the cover of CCM. I think that they also sense the authenticity in our spirits. We include the Word of God in all of our songs and clearly proclaim the gospel at all of our shows. We minister to the people after each show and are usually the last ones to leave the venue. They see the fruits of our ministry and want to give us long-term support.
GospelReggae.com: What would you say to devotees who want the truth of God?
Mark: Seek and you shall find. God is always just one prayer away. Jesus Christ loves you so much that He died for you. Will you truly live for Him? Read the Bible every day. No compromise!
EVANGELISTIC: Christafari commits to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ clearly through music, the spoken word and their lives, as illustrated in the Holy Bible, in order to win souls for Christ's kingdom in accordance with His great commission.
EDIFICATION: To edify and build up the local and universal body of Christ providing a biblically sound musical alternative.
PROFESSIONAL: Christafari will continue to provide the highest quality product, maintaining the cultural integrity of the music and holding to Christian ethics in all business dealings.
Cumulative album sales have topped 500,000 units to date. Albums include:
* Reggae Worship Vol. 1 (1993 Frontline Records)
* Soul Fire (1994 Gotee Records)
* Valley of Decision (1996 Gotee Records)
* WordSound&Power (1999 Lion of Zion Entertainment)
* DubSound&Power (2000 Lion of Zion Entertainment)
* Reggae Worship-The First Fruits of Christafari (2000 Lion of Zion Entertainment)
* Palabra Sonido y Poder (2000 Lion of Zion Entertainment)
* Gravity (2003 Lion of Zion Entertainment)
* Gravity Version - Performance Soundtracks (2003 Lion of Zion Entertainment)
* The 14 Days of Gravity: About the Songs Audio Commentary (2003 Lion of Zion Entertainment)
* Gravitational Dub (Destination: Dub Central Station) (2005)
* Reggae Sunday Scool (August, 2005)
* To The Foundation (April, 2007)
* No Compromise (August, 2009)
Other Artist Merchandise
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Contact / Booking:
POSITIVE MUSIC AGENCY
Kevin McIntyre (President)
USA: (310) 539-9009
UK: +44 (0)161-870-6651
BRAZIL: +55 62-8101-0801
Fax (toll-free): +1 (310) 494-9359
Positive Music Agency
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Lomita, CA, 90717, USA
Phone (310) 539-2539
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