Past the beaches, hotels, and palm trees exists a side of Hawaiʻi that is unknown to many. One where ancient traditions collide with the front lines of progress, and the fantasies of paradise grapple with the harsh realities of life.  Images of white sand beaches and coconut bikinis are shattered by the towers of downtown Honolulu and homeless occupying street corners. Beyond paradise lies the real Hawai'i.  One where peace is held captive by military bases while the lush lands and thriving culture are constantly at threat to being packaged and sold to the highest bidder without regard to the people who call these islands home. A place that is strongly rooted in the concept of Aloha but also the painful history of the Hawaiian people.

Hawaiʻi is a land of immense beauty, rich culture, and real struggle. In the face of this struggle has emerged a music that represents the spirit of the people not only here in Hawai'i but all over who seek a better future for humankind. That music is reggae and this is the story of that music here in our islands. Reggae is a multi-million dollar industry, closely connected to global movements for social change, and has influenced music throughout the spectrum from pop to heavy metal. Reggae melodies are played, danced, and sung to in a profusion of languages, acting as one of the few common threads between Jamaican ghettos, London streets, Japanese festivals, African villages, American suburbs and stereo systems throughout the Pacific.  While the music has evolved, transformed, and fused with other genres through the hands of artists coming and going throughout the years, one thing continues to remain nearly unchanged: The message. Reggae’s message, unlike many other genres of music, has had the ability to permeate into the social and cultural realms of society wherever it's found, and although it has acquired a mixed reputation for its promotion of marijuana and “easy-going” essence, its truest form expresses socially conscious lyrics and a highly politicized agenda.

In the Pacific, Hawai’i and Aotearoa (New Zealand) are the largest consumers of the music with multiple radio stations dedicated to the genre, weekly concerts, hundreds of thousands of reggae fans, and collectively over three hundred reggae bands that call these islands home, several of which have reached mainstream status and headlined international tours in Asia, Europe, and The Americas, reaching listeners all around the world. Since its origins, the music has grown exponentially and continues to progress, especially here in Hawai’i where “Hawaiian Reggae” has literally become a genre of its own. 

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Me only have one ambition, you know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together - black, white, Chinese, everyone - that's all.

 -Robert Nesta Marley

          This project was created through the Center for Pacific Islands Studies and The University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. 

          This project was created through the Center for Pacific Islands Studies and The University of Hawai'i at Mānoa.