Mark Edward Mohr
October 23rd, 1971
Instrument/role in band:
Lead vocalist, songwriter manager and producer.
I came to Christ at the age of 4 or 5 years old, but strayed away a few years later. Heavily influenced by peer pressure, by the tender age of 10 years old I had started smoking Marijuana and drinking alchohol. Marijuana truly was a gateway drug for me. Just a few years later I was smoking anything that would get me high from opium to crack. I became heavily involved in Cocaine, LSD, pre-marital sex, and a small local gang. As they say; "misery loves company," and I kept some pretty miserable company those years. Until the age of seventeen I was heavily addicted to Marijuana and even grew a small plantation.
It was during a short trip to Jamaica at the age of 15 that I first caught the reggae bug (reggae-mylitis). Indoctrinated by the lyrics of the likes of Peter Tosh and Marley, I began praising "Jah Rastafari" in my daily surf sessions and attempting to justify my daily sacrament of weed with the Scriptures (that by then had given me chronic bronchitis).
I had been through a plethora of 12 step programs, seen a host of counselors, ran away from home and was busted by the police for cocaine--basically, I was a complete rebel in every sense of the word. But all the while, my parents, and their Bible study group kept praying for me.
The straw finally broke the camel's back just a few weeks before I was to turn 18 years old. My parents all but forced me to go to a Christian camp called JH Ranch. It was at this high adventure camp that my life was transformed forever through a simple modern day version of the Prodigal son--that was me! I fell to my knees, repented of my sins and never looked back. Shortly after I was baptized, and I began writing songs during my quiet times with God. Just two weeks after I repented I started Christafari at a talent show at another Christian camp. As for the Drugs, I've been sober ever since!
Colossians 3: 16-17 (it is also Christafari's theme verse).
Ethiopian, Hawaiian, Trinidadian, Indian--basically all of the "ians," and of course Thai--gotta have that curry!
High fidelity Dub Sessions, Any vintage Dub reggae, John Brown's Body, Dub Side of the Moon, Gi Gi, Bill Laswell, Aswad, Steel Pulse, Marley, Zap Mama, Soca, and the heart of Keith Greene.
Spending time with my wife, surfing, skating, backpacking, making jewelry, and of course RECORDING MUSIC!
After I came to Christ at the age of 17, I started Christafari and went to Bible College (Biola University). In the last 15 years of ministry with Christafari I have been to 31 different countries, and visited Jamaica as a missionary 13 times. It is a real privilege to serve the Lord by doing what I love most. In 1996 I was ordained by Pastor Bob Beeman (Sanctuary International). In 2003-2004 my wife Avion and I lived in her home country of Trinidad and planted a church together called "The Gathering." This ministry is still going strong today under my guidance and the leadership of a great friend Brenton Cherrie.
What's it like to be the FOUNDER of Christian Reggae music?
It is overwhelming at times because of the pressure, yet it is also humbling at times when the CCM (Contemporary Christian) industry refuses to acknowledge world music. I feel like a square peg in a round hole. Though some may treat me like royalty (which in my mind is absolutely ridiculous!), to others this genre is irrelevant and simply does not fit their format. Needless to say, it is bitter-sweet being the pioneer of gospel reggae.
Do you prefer being in the studio or on the road?
I like them both equally. When I am in the studio, I long for the road, and vise versa. However, though it may be far less personal, the studio is much easier on you physically than the road, but you don't get to see the spiritual fruits first-hand.
Have you any regrets at all throughout your career?
Yes, there were times back in the mid 90's when our band was corrupted by the industry and many members lost sight of the band's original vision--eventually causing a split. You can't please everyone--you just have to try and please God, then He will bless you. Though we accomplished a lot during those times, it was often at the sacrifice of relationships and family. Family should always be your first ministry. I learned a lot from those times that I apply now for a different Christafari.
Will we be expecting another new album anytime soon?
The next Mark Mohr and Christafari release will be called "Gravitational DUB: Destination Dub Central Station." It's a psychedelic, ambient, instrumental reinterpretation of the songs from our latest "Gravity" release plus a few more dub-worthy tracks. It is by far my favorite Christafari album to date and my friends who have listened to it say that it is 100% me! We have held off the release of this album for almost a year now due to problems with our distributors. Pray that God brings us to the right distribution system soon! I am also currently recording a Christafari Kids album called "Reggae Sunday School." It's like veggie tales meets Sean Paul for Adults that are really kids at heart (and of course their children will enjoy it too!).
Why did you choose reggae music?
I didn't choose reggae music, reggae chose me. I was first introduced to it through my Jamaican neighbor. Then when I visited Jamaica for the first time at the age of 15, I was captivated by the Caribbean sounds. What began as an enticement to the rhythms developed into a full-fledged fascination. Since I was a habitual marijuana user in my teenage years, it was probably the teachings of Rastafari and their pro- marijuana stance that initially drew me in the strongest. When I was in the world I tried to start a band based on marijuana, but it never came to fruition. After I saw the light and became born again as a senior in high school, I realized that I had been deceived. The Lord delivered me from my drug use and gave me a new life in Christ. However, still having a love for the music and a strong compassion for those who play and listen to reggae music, I felt the Lord calling me to reach the reggae industry with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With new songs in my heart and a burning vision in my eyes I set out to start Christafari, the first Christian reggae band in the U.S.A.
Over the years your music has changed somewhat in style. Do you prefer the strong ethnic Jamaican style with the dub flavor?
Christafari has always believed in authenticity in sound. From our first demo to our most recent studio album, we have tried to keep our music as true to its source (Jamaica) as possible. However, somewhere along the way we were enticed by the CCM industry and for a short time (during the recording of the "Soul Fire" album) we submitted to the guidance of our then producer and former record company. Using an outside producer that was not experienced in reggae and a marketing team that did not fully understand the genre affected our sound and stance on authenticity. This was a great learning lesson for us, and encouraged us to take a firmer stance on our sound. It also taught me everything that I needed to know in order to produce and engineer future Christafari albums on my own. Now that I have started my own record company (Lion of Zion) and the sound of the band is back in my hands, I have the freedom to record Christafari's most authentic tracks to date.
Yes, I love authentic reggae such as dub, roots & culture and contemporary dancehall. Ultimately, my taste for music is similar to my taste for food-- the more authentic the better. Don't give me the homogenized American version, give me the real thing, even if my stomach may not always agree. It is all or nothing. Music is the only thing that doesn't taste better with cheese on it!
Why do you feel God chose you to plug this gap in Christian music?
Because I am not worthy to. On my own strength, I am the last person in the world that should be singing, much less pioneering this genre of reggae. But this is how God works, He always chooses the most unlikely and undeserving messengers to proclaim His simple message. I believe that God chose a weak person such as myself for this calling to prove to the world that it is Him alone that is strong. God uses the simple things of the world to confound the wise. By no means do I deserve to be a voice in the reggae industry. It is a black music started in the ghetto of Kingston Jamaica. I am a white guy that was raised in one of the richest cities in white suburban America. When I think about this from time to time it makes me laugh! I do not deserve this and should not be doing this. You could find more raw talent in any 10 year old Jamaican boy than in me. But once again, this is how God works. I believe that he chose me so that He would receive all of the glory. One look at the Bible and you will realize that this is how he chooses leaders; from Moses who was a murderer with a speech impediment to King David who was an unlikely shepherd. God must get the glory at all times-- I pray that my life gives him the glory that He deserves.
Why do you feel so many people get hooked into Christafarianism?
Our music is original and unlike anything out there in the Christian industry. This unique roots sound cannot be replaced by the latest industry manufactured pop sensation that is on the cover of CCM. We have created our own culture within our fan base. And these fans are diehard. We may not have a huge crowd every night when we are out on tour, but the ones that come truly understand what we are trying to accomplish and often drive as far as 5 states away just to fellowship with us and praise God through reggae music.
I think that they also sense the authenticity in our spirits. We include the Word of God in all of our songs and clearly proclaim the gospel at all of our shows. We minister to the people after each show and are usually the last ones to leave the venue. They see the fruits of our ministry and want to give us long-term support.
What would you say to devotees who want the truth of God?
Seek and you shall find. God is always just one prayer away. Jesus Christ loved you so much that He died for you. Will you truly live for Him? Read the Bible every day. No compromise!
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