James Henry "Hands on Fire"
James Henry (Hands On Fire Band) was awarded the best CD in Northern California out of 1000 bands as well as the Best of San Francisco’s World Beat Music.
His sounds spring forth in the form of island tones, pouncing melodiously against ones eardrum on a fervent accord.
James Henry, master percussionist, producer, songwriter and educator, always had a magnetic way with creating music. He’s released 10 albums, ranging from kid songs to adult melodies; including, holiday music. His funky ballads are raw and liberating. Perhaps, it’s because Henry doesn’t believe in boxing his music into one particular genre. Therefore, he composes mood amending elements that energize the soul.
“I do music sound scores for movies as well. For instance, I recently did “I’m on “Sorry to Bother You.” I also set up musical curriculum's for schools. I’ve set curriculum's in New Zealand, Australia and Africa. I’ve done musical education using the African drum as musical therapy—The power of the drum... All of that goes under my company called Samba Productions. With my music, that’s the reason I incorporate all the historical rhythms from around the world into my sound, which is called World Fusion. People acknowledges fusion as jazz. I’ve created this new music called World Fusion, Jungle Funk,” says Henry, while describing the various sounds that he mingles together, formulating the perfect blend of harmonies. “I’m combining Latin, Salsa, Soca and Caribbean music from around the world. I’m creating music that inspires the spirit, the mind and the soul, to get you moving.”
In an article published in NPR.org, the author talks about the affects that music has on the brain, and even mentions that music will help Parkinson and stroke patients.
Henry believes that there is healing in music as well. Once he found out about the correlation years ago, he knew that he was onto something remarkable.
“Obviously, my roots were in the church first, and that’s where I started. I branched off into jazz. It was quite interesting because the way you grow up in church ,and if you do something outside of the church, it’s bad. It took me a long time to convert my music. I had to understand my lesson, that I am healing people, and not just dancing. I am healing and sending messages. I began working for a company called “New Age Music.” I remember that our black community did not understand New Age Music because it didn’t have any rhythm for them to move. It was just chords. After working with the company for five years, I had an epiphany that if I added chords with some funky grooves or something that would tap their feet, I knew I could create music for people to not only listen, but to heal their spirit. Right now, as I’m speaking to you, I received a text. One of my students only has a few days to live. The parents called me and asked me to be in the room with him at the hospital because of my spirit. I went, and I called out his name, and he moved a little bit. So, I know what I do is definitely from the spirit of God. I just put it in a different way that everyone can enjoy it.”
Henry teaching students "The Power Of Music"
Henry is a behind the scenes philanthropist. He hosts free concerts for the adopted kids around the world, in addition to the less fortunate from the Bay area (San Francisco, California).
"I also go into our juvenile halls and jails to uplift their spirits. I try to give people hope—Behind the scenes, it’s a lot of work. It’s work, but I’m committed."
The musician recently opened for one of the Queens of Rock & Soul, Patti Labelle.
“Patti exclaimed as soon as she saw me,” Henry verbalizes… “Patti said, ‘I saw you on percussion's. Now, grab my hands. We’re going to pray.’ That meant she recognized what I was doing. To me, the only way we can make things happen is not to talk about it, but just do it," He says. “Action speaks louder than words, but if you do it through the spirit of music, it works.”
It's imperative for Henry to keep his music broad, by not minimizing his creativity or converting to mainstream dynamics.
"The thing that inspires me is that I see people move and then all of a sudden, they compliment my style of music. That really uplifts my spirit because I’m really just educating everybody here. Right now, everything in the music industry sounds the same. My goal is to re-educate the listeners to new music. I’ve gotten positive responses. I’ve gotten thousands of hits on other vehicles that I play my music on. The response that I get is people saying, “Thank you for saving my life. This music has touched me.”
Henry is working on a new album that revels African music, with background vocals reminiscent to Aretha Franklin with some James Brown funk. Recently, he released a misty single, “If You Want Me To Say
“I work with one of the biggest producers. His name is Narada Michal Waldon. He found Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. He played Aretha Franklin, Pink Cadillac. I work around that team, and the team of players that I’ve worked with is high skilled. Therefore, when doing this album, I wanted to write songs that everyone knows, but I wanted to put a twist on it. The twist that added to the song "If You Want Me To Say," is that I called on Sheila E’s bass player and then, I called Carlos Santana’s trumpet player. I called on Carl Wheeler, who was the one who helped me put it together. He’s the main keyboard player with Frankie Beverly and Maze—I put all those great players together to make a great Gumbo. That’s how the song came about. The history behind the record is Sly and the Family Stone—No one really knows about that. I wanted to be the teacher of that history."
Henry ventured into his own free-world of music after playing with the legendary Nadra Michael Waldon and Sting. In the beginning, he was finding his way like many musicians that assume part of the machine, that make the band a success. Henry didn’t have a voice at that time, but he does now.
“I wanted people to hear my music before I left this planet, and that’s when I decided that I have to write my voice, and people have to hear my opinions about my songs.”
Henry has a track record that spans several decades. He’s performed with many artist, however, Henry’s most memorable performance is with Carlos Santana and Narada Micahel Waldon.
“Those are definitely my favorite performances. They weren’t just famous musicians, but they were serious creators, and they gave me the opportunity for me to be me. There was no wrong side."
While on the subject of creators and imaginative music artist, paving the way, and using their platforms to inspire, James Henry talked about Nipsey Hussle in regards to legacy after death.
“Nipsy Hussle’s death allowed me to see that I need to work harder at what I have. It’s always going to be some drama in the music industry. It’s always going to be something. It made me aware of what I had to do as an artist. I want to be known for my own legacy, as someone who is uplifting our consciousness, our awareness and being able to teach through my music that we are all on this planet together and we have to work together."