Reggae artist, a Bay Area native, gets powered up for S.F. festival

Eric Rachmany has lofty goals for Rebelution, the popular reggae act he’s fronted for the past six years.

Not only does he want people to enjoy the band’s cool surf rock-meets-reggae sounds, he also wants to save the world. He likens the band’s message to the Hebrew term tikkun olam.

“I kind of feel like Rebelution is my way of healing the world,” he says with a slight chuckle. “We put out a message and try to motivate and encourage people to be positive.”

This kind of mentality should fit in well at the band’s next San Francisco gig — the Power to the Peaceful festival in Golden Gate Park, which takes place Sept. 10 to 12. Rebelution will perform Sept. 11.

“I think it’s good it’s over Sept. 11, because it’s a time when people should be looking at working things out with words and music,” Rachmany says.

The show also marks a return home for Rachmany, 26. He was raised just blocks from the park in the Sunset District by his mother, Lily Kharazzi, who worked for the Ethnic Dance Festival, and his late father, Yoram Rachmany, once an Israeli folk dance instructor at the JCC of San Francisco.

Growing up, Rachmany was musically influenced by his parents’ careers, listening to world music as well as Israeli tunes. He began playing piano at age 5 and started listening to his own music, especially acoustic rockers like the Dave Matthews Band, in middle school at Brandeis Hillel Day School. He picked up the guitar at age 13.

Rebelution band members are (from left) Wesley Finley, Eric Rachmany, Marley D. Williams and Rory Carey.

The Santa Barbara resident says he’s looking forward to old friends, family and his first guitar teacher being in the crowd at the Power to the Peaceful festival, cheering on Rebelution and other acts including Michael Franti and Spearhead and Crystal Bowersox.

Rebelution began in 2004 when Rachmany met keyboardist Rory Carey, bassist Marley D. Williams and drummer Wesley Finley while attending Santa Barbara City College. Though they met in the music department, all four went on to graduate with different degrees — Rachmany’s was in religious studies. “I wanted to learn about the different religions of the world,” he says.

The band cut its teeth covering Bob Marley and Sublime songs during packed backyard parties in the college town’s beachfront neighborhoods. As the crowds grew, so did Rachmany’s confidence in his ability. He took a songwriting class, which he says helped him to grow more comfortable playing his own material.

Rebelution eventually crafted its own tunes, with Rachmany writing the optimistic lyrics and melodic surf-style guitar lines. The group’s first full-length album, “Courage to Grow,” was released in June 2007, and was named iTunes’ reggae album of the year. The single “Safe and Sound” was put into heavy rotation on San Francisco’s Live 105.

The band has since put out two records on its own label 87 Music (named for the number on the house the group shared in Santa Barbara).

After graduation, Rebelution hit the road, relentlessly touring, traversing back and forth across the U.S., including two shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco last year.

“It feels like home whenever I travel the country and meet other Jews,” he says. “It always reminds me of my childhood.”

Rebelution plays Power to the Peaceful on Sept. 11 at Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park, S.F. Free ($5 suggested donation). www.powertothepeaceful.org.