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The best kept secret in music


"Lollipop Magazine"

Janah "World That Surrounds You" (Rattlesby)

by Scott Hefflon

So the story is that vocalist/guitarist Keith Johnston spent some time on the Meditteranean searching both spiritually as well as musically. He returned to the States (Georgia, specifically) and created music the likes of which you rarely hear ’round these parts. Comparisons to U2 are obvious because of the tone of his voice, as are references to Peter Gabriel and Enya, simply cuz who else can you namedrop that people’ll know? Awful as it sounds, the simple fact that Janah follows a slightly different drummer (but let’s not kid ourselves, there’re still the restrictions and rules and parameters of style, they’re just different than traditional rock) is cause enough for celebration.

There’s the breast-swelling Bono-style vocal that reaches deep and makes you glad to be alive, and there’s an open, wind-on-the-plains feel, like classic U2 at their finest, and there’re tribal instruments thunking, clicking and clanking in ways very non-duh rock’n’roll. Maybe this is par for the course for World Music, I wouldn’t know cuz I can’t sit through most of the stuff long enough to develop much of an ear for it. I do know I once had a neighbor who’s cooking smelled great (but also smelled like it’d dissolve your innards like Drano) who cranked manic Indian pecussive music that made speedmetal seem very one-dimensional. Hey, like scruffy long-hairs in the late ’80s were the only ones to worship speed and hit things rapidly? There’s a lot of energy here, and everyone I play it for likes it, thinks it’s kinda hippie trippy but cool, and wants to know who it is and where they can get a copy.


- Scott Hefflon

"CMJ New Music Report"

Janah, a six-piece from Atlanta, has tapped into a musical well that's overflowing with enough New World ingredients to make the most stringent neo-hippie listener perk up--while setting aside the Putamayo box set for a moment--and take notice. Rusted root fans still whistling the melody to "Send Me On My Way" or Afro-Celt Sound System enthusiasts who have a fetish for the bamboo flute will similarly feel at home here. Janah's sound, stemming from Keith Johnston's worldly travels (where he was transfixed by the music and culture of exotic locations like Israel, Egypt and Greece), boasts an array of instrumentation and inspiration that falls outside of the conventional rock band; sitars, mizmars, frame drums, tabla, and, yes, bamboo flutes flourish on WORLD THAT SURROUNDS YOU. The result is a pleasing mix of musical worlds smacking together in mellifluous union. It's hard to pull off a sound like this without purists yelling "David Byrne," but Janah manages to forge many of its own aural paths. Their debut is as refreshing as it is mildly derivative, but it is nonetheless worthy of attention. - Kevin Boyce

"Chicago Sun-Times"

"A jubilant, compelling record...the sort of music Robert Plant has tried to create for years." - Jeffrey Wisser


More info at http://janah.org


Feeling a bit camera shy


“The bottom line to our music is to let people travel with the songs while staying in their own homes.” --Keith Johnston, Janah

Whether playing to jam band fans at a neo-hippie festival, slick hipsters in an urban club or world music aficionados at a music conference, Janah transcends genre and reaches the audience. That serves as testament to the universal appeal of Janah’s eclectic mix of rock, world music and positive spirituality. Although comparisons to U2, Rusted Root, Peter Gabriel or Afro Celt Sound System might seem to reek of hyperbole, the discriminating listener will find them to be apt.

The genesis of Janah’s music derives from the travels of lead vocalist/guitarist Keith Johnston, who spent a year searching the Mediterranean for the spiritual as well as for the worldly. Johnston spent much of 1994 and 1995 working-- first on a kibbutz near the Sea of Galilee, then on Ein Yahov Moshav-- in a desolate stretch of desert near the Dead Sea. While on the kibbutz, he lived with 25 volunteers from all over the world. The exposure to differing cultures was eye opening. “You see things differently from how you see them growing up,” says Johnston. “There weren’t many Westerners [on the moshav]; that’s where I started writing lots of songs. We listened to lots of Israeli and Arab music on the radio while we worked.”

After his sojourn in Israel, Johnston toured Egypt and Greece. Egypt had a particular impact. “Everything there had a wild rawness to it that was just beautiful. I tried to translate the feels and colors and smells into music.” When Johnston returned home to Atlanta, he continued to explore the music of other cultures, while writing songs that married his new cultural experiences to his rock sensibilities. When it came time to perform these new songs, Johnston was able to find some very special musicians.

Bassist/vocalist Steve Atwell and drummer/vocalist Ron Cochran had played in bands with Johnston—but never in a band remotely like Janah. Atwell’s bass style serves to anchor Janah’s sound, but it is his showmanship that a first-time audience notices. Drummer Cochran doesn’t play the traditional trap kit found in virtually all rock bands. He contributes fills from a variety of African drums (he uses a djembe instead of a snare, for instance); his vocal work adds immeasurably to Janah’s distinctive multiple part harmonies and precision call-and-response singing style. Percussionist/vocalist Rick Shoemaker is fascinating to watch as he combines his split-second timing on congas, timbales, concert bass drum, dumbek and a variety of other instruments with that of Cochran. This rhythm section is unlike any other in the rock world.

Multi-instrumentalist Bill Douglass is as much a front man for Janah as Johnston. He projects a commanding appearance on stage, sings most of the baritone parts of Janah’s complex vocal arrangements and plays an impressive array of exotic instruments. Tablas, sitar, bamboo flutes, bodhran, penny whistle, mizmar and didgerido all come into play when Douglass is on stage. Keyboard man Brad Chestnut adds the sounds of the few instruments the other band members don’t play, as well as danceable rhythms and further vocal harmonies.

Janah holds its own on stage when opening for any band. They look good and they sound better. Exotic instruments, exotic costumes, candles and incense all contribute to the image. Beautiful melody, exciting on-stage interaction and a uniquely positive attitude complete the scene.