Chart-topping Gospel Reggae pioneers CHRISTAFARI return to the top spot this week on the Billboard Reggae Albums Chart with their latest studio album, "Original Love" (Lion of Zion Entertainment). Released on April 13th, "Original Love" is the group's seventh consecutive album to debut at #1.
After nearly three decades, CHRISTAFARI is the all-time top selling Gospel Reggae act and continues to be a driving force in world music. But the band considers themselves to be more than just musicians, but rather "musicianaries" (musical missionaries), spreading the message of hope and salvation globally to approximately 20 countries per year.
Q: Pastor Mark, thanks for doing this interview with us. What does CHRISTAFARI mean?
Although it may sound like it-- our name is not a mixture of Rastafarianism and Christianity. It is not like calling oneself "Christbuddah" or "ChristKrishna."
CHRISTAFARI (pronounced Christ-ah- far- eye), is a name whose root is found in three languages; Greek, Latin and Amharic.
1) First and most importantly is the Greek language through which God chose to write the New Testament. In this language the name Cristoforos (Christafaros) means "the Christ bearer" and Cristoforoi (Christafaroi) which is plural meaning "a group of people that collectively bear or represent Christ. This is where we get the name "Christopher" from.
2) Representing the same definition with a closer spelling is the Latin word Christafari.
3) This name Christafari can also be found in the Ethiopian language Amharic. "Christ" being the Greek word meaning Messiah, the anointed one "Jesus Christ". "Tafari" is the Amharic word for Creator, Almighty, awesome, Father and one who needs to be worshipped. These attributes of Christ are found in John 1:1-3.
4) Lastly, in modern Greek, the name Christafari means "soldiers for Christ" or "a salvation army".
Overall, the name states that Christ is the Creator the awesome Almighty God. He is our loving Father that should be feared and deserves the greatest of worship. This is why we bear His name and choose to represent Him as soldiers for Christ and warriors for His Kingdom.
Q: How did you guys start?
Before I found Christ I was writing and singing songs about marijuana. Just before I turned 18, the Lord transformed my life at a youth camp and from that moment on I was inspired to sing about Him and do my best to bring others to His saving grace. Christafari was birthed out of a talent show during that time. I never would've imagined that I'd still be doing this 29 years later having visited 75 countries and 46 states.
Q: You started off with TobyMac. Do you foresee yourself working with him in the near future again?
I'd love to. We have tour with him before, but never done a song with him. That's entirely up to him. I wouldn't rule it out since his wife is a Jamaican and I know that he has recently worked with Papa San (another gospel reggae artist). He has definitely been an inspiration to me over the years and some of the advice he gave us at the very beginning has seriously influence the direction that we have taken over the years.
Q: In your bio, you described yourselves as "musicianaries." What do you mean?
We are musical missionaries. It means that we target the ends of the earth and set out to reach the last tribes and minister to lost people... Especially the least of these; the hungry, the sick, the prisoners, and the orphans. It is an absolute privilege to be a part of fulfilling the great commission and bringing the gospel to every single nation. It's not easy to raise the funds necessary to do this, But we always trust that the Lord will provide and He's allowed us to visit about 15 to 20 countries a year as missionaries. This is also made possible through partners that have donated to us at: www.christafari.com/donate
Q: Your albums have been very important to Christian reggae music, have you always wanted to record songs in this genre?
Yes, ever since I gave my life to Christ, my heartbeat has been synced to reggae music. But I do love other styles of music and over the years I've incorporated a combination style of reggae with other genres. We've done everything from jungle to hip-hop, and merengue to African. We've incorporated dubstep and now EDM into our reggae style. Reggae fits well with almost any genre and has even been used with great success for our Christmas and kids albums!
Q: I must say I love your new album. I love especially your covers, I was just singing to your reggae version of Hillsong's "What a beautiful Name." Why did you choose this song?
Simply put, it's a beautiful song. When I first heard it, I thought it was made for my wife Avion to sing. And she does such a fantastic job on our rendition of it. Of course it helps that the two covers that we picked are two of the most popular Christian songs over the last few years, but that's not why we chose them. We chose them because they're incredible songs that truly lead you into worship and are so in the line with our hearts.
Q: You also have a wonderful version of "Good Good Father." Why this song?
I think the chorus just screams out reggae. The real challenge for us was flipping it from a 3/4 timing to a 4/4 timing. That's the only way that we can successfully make it reggae. Beyond that, I think that we have been guilty of anthropomorphizing God. That's a fancy way of saying that we are making him like a human in our minds. And obviously, when you hear the name "Father," the natural tendency is to compare Him to our earthly father. That usually leads to a lot of confusion. Because God will never leave you, He will never forsake you. Our earthly fathers may abandon us, neglect us, or even abuse us. But our heavenly Father will do nothing of the sort. I love that we finally have a song that tells of just how good our heavenly father truly is!
Q: Talk to us also about our new original songs. Which ones in particular mean a lot now? And why?
Gosh, there are so many on the album, that I don't know where to start. Aside from the title track which is definitely one of my faves, I really like the message behind "Surely Goodness" and "Your Beauty Chases Me". Both were inspired by the final verse in Psalm 23. Overall, I've just got to say that God's not mad at you... He's madly in love with you. We hope that this album helps you fall more in love with Him than you ever have been before.
Q: On this album, you sing about God's original love, what does this love mean to you personally?
It means so many things. His love transcends all the love in the universe. In fact He is the true source of love. If you don't know God, then you don't know true love. His love never fails. It's not based on your works. In fact, His greatest action of love, (sacrificing his son Jesus on the cross), was in response to our bad deeds. We can't earn his love. We love because He first loved us. And there's nothing that we could ever do to make Him love us more or love us less than He loves us right now. The real question that was pose at the end of this album is what are you going to do with this love? Will you personalize His love? Will you receive it and make it yours? Will you allow His love and grace to wash over you and transform you? I did and it was the best decision that I've ever made. I have no regrets.