Since emerging in the early 1990s, Christian reggae group Christafari has released over two-dozen albums which combine gospel messages with the rhythms of reggae music. Led by Pastor Mark Mohr, a former Rastafarian who converted to Christianity, the band rose to prominence in the latter half of the ’90s with a series of successful albums for the Gotee label. After this, Mohr founded his own imprint, Lion of Zion, which continued to release Christafari’s music over the subsequent decades. Along the way, they have branched out to release dub, Spanish-language, and even Christmas albums while sending releases like 2012′s Reggae Worship: A Roots Revival and 2018′s Original Love to the top of Billboard’s Reggae Albums chart. They began the next decade with 2021′s Under God.
After a 1986 family trip to Jamaica, Mohr became enamored of both reggae music and the Rastafarian lifestyle. A rebellious teenager, he began growing marijuana, learned to speak in the Jamaican patois, and adopted Rastafarianism. At the age of 17, while attending a Christian youth camp, Mohr devoted himself to Christianity and in 1989 founded a band that would promote the gospel while borrowing musical aspects from his brief Rastafarian experience. Arguably the first Christian reggae group, Christafari began performing together later that year. The band made their album debut with 1993′s Reggae Worship, Vol. 1 on the California label Frontline Records. The album touched Billboard’s reggae chart and caused enough of a stir in the Christian music community to earn them a record deal with TobyMac’s recently launched Gotee Records. The signing helped Christafari gain significant exposure for their next two albums, Soulfire (1996) and Valley of Decision (1996), the latter of which climbed to number seven on Billboard’s Reggae Albums chart. Meanwhile, Mohr was ordained in 1997 after graduation from the Christian college, Biola University. For Christafari’s fourth album, he founded his own record company, Lion of Zion Entertainment, and released WordSound&Power in 1999. Another Top Ten entry on the reggae chart, the project was expanded the following year into a dub version (DubSound&Power) as well as a Spanish-language version (PalabraSonidoYPoder).
While ministering in the Caribbean in 2002, Mohr met a Trinidadian musician named Avion Blackman whom he married a year-and-a-half later. Blackman made her first appearance with Christafari on 2003′s Gravity and its 2004 dub companion album Gravitational Dub, then joined the group as its full-time bassist and vocalist. With an occasionally rotating lineup of seasoned musicians surrounding Mohr and Blackman, Christafari kept up a prolific stream of releases over the coming years, including albums like 2007′s To the Foundation and 2009′s No Compromise. In 2012, they became the first-Christian group to notch a number one album on Billboard’s reggae chart with their album Reggae Worship: A Roots Revival. They offered up their first holiday release, Reggae Christmas, a year later with a pair of best of compilations, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2, appearing in 2014. During the latter half of the 2010s, Christafari entered one of their most commercially successful phases, sending a string of albums, like 2015′s Anthems and 2018′s Original Love, to number one. They also continued to make dub versions of most of their releases and in 2020 released Reggae Christmas 2: Reason for the Season. Their next studio album, Under God, arrived in 2021. ~ Timothy Monger