Messenjah is a roots reggae band that was formed in 1981 in Kitchener, Ont, by Errol Blackwood (vocals, bass guitar) and Rupert 'Ojiji' Harvey (vocals, guitar, alto saxophone), the latter previously with the Toronto reggae bands Crack of Dawn and Inner Fire. Other early members were Eric Walsh (guitar), Hal Duggan (keyboards), and Raymond Ruddock (drums). Messenjah released its first album, Rock You High, independently in 1982; it was re-issued by WEA (25-02021) in 1983. Jam Session (WEA 25-04551), with percussionist Tony King added, followed in 1984.
Harvey (b Clarendon parish, Jamaica, 9 Feb 1955) assumed the leadership when Blackwood left Messenjah after Jam Session to pursue a solo career. For Messenjah's third LP, Cool Operator (1987, Version VLP-001), Harvey, Duggan, and Walsh recorded with Charles Sinclair (bass guitar), Haile Yates (percussion), and Crash Morgan (drums). Donovan Black replaced Morgan on Rock & Sway (1990, Kick Up KUCD-100).
Working after 1985 out of Toronto, Messanjah has toured extensively in Canada and the USA, and appeared in Jamaica (eg, Reggae Sunsplash, 1985), developing an international reputation as one of the leading non-Jamaican-based groups in reggae. The band was seen in the US feature film Cocktail (1988) and contributed to its soundtrack. Messenjah's best-known songs, in a progressive, upbeat reggae style flavoured by funk, pop, rap, dub, and rock, include 'Arrested,' 'Rock You High,' 'Jam Session,' 'Cool Operator,' 'Crazy,' and 'Could It Be I'm Falling in Love?' Typically, 'Crazy' employs sweet vocal harmonies in the US 'soul' style, as well as a rap section, over a relatively soft-edged reggae rhythm.