On July 14th, 2017, I had the pleasure of watching Propaganjah perform at Sanford Florida’s reggae hot spot, West End Trading Company. Straight out of Ocala, they graced the venue as the first in the lineup to open up for the headliners that night, Summerlong.
With a style inspired by reggae legend, Bob Marley, among other greats, they were an excellent kick off to the night.
I connected with them the following month on August 20th, as they headlined day 3 of the Fifth Annual Irie Vibes Music Festival, at Lakeland, Fl, where their lead vocalist, Rob Burr Jr. and Cofounder and Percussionist, Garrett Riggio, took the time to chat with me about what’s in store for the band.
On December 29th, they closed out 2017 by releasing their first EP, “Road to Somewhere”.
Whether you’re a reggae fan or a supporter of local independent music, you will enjoy the high energy that Propaganjah brings!
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: First of all, thank you so much for taking this time to do this interview with me, for your fans and our readers! For our readers and those who may not have yet heard of you, could you please describe the history of your band?
Robert Burr Jr: About 2 years ago I was introduced to Garrett (percussionist and co-founder). A mutual friend set up a jam/hangout for us, as Garrett had just moved from Montana to Ocala. We vibed quickly and organically. I called him up one day a few months later and asked if he wanted to practice every week, in case we wanted to start a band. Our current bass player just happened to send me a message about possibly being a bass player for us and the rest is history. We started adding all the layers of sound we wanted and we have evolved from a duo to a full 7 or 8 piece band now.
AltWire [Omayra]: I know you’re currently working on your EP. What has the writing process been like so far?
Rob: Luckily for me, I decided to start writing reggae music about 5 years ago. I wanted to focus on positivity in my life and gave up my pessimistic outlook that had drug me down in the previous years. A few songs on our first EP were written a few years ago and some were written with the help of a good friend of mine Cody Jones. We had both been living parallel lives and going through the same situations. The imagery on the “Road to Somewhere EP” comes from a very peaceful point in my life. Positivity will always rise above negativity and our music will always reflect that. I have been constantly writing since then and have enough material for multiple albums to come, so be prepared for a lot more pulse thumping reggae music from Propaganjah.
AltWire [Omayra]: When you’re preparing for a live show, how do you determine what songs go on your set lists?
Rob: A lot of the time, I like to check out the demographics of the places we are playing and it really determines the way we start our sets. Sometimes we can go with the flow and make an on the spot change in set structure. We like to keep the set structure relative to the vibe in the atmosphere.
AltWire [Omayra]: Does the band have any side projects going on at the moment?
Rob: Propaganjah is very busy and tends to take up most of my time, outside of my work schedule. We play 3 to 4 times a week, so it tends to be difficult to work on side projects, but I may have some collaborations in mind that the fans may be really stoked on. Time will tell if we decide on any side projects, but for now our focus is on spreading Propaganjah’s high energy true reggae sound.
AltWire [Omayra]: When did you realize music was your calling?
Garrett Riggio: I guess when I was a young, very confused person you could say… from an extremely young age, I’ve always loved music and singing along. I always tried to mimic the voices and try to sound good. My sisters used to always make fun of me and I remember riding in the car with my grandma, I was 7 or 8 years old and I was trying to sing to a Backstreet Boys song. My sisters were making fun of me saying how bad I was and my grandma was like, “one day he’s going to be one of those professional singers, you will see!” That’s when I realized music was something very special to me and something I wanted to be a part of.”
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AltWire [Omayra]: What is your fondest musical memory?
Garrett: I have two actually that are tied, the first one being The Wailers show after being a band for a year and a half and being able to open for them when honestly me and the band were together for about 6 months. To be able to play with such amazing and inspirational people that have literally caused peace movements and have made the world a better place was unbelievable!
Tied with that, was the first time we were able to land a recording after never having done a studio recording until this first year.
AltWire [Omayra]: Did you come from a musical background?
Garrett: Yes, my mom’s entire side of my family, are actually famous polka musicians, The Crew Brothers. I guess I did come from a musical background but I never had a push growing up. My dad’s from New York and I grew up in Southern California.The music started when my sisters wanted a piano and my mom bought them pianos and paid for lessons. They ended up not playing and I ended up playing and fooling around on it, and got lessons. That was my first instrument. I came from a musical background but the push came from my sisters and my mom’s support by getting us instruments and music lessons. My mom has always supported our creative side.
AltWire [Omayra]: If you weren’t pursuing music, what would you be doing?
Garrett: I do marketing on the side so I have my own business as well as my non profit organization, The Red Road Foundation. We build sustainable community for kids around the world, we have 100 students in Cambodia that we currently look after. We have a school built out of trash, 10,000 bottles and 500 tires. We have other structures on there that are built that way, they’re called Earth Ships. We work with a company called Earth Ship Cambodia to build those. I’d always be involved in music and media. I love photography as well as video editing and design and producing. There’s always been that creative side that has drawn me. Music and media is something I’ve always enjoyed doing which is why I’m involved in marketing as well so I can use my creative side.
AltWire [Omayra]: What advice would you have for any upcoming musicians who are trying to break out into the industry?
Garrett: Make sure you pick people and musicians that you really match with on a personal level as well as the belief, direction, and the type of music that you’re playing. I think passion is a huge thing, so always make sure that the people are passionate about it, dedicated and share the same vision. If you can get a group together like that, anything is possible. It’s been an amazing experience to work with the musicians that we have and be able to share stages with these people because we did that. Always stay humble and thankful. Remember that your fans and people around you are the ones that are making you have that success and the opportunity to do that. Always thank them and be appreciative because it’s a wonderful experience to be able to make music together.
AltWire [Omayra]: Is there a message you would like to send out to future listeners and your current fans?
Garrett: First of all, Thank you so much for following us and becoming a fan of our music, and the positive vibes that we’re trying to put out there, keeping this positive momentum going into our world. We have tons of negatives, so we really want to be those messengers of peace and love and live that lifestyle and share that with the people around us and bring everybody in. If I were to give a message out to them it’s to always do what you love. I think Jim Carrey said it best when he said you can easily fail at something you don’t love, so you might as well take a chance on doing something you do love and are passionate about. If it scares you and excites you at the same time, you should definitely do it. It is something worth taking a risk on because you only get one shot at life and you might as well make it everything you’ve always wanted and everything you’ve always dreamed about.
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