Guest Post By: Michael S. Laufer Ph.D.
How many of the members of Big Brother and The Holding Company can you think of? But you know Janis Joplin. Can you name any of the boys in Jefferson Airplane? But everyone knows Grace Slick. Nina Simone had a band, but nobody ever talks about “Nina and her band”. The truth is, in addition to being amazing singers and songwriters, all of these icons of music had amazing bands with which they collaborated.
Now, I like to imagine historical fictions. And one thing I imagine, is that after a party, one drug and booze filled night the three aforementioned ladies had a lesbian tryst. They probably didn’t, but if they had, the love-child-that-never-was would have been the woman who now fronts the reggae band Ila Mawana.
She has the soulful patience of Nina, she has reckless abandon and sings like she might die tomorrow the way Janis did, and she has Slick’s focus of knowing what she’s singing about and connects with every single member of the audience. All of this with the backing of a band that pulls you out of your chair knowing you’re wasting your life if you don’t dance. The band had existed for years before the addition of this magical woman, and they have always been a no-joke reggae force. But now they are something that could become meteoric.
I came upon them serendipitously. The founder of ReggaeInNYC gave me his tickets to see Groundation, because he was stuck in the rat race out in babylon that day. I went, anticipating the usual epic 3 hour set of endless smash-hits that leave you feeling like the world might be okay if everyone just listened to reggae more. But something happened that has never happened to me before at a Groundation show.
I left early.
Groundation was as amazing as they always are, but I was so blown away by the opener, I wanted to walk home and keep singing the hooks from all these new songs I’d never heard before from a band I’d never heard of. It’s amazing to think about having seen a new band a single time, and being able to remember the songs after a single concert.
So what do you do when this happens? You go home, and see if they have an album out there somewhere, since none were for sale at the show.
Any info about them is very difficult to find, their domain is up for sale, few of their sites are crosslinked, and none of them are up to date.
However, they do indeed have two albums. But heartbreakingly, they both predate the addition of Janisimone Slick. One in 2009, and another in 2010. It staggers the mind that they have been rocking and touring for five years and haven’t put out a new studio album in the interim. My only guess is they either lack a good agent or a producer.
The saving grace is they are touring, and they do have two tracks featuring this new lead singer online at reverb nation: Crazy Show, and I’m Ready. I dare you to listen to either and not catch yourself humming them later.
After some digging I found out the mystery woman’s name: Joanna Teters. She’s done some solo stuff, but like every great singer, she needed to find the right band to really get that magic groove on.
Like so many other combinations of great instrumentalists and great singers who just needed to meet to create something truly great, Ila Mawana has come into bloom. If they manage to stay together, they could be the greatest innovation in reggae music since The Police decided the caspers were allowed to play the one drop too.
Hey Ila Mawana, if you’re reading this: call me, I’ll produce your next album. It’s a crime that it’s not out there yet.