Community is never about what separates you from each other, your race, or your culture. Its about what binds you together. 

-Myron "Pinky" Thompson 

The culture in Hawai'i is unlike anywhere else in the world. The Hawaiian Islands are one of the few places on earth where the west meets the east, tradition meets modernity, indigenous meets foreign, and the jungle meets the city. Erupting volcanoes, populated suburbs, tropical beaches, snow covered mountains, 10 lane highways, lush rainforest, barren land, sky scraping buildings, pristine waterfalls, graffiti covered alleys, and flowing rivers are all found here. Our islands are home to approximately 1.5 million people who speak dozens of languages, come from continents and islands all over the world, and worship gods from Buddha to Pele to the nature that surrounds us. Every year, 8 million more people from around the planet come to visit our islands and experience our culture, or at least one version of it. 

As for those who call this place home, some live off the land in the mountains while others in waterfront mansions and penthouse suites. Some families can trace their genealogy back hundreds of years in these lands while others couldn't go back more than a week. Some spend their days at the beach and some haven't been to the beach in decades. There are surfers, scientists, musicians, bankers, students, fishermen, construction workers, presidents, beggars, beach boys, professional athletes, bikini models, priests, cultural practitioners, CEO's, environmentalists, celebrities, and everything in between. 

This diversity has been a blessing and a curse for Hawaiʻi, its people, its land, and its culture. It's not always easy and certainly not always pretty for everyone to get along with so many different people and perspectives. However, against the odds, more often than not, people remember Hawaiʻi as representing the concept of Aloha through the love and compassion shown amongst people here despite the differences. Music, and especially reggae music has unquestionably helped bridge the gaps between cultures, classes, and ethnicities here in Hawaiʻi, bringing all types of people together. 

The musical lineage of Hawai'i is unparalleled. Rich, thriving, and diverse are understatements. However, the music doesn't exist in and of itself, it is deeply engrained and strongly intertwined within the culture. One that is strongly rooted in Hawaiian and Oceanic peoples but heavily influenced by the US and Asia. A culture and music which is constantly being shaped by the hands of globalization and the traditions of the past. 

Instead of attempting to describe the relationship between reggae music and Hawaiian culture (and by Hawaiian culture I mean all the cultures that come together in the melting pot of our islands) with words (which would hardly do it justice), provided below are a selection of films that tell the story of where these two paths intersect. Each video is contextualized and also included were some important extras that may not necessarily directly relate to Hawaiian reggae, but are significant within local culture and thus ultimately end up helping shape the music.  


Arguably the most important defining influence of Hawaiian culture is the land, ocean, and now urban landscape that are its home. This video gives you an aerial view of the environment with commentary. There is no doubt that the natural and metropolitan landscapes play a role in Hawaiian reggae. 

The history of the Native Hawaiian people is often seen as one of great hardship. Populations of pre-contact Hawaiʻi were said to be anywhere from 200,000-1,000,000 but were wiped out to a mere 50,000 after diseases spread by early European explorers had hit (Lockwood, 1993). In the centuries that followed, the Hawaiian people would face devastating blows to sovereignty through the privatization of land and the eventual illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy that to this day has not been resolved. This film provides some of that history as well as a look into the resurgence of Hawaiian culture and the movement to re-center Native Hawaiian people in their own lands. These glimpses into the oppression and struggles for empowerment of Hawaiian people are some of the major factors that aligned so many people early on in Hawai'i with the message of reggae music. 

It's nothing new to most people that US President Barack Obama is from right here in Hawaiʻi. And although Hawaiʻi is not always thought of as an important economic hub and center for business, this video is the opening speech made by President Obama at the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Conference) meeting in 2011 that hosted leaders and CEOʻs from countries all over the world. Hawaiʻi has not only been extremely strategic for the military, but also to America and Asia as one of the main hubs that economically link the two continents together. These pathways that transport currency, goods, and people, are often also major avenues transporting music. 

Hawaiʻi has gone through drastic changes in the past century, especially so in the more urbanized islands like Oʻahu . Sacred grounds have been paved over to make way for roads, ancient fish ponds have been filled to build houses over, and taro patches have dried up as water has been diverted for cash crops. This song was popularized by legendary Hawaiian musician, Israel Kamakawiwoʻole or Braddah Iz, and asks the heartbreaking question of what would the ancestors of Hawaiʻi think of if they saw how everything is today? While Braddah Iz is well known for his hit songs and Hawaiian music, he also loved his reggae and had a bunch of his own reggae tracks, including "Johnny Mahoe," "Māui Supʻpa Man" and "Take Me Home." Its important to note as well how big of an influence Hawaiian music had on the reggae being produced here in Hawaiʻi. 

This video comes from Pow Wow Hawaii which is one of the fastest growing festivals in the state that brings in artists from all over the world to paint the city of Honolulu every year. However, the reason I chose this video is to showcase some of the younger generations perspective on the multicultural setting of Hawaiʻi. Its important that people understand these islands as being places of a wide range of ethnicities that include everything from Hawaiian, Samoan, Fijian, and other Pacific Islanders to Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, to American, European, African, and other ethnicities from all around the world. 

This mini-documentary chronicles a week with The Green, their family, friends and fans and gives a great look into reggaes influence here in Hawaiʻi and how it is engrained within the culture. Its also important to note the centrality of family and how it interacts with the music and its pathways. 

Hollywood has played a major role in shaping peoples perceptions of Hawaiʻi for those who don't actually live here. Unfortunately, many of the images portrayed by Hollywood perpetuate harmful stereotypes that misinform the masses on what really goes on here. One Kine Day is a locally produced feature film that gives viewers a more accurate cinematic depiction of local people and culture, one which lets you know quickly that its not all butterflies and ferry tales. Because the movie is made locally and represents aspects of local culture, the sound track is also heavily dominated by Hawaiian reggae. Another must watch similar to this movie is "Beyond Paradise". Find out more info about the film at and make sure to watch the full film if you have the time! 

On the forefront of the contemporary movement to promote the resurgence of culture is the "Hōkūle‘a’s Worldwide Voyage" which promotes a message of peace, education, and "Mālama Honua" or the stewardship of our earth. This is a voyage that will go around the world between 2013 and 2017 to continents as far as Africa and South America through 47,000-miles of voyaging to 26 different countries and 60 ports, all of which will be done through traditional forms of celestial navigation ("Celebrating 125 Years", 2014). The crew spans a wide range of races, backgrounds, and ages and overall the voyage has seen overwhelming support statewide. A major component of the voyage is to help cultivate the next generation of leaders of our islands to guide Hawaiʻi to a sustainable future and be the example of how many different types of people can come together to work toward common goals and a better future. This voyage is a very current example of some of the amazing ways that Hawaiian culture is being perpetuated today as well as how it has extended to incorporate all different types of people into its present and future. Hawaiian reggae too is on its own journey around the world through music tours and the internet. Even along the journey of Hōkūleʻa there is sure to be the sounds of Hawaiian reggae emanating through ukuleles, guitars, and the voices of crewmembers as they sail around the world. F

One of the biggest names in music in the world right now is local artist, Bruno Mars. Reggae has undoubtedly played a major role in his musical upbringing. He even included a reggae track titled "Show Me" on his most recent album Unorthodox Jukebox which has sold over 3 million copies (Caulfield, 2014). This clip is from The 2013 Grammy Awards where he invited Damian and Ziggy Marley on stage to cover their fathers song "Could You Be Loved" for one of the most lively performances in the awards history. Post interviews revealed that Mars had coordinated the performance and informed the Grammyʻs that the only way he was willing to perform was if the Marley brothers were able to join him on stage for a tribute to Bob Marley (Lewis, 2013). Also he chose Hawaiian reggae band The Green to open for his 3 sold out shows this past April which set a record for the fastest sell out for a Blaisdell concert in history. 

"I'd like to talk to Bob Marley. I'd just like to ask him what was his method. Bob is one of the greatest songwriters ever. I don't know if people understand how powerful his songs are and the simplicity and genius behind them, from 'Redemption Song' to 'Is This Love?' and 'I Shot the Sheriff." -Bruno Mars

The band Groundation was one of the pioneers of the American reggae genre during the turn of the millennium. In this interview, lead singer Harrison Stafford. Drawing on his personal research and travel experiences in Jamaica and Africa, Harrison created a college level course titled “the History of Reggae Music”, which he taught at Sonoma State University from 1999-2001. The course was unique in that it took students who maybe just recently heard of Reggae music or only knew it from the popularity of Bob Marley and helped them appreciate the music on a deeper level; helped them understand how the music and message really defines who we are and where we stand in this time. This interview explores the role of Hawaiʻi in Groundationʻs music and some of Harrison's thoughts on Hawaiian reggae. 

For over 20 years radio station KCCN FM100 held an annual concert the last weekend of July at the Waikīkī Shell that would feature some of the best acts in Hawaiian and Reggae, with a strong lineup of local reggae acts every year. This is footage of the ending of one of the concerts where the sold out crowd at the shell comes together to sing the states anthem after a fun night of singing and dancing. 

Reggae artist Ziggy Marley speaks about music, life, his parents, and the benefits of Marijuana. Its important to understand that Ziggy represents the next generation of reggae music and philosophy. Hawaiian reggae has and most likely always will be connected to and influenced by the overall reggae movement. One which you'll see still maintains avenues into mainstream media. 

Many people around the world are familiar with the term "Aloha". However, the term goes far beyond the simple "Hello" "Goodbye" and "Love" that are used as translations in the English Language. In this film, Native Hawaiian teacher, Kumu Lawrence Kalainia Kamani Aki shows us the concept of Aloha and what it means to him and his family. Aloha is a theme and spirit that is deeply infused into Hawaiian reggae. 

Although The Descendants is a Hollywood movie, I chose to share this clip because the film as a whole helps depict a sector of Hawaiian society that represents the other end of the spectrum to NHRC Undeterred. One which resides in the upper economic brackets and that is perhaps further removed from Native Hawaiian issues. Just as Native Hawaiian people have history in these islands, so do the missionary families, American businesspeople, plantation workers and other foreign settlers. And as likely as you are to find someone of native Hawaiian blood at a reggae concert, you are just as likely to find someone from this description. 

Hawaiʻi is one of the main gathering places within the Pacific, and especially so for Pacific Islanders. Palauans, Tahitians, Tongans, Solomon Islanders, Chamorro, Cook Islanders, and so many more people from all around the region call Hawaiʻi home. This film is shot for the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education which will be held in May of 2014 in Honolulu and will host indigenous peoples from places like Africa, Alaska, Brazil, Taiwan, and many others. A scene that sharply contrasts a meeting like APEC but also carries its own streams of music and culture. 

With such a diverse range of people, cultures, and values, its not always easy or pretty for everyone to live together. However, music has undoubtedly been one of the strongest unifiers that help brings our community together. Enjoy this beautifully shot video featuring some of our islands most influential musicians that promotes Lōkahi, Kuleana, and Aloha ʻĀina (unity, responsibility, and love of the land) as well as the celebration of our culture and the love and protection of our lands and oceans for our future generations. 

Many artists, both in and outside the genre of reggae, have been supporters of music education amongst our islands youth. Programs like Mana Maoli Music program links pro artists and innovative, positive music with youth with the goal of to teaching what they refer to as the ABC’s through Music – Academics, Business and Culture – while also raising awareness and support of initiatives aligned with Mana Maoli’s vision and mission. Musicians/Mentors include artists such as Anuhea, Natural Vibrations, Paula Fuga as well as Hawaiian artists like John Cruz and popular artists like Jack Johnson. Check out a sample of the musician/student collaborations in the video "Little Bit Of Love" and learn more at

"Papa Mau: The Wayfinder" directed by Nāʻālehu Anthony documents the lasting legacy of Micronesian master navigator Mau Piailug, who revived the art of traditional voyaging and reawakened cultural pride throughout Polynesia. This film goes through the beginning of what is now known as the Hawaiian Renaissance. The Renaissance was a critical period of time for the revival of Hawaiian culture, much of which was sparked by the voyages of Hōkūleʻa, which retraced the ancient routes of Polynesian voyagers who originally sailed to Hawaiʻi using celestial navigation. The Renaissance was happening as a result of over a century of cultural oppression where many of the traditional ways of life for Native Hawaiians were lost. This was occurring during the 1970ʻs and 80ʻs which was also the same time period as reggae was becoming popular in the islands, which is partly due to the music's message which overlapped with the themes of the renaissance in areas like cultural empowerment and raising awareness about injustices. The film is also important because it shows us the deep interconnectedness amongst Pacific Island peoples, both past and present, where today, reggae music is one of the strongest contemporary connections. 

This video has been selected to show how there still exist parts of Hawaiʻi that are run by traditional ways of life where people live directly off the land and sea. The fishing village of Miloliʻi on Big Island is one of those places. Especially when compared to the hustle and bustle of the city of Honolulu, this can illustrate quite the contrast. 

Kōkua Festival is an annual music festival put on by Jack Johnson (Bushfire Records, 2014). Here is another local musician who made it big in the mainstream international music scene but still loves to go back to his reggae roots. It's no surprise then that he chooses artists like Ziggy Marley to headline his festival at The Waikīkī Shell

Washington D.C. based SOJA also formerly known as Soldiers of Jah Army is one of the biggest names in contemporary reggae. This documentary follows them on one of their first few tours here in Hawaiʻi. Not only does it give some solid insight into the music and genre, but also the role that Hawaiʻi has played within their musical career and the special relationship they have with this place. At their most recent concert here in Honolulu, in front of a sold out 8,000 person crowd at Kakaʻako Amphitheater, lead singer Jacob Hemphill shared with gratitude that Hawaiʻi was one of the first places that played their music on the radio, was one of the first sold out shows they played, and was instrumental in helping them reach the level of success they now have achieved. It's no surprise then that they also chose to film their music video for track "Not Done Yet" that has over 8 million views right here on the Big Island. 

Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau is an ESPN documentary that remembers the life and times of the late Eddie Aikau, the legendary Hawaiian big wave surfer, pioneering lifeguard and ultimately doomed crew member of the Polynesian Voyaging canoe, Hōkūleʻa (George, 2013). I chose to share this film because surfing is another major influence on Hawaiian culture and people. This movie does an excellent job of going beyond the common perception which often focus only on the sport itself by taking a deeper look at the waterman lifestyle in the Hawaiian context through one of the greatest icons to represent it. Although the popular stereotypes of Hawaiʻi lead people to believe that everyone here is a surfer, that is far from the truth. However, take a walk through the parking lot at popular surfing beaches like Sandyʻs or a professional surfing competition on the North Shore of Oʻahu and you are destined to hear some Hawaiian reggae blasting through a speaker system. Even local professional surfers like Makua Rothman and Mason Ho have picked up sponsorship from the Marley Brand

Here is footage of a traditional Hawaiian instrument, the nose flute. While these types of instruments typically aren't used in contemporary Hawaiian reggae, it is nonetheless important to remember that music in Hawaiʻi has a deep past that has led to the evolution of what we hear today. 

This is a short film created by "Rising Sons" film collective. Although it is a fictional film, it is nonetheless a window of imagination into pre-contact Hawaiian society. I chose to show this video because not only does it give us the feel of what society may have resembled back then but also to show that even before the arrival of Europeans, Hawaiian culture was a warrior culture. Even the earliest of humans to settle in these islands paid the price to live on these lands. 

Pow Wow was started to showcase creative talents that focused on the background and development of art. Each year artists from all over the world paint the streets of Downtown Honolulu with street art. It is now one of the fastest growing festivals in the state and each year is becoming more involved with the music scene. The festival is important because it is part of a larger art and music evolution happening in Hawaiʻi to bring art and music to the masses. Also check out the interview at 2:30 which explains how they use art to represent culture, which many musicians here do through their music as well. More information can be found at

This music is feelings that will last forever and that all generations to come can fall back on. 

-Israel Kamakawiwo'ole