All in the Family
- Saturday, December 27, 2003
One particularly sunny afternoon in October, brothers Jesse, Joe, James, John and Sam Katina could be found, surprisingly enough, signing Christmas cards.
And, of course, like nearly everything else in their lives, the Katinas were doing it together. Reared in the Polynesian Islands of American Samoa (with seven other siblings) by their mother, Siai, and minister father, Moses, they have sung together their entire lives. And though they now live far from their homeland, their hearts — and their music — have stayed true to their foundation in Samoa and in the church.
The title of The Katinas’ latest outing, "Roots" (Gotee), is a thematic tribute to that heritage.
“The title was really John’s idea,” says James of his twin brother. “Obviously there is a connection because we’re brothers and from the Islands. But our spiritual heritage came from our parents, who really raised us up right because of their passion for God.”
"Roots" is the follow-up to last year’s Dove Award-nominated "Lifestyle: A Worship Experience" (Gotee) live project. With six albums and seven Dove Award nominations to their credit, the brothers were ready to take on a greater role in the production this time around. In addition to vocals, they contributed to the songwriting, performing and production. And, in the process, they were able to bring in some heavy-hitting collaborators, including Amy Grant (vocals, “Still in Love”) and Tommy Sims (vocals, guitar and keyboards, “Faithfully”).
“This is our first record to feature guest vocalists and artists,” recalls Jesse. “It was a dream come true. I remember hearing Amy Grant in the ‘70s when Christian music was still so new. I can’t believe 25 years later we have gotten to tour with her and have her on our album. We just gave her a call, told her we would cook her a Samoan meal, and she said, ‘I’ll be right over!’”
“One of our favorite musicians in the world is Tommy Sims,” says Sam. “He’s an incredible talent and somebody who influences the music we do. The first time we met him, we didn’t even work that day. We sat around, ate chicken wings and listened to old vinyl records. It was a privilege to have him not only sing but play guitar on a track.”
But not only will fans be excited about the guest appearances, they’ll also discover an unexpected holiday treat packaged along with this latest recording: a limited edition Christmas EP featuring The Katinas’ own harmonic renditions of four classics: “Joy to the World,” “Mary, Did You Know?” “Let it Snow” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Influenced by Earth Wind and Fire as kids, The Katinas’ brand of pop incorporates touches of hip-hop, Motown and R&B.
“We had fun choosing the songs,” says John. “We got to sing some of our favorites. People have suggested that we do a full-length Christmas album, and we are considering that.”
“It felt natural to do this Christmas EP,” explains Joe. “We had the privilege of being on several great Christmas tours with the likes of Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, but we’ve never had anything ‘Christmas-y’ for people who wanted to take something home. This serves as a great bonus.”
Growing up in a tropical locale, the Katina men admit they only had second-hand knowledge of what it means to have a white Christmas. “All we ever knew about snow, growing up, was what we saw on TV and heard on the radio,” Jesse remembers. “So it’s great to be here in America and see snow during Christmas.”
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