Formed in the fall of 1998 by Harrison Stafford, Marcus Urani, and Ryan Newman, Groundation began on the campus of Sonoma State University's Jazz Program. Between 1999 and 2001, Harrison Stafford taught the first course on the History of Reggae Music at the University. bIn 1999, Stafford teamed up with Kris Dilbeck to found Young Tree Records and release Groundation's debut album Young Tree. "Groundation" comes from the Rasta term "Grounation".
Grounation Day is an important Rastafarian holy day celebrated April 21, which commemorates Haile Selassie’s first visit to Jamaica in 1966. Grounation Day is second in importance to Coronation Day, which is celebrated November 2, in honor Hail Selassie’s Coronation in 1930.
In 2000 they added to the line up David Chachere, a San Francisco-based jazz trumpeter, and Kelsey Howard, a North Bay trombone player. Saxophonist Jason Robinson was a member of the band for a time, and has since gone on to become the head of the jazz program at UC San Diego. Drummer Paul Spina (Les Claypool, Will Bernard's Mother Bug) has been with the group since taking over for James Stafford in December 2001; he left the group in summer 2008. Kim Pommell and Kerry Ann Morgan (both graduates of Kingston's Ashe performing arts school) joined in 2006, and are featured lead vocalists on Groundation's 2009 release Here I Am. In 2012, vocalist Jhamiela Smith joined the group, daughter of legendary reggae guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith, to sing chorus along with Kim Pommell. They are current chorus vocalists for Groundation.
The nine-piece band creates an altogether new reggae sound, featuring swirling, jazz/funk inspired horns, stout Latin and African based poly-rhythmics, and soulful harmony vocals. Their concerts utilize live improvisation, in classic jazz fashion, and are renowned for their high energy, communion-type atmosphere. Having gained international notoriety for their progressive fusion style, Groundation regularly plays at major international festivals like Summerjam.
The band uses analog instruments and recording equipment rather than digital, with Stafford explaining "No digital, we don't work with synthesisers. Just like in the 1970s we stick to that format."
The first track to be released from their upcoming new album this September will be 'My Shield'
Musically “My Shield” is an African influenced web of melodic and rhythmic patterns over a 6/4 beat. The way the bass and guitar lines interact as well as the bass and drums while the keyboards dance on top; the groove is otherworldly. Lyrically it’s giving thanks to Jah, the positive spirit that acts as a “shield” of protection against all negative forces. This spirit is manifested through music and this song reminds us of the briefness of this life and the greatest of Jah.