Reggae is culture, tradition, the tales of our past, and the guidance for our future. Through it, we are able to communicate across the planet, sending a message of positivity and raising the collective consciousness of humanity.
If you have gotten this far, then you might be wondering who who wrote this and why they would write such things. Well, I'll start with my name is Jesse Y0n0ver. I did this because I felt it was important to have a collective source for the knowledge surrounding the impact of reggae in Hawai'i since it has had such a tremendous influence on our islands' culture yet is so often overlooked. I spent two years at The University of Hawai'i researching this topic as part of my Masters program through the department of Pacific Islands Studies and decided to create a website as a platform to share this knowledge so that the information was easily accessible to anyone and everyone who has interest in the subject. I built a website because I needed a medium that not only allowed people to read about the subject, but listen to the sounds and see the faces and places that are a part of this music. I disliked the thought of spending such a significant period of time researching a topic only to produce a piece of literature that would most likely sit on a shelf in a library collecting dust without ever being shared with friends, family, and so many others who this music has touched.
The idea behind the style of this site was in a sense to model the oral traditions of Hawaiian culture that emphasize storytelling. I did the best I could to keep everything grounded in as much fact as possible and not let the tales get too tall. With that said, the site is neither perfect or complete and never will be. The content is always open for revisions and if theres something you would like to share, I welcome you to contribute your manaʻo through the contribute page. I have provided some of the significant sources that have contributed to this knowledge which you can find at the bottom of the "Scholarship" page, however, an overwhelming amount simply come from the people I've met and the experiences Ive had along the way.
When I told people that my thesis was about reggae music, half of them would be fascinated by the topic while the other half would give a small “are they really letting you study reggae in graduate school?” laugh. I always appreciated the ones who instantly understood the value in this subject. To the rest, they were in most cases too caught up in the common stereotypical perspective that many people on this planet have when it comes to reggae music, one that can only see the clouds of marijuana smoke and dreadlocked hair. This misconception has inspired one of the more important goals of this project, that is to help bring about understanding, and enough of it to illuminate the true power of this music so that it will break down people's preconceived notions of reggae and its impact in Hawai'i and reconstruct a more accurate portrayal of the music’s presence in our islands.
Sometimes I wonder if those same people would still laugh if they knew about all the men and women murdered throughout history for singing its songs, songs that spoke out against a society which marginilized those who were different. I wonder if they would still laugh if they saw how many kids were kept away from violence and drugs (not plants) because they followed the teachings of reggae music. I wonder if they would have given me more approval if I told them I was in medical school or studying to become a lawyer. But the truth is that this music heals where doctors couldn't reach and brought justice where laws never could. Reggae has and probably always will be an underdog story. So for those of you who ignorantly laughed, hopefully this knowledge will help open your eyes to how and why reggae music is so important to our culture here in Hawai'i, and so many others. And for those of you who saw the vision, your support and encouragement are appreciated more than you'll ever know.
People from all over the world are familiar with the iconic Diamond Head (Leʻahi) in Waikīkī through postcards, pictures, and movies. But what they are often unaware of, is that there is a whole other side to Diamond head that people don't see, one that isn't shown in the pictures and movies. This is the side that I've always seen Diamond Head from and why I chose to represent that in the banner picture above. The same can be said for reggae music. See if you asked Bob, he'd probably tell you that for most, "half the story had never been told". So consider this, my attempt to tell the half that wasn't. One that begins in the some of the poorest slums human civilization has ever seen yet would grow to become so powerful that the soundtrack to that story would reverberate throughout the atmosphere. A soundtrack that even the generations of slavery and oppression that surrounded the music's origins couldn’t hold back the overwhelming positivty within it that would touch the lives of millions and millions of people throughout time and space. A music that would become the common bond and voice of empowerment for hundreds of other marginalized cultures around the world to use as a peaceful weapon to chant down a system that sought to enslave them.
On a personal level, reggae is the music I have grown up with. It is the sounds that inescapably find me wherever I go, the bridge into the many other cultures I have shared a connection with, and the common language I have spoken amongst people of all different races, religions, and classes. It has forged friendships, inspired positivity, provided guidance, and offered relentless support in those brief moments when all seems to be lost. At other times it was simply the music that got me dancing, living in the moment, and allowing me to put the trials and tribulations of life aside so that I could drift away into its sounds. It has taught me how to love, how to overcome struggles, and how to be grateful for every day, helping me see life and society through a different lens. I have dedicated a part of who I am to sharing this music with those around me as well as people in countries all over the globe who were willing to listen.
Over the past decade, my interest and knowledge surrounding the genre of music has grown exponentially through collecting music, working with artists, and introducing reggae to people through my music blog (rudeboyhawaii.com) and radio show (The Rudeboy Reggae Show on Radio1190). Some of the artists and bands I have worked with personally, and become a part of their family, just as I have let them into mine. It is them who truly are the heart of the music I have grown to love and at the end of the day I simply hope to help document and legitimize what they are doing and the movement that is taking place around the music that they create. However, I feel that the artists themselves would recognize that none of their efforts would be possible without the undying loyalty of fans, and thus I also seek to validate their love and passion for this music and show how it has changed the world.
In the arena of scholarship you are often told to state your position and most commonly used is the insider/outsider dichotomy. At the beginning of this program, I kept going back and forth trying to decide exactly where I stood. Was I an insider because of my familiarity with Hawaiian culture and my involvement with the reggae music industry in general? Or was I an outsider since I am neither a producer of the music nor can I trace my genealogy back to the indigenous people of these or any other Pacific Islands, despite being born and raised here in Hawai’i? It wasn't until the final stages of this program, while listening to one of my favorite hip hop artists, Kendrick Lamar, that I realized exactly where I stand: "Im not on the outside looking in and I am not on the inside looking out. I am in the dead fucking center and I'm looking around". I know that I have a home within the music, and just like the vast Pacific ocean that connects islands and continents in opposite hemispheres, it is this unique positionality that I used to bring balance, insight, and wisdom to this project.
Last but certainly not least I want to send a huge mahalo to my family for supporting me even without fully understanding what I was doing or why I was doing it, all the musicians, bands, fans, and music industry people that opened their doors to share their stories with me, my true friends who always had my back and showed the utmost encouragement simply by letting me be me, my professors in the department of Pacific Island Studies for their passion for sharing such a beautiful and rare body of knowledge and offering guidance as I navigated through the program, our sacred islands that I am so humbled and fortunate to call home for keeping me grounded throughout the process, and of course the music for keeping me strong and always being there whenever I needed it in the unlimited capacities that I have turned to it in.
This project is dedicated to the younger generations of today and those yet to come both here in Hawai'i and the rest of our planet. It is for you that so many of us work so hard to make the world a better place.
In 2014, we now face some of the biggest threats that humanity has ever encountered; warring countries, mass starvation, resource exploitation, environmental destruction, corporate monopolies, political corruption, and despicable amounts of income inequality. The list goes on and if we do the same on this path, we will all lose. As Bob says, "how long must we suffer before we learn that we must be united?". The reggae of today represents a new generation and with it a new strain of thought. One that says oppression, greed, and disregard of the natural world needs to stop and they need to stop now. This is not a legacy that we are willing to continue and will not be the way that we give the world to our children. As the human race, we are more knowledgeable and interconnected then ever before so ignorance is no longer an excuse. Our generation must make a change for the betterment of humanity and for many of us that change begins just as Damian Marley exclaims in the song below, right here in Honolulu. So please, once you stop reading this on your computer or iPhone, if nothing less I hope you remember this one thing: The world will be a better place if we show more love, tolerance, and understanding toward one another.