You Say You Want a Rebelution?


Multi-layered reggae outfit brings the love back to Maui

Rebelution was fresh off the release of their hit debut album “Courage to Grow” when they first performed on Maui in 2007. They’d just been selected as iTunes Editors’ Choice for 2007’s Best Reggae Album. Sixteen years and six studio albums later, they return to the Maui Arts and Cultural Center March 10 to perform in the A&B Amphitheater. 

Five of those intervening albums topped the Billboard Best Reggae Album charts at number one. Their most recent release, “In the Moment”, almost repeated, but peaked at number two. They garnered a Best Reggae Album Grammy nomination for 2017’s “Falling Into Place.” Two live albums, two acoustic albums, and two dub albums round out their discography. 

Rebelution first played on Maui in 2007. Courtesy Rebelution

Formed in the college town of Isla Vista, California, in 2004 by friends who met while studying at U.C. Santa Barbara, the band consists of lead singer and guitarist Eric Rachmany, bassist Marley Williams, keyboard player Rory Carey, and drummer Wesley Finley. Saxophonist Eric Hirschhorn, trumpet player Zach Meyerowitz, and guitarist Kyle Ahern join the band on tour. 

Over years of relentless touring, Rebelution has built a vast following, sold countless downloads, headlined huge venues such as  Red Rocks and The Greek Theater, and played Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Glastonbury among numerous other festivals. 

Their music is modern reggae, some songs echoing deep Jamaican roots, others punctuated by pop hooks, progressive guitar licks, or hip hop flow. The musicianship, especially Rachmany’s guitar work, is impressive. 

The diminutive Rachmany isn’t your typical reggae frontman. Far from the rastaman stereotype, he sports short hair under a baseball cap and has a bright, high-pitched, almost boyish voice. His lyrics are socially conscious and introspective, most recently focused on the passage of time and nostalgia for his youth as he adjusts to fatherhood. In addition to taking his first break from touring in many years when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he also married his girlfriend Manuela, moved to her home island of Guam for the better part of a year, and had a baby boy. 

His father is an Iranian-born Israeli folk dance instructor and met his mother, who is also of Iranian ancestry, in San Francisco when she was organizing the city’s annual Ethnic Dance Festival. Israeli and Persian music permeated Rachmany’s youth. 

“A lot of my vocal style really comes from that Middle Eastern music that I heard growing up,” he told Michael Franti on the Stay Human podcast last year. He credits his older sister’s interest in the piano for getting him started on keys at an early age. He had picked up guitar by age 12.

As with most reggae music, love and unity are pervasive themes in his lyrics and the group’s performances have a decidedly upbeat feel. Judicious use of reverb and delay give their music complexity without seeming overproduced. However they’ve also recorded dub versions of many of their songs, a compilation of which came out in 2020. 

Rebelution’s seventh and most recent studio album, 2021’s “In The Moment”, is a remote collaboration among bandmates, recorded in their respective Southern California homes during the height of the pandemic. It opens with the popish-sounding “Satisfied” which seems to be about checking in on friends during difficult times. “Stay on a mission, trying to bridge the division,” one line commands. The nostalgic “Old School Feeling” follows, with its plaintive call for the DJ to play some roots; then “Heavy as Lead” hits with a beat as steady as a metronome.

Eric Rachmany isn’t your typical reggae frontman. Courtesy Rebelution

Folky acoustic guitar opens “To Be Younger” then switches to snappy rhythms with sparse production elements as Rachmany laments, “Sometimes it all adds up so abruptly, my cup is full but I feel empty. Lately I’m out of touch, sleepless all because, years are adding up as I tally up, my time’s changing faster than I thought.” The childlike, flirtatious love song “Initials” lifts the mood back up, followed by the classic rasta anthem “2020 vision” with its call to “never give in” and a segment featuring Jamaican rapper Kabaka Pyramid. 

Dancehall phenom Busy Signal lends authenticity to the upbeat “All Or Nothing.” Fans of Jawaiian music will be stoked with the ukulele melody in the sweet love song “You And I.” Rudimentary rhythms support “Adapt, Survive” with its anti-war-on-drugs message of “speaking truth to hate, set the record straight,” leading into the slow-paced ode to parenthood, “Future Depends,” in which Rachmany exhorts us to “plant a seed for the future depends, care and take for the younglings ahead.” 

R&B and soul artist Durand Jones lends his voice to “That Zone”, a lament about being friend zoned by someone you love. What follows is perhaps the most captivating of the tracks, “Simply Captivating”, which opens with almost prog-rock-ish guitar work that begins sounding like Robert Fripp, but somehow evolves into Satriani. Carey’s keys create an ethereal space in which the layered guitar tracks collide and echo off of one another. 

Kezmandi’s guest vocals add a needed injection of Jamaican authenticity to “Places Unknown”, a simple melody framed by a bit too much reverb and delay, but saved by the horn section. “Life it takes a toll,” Rachmany sings, “but even failure can lead us to grow.” 

If you’re unfamiliar with the band and want to get a sense for what the show will be like, you might be better off starting out with their latest release, “Live at St. Augustine”, which features a September 2021 performance in Florida. For tickets, visit

Dan Collins

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