North Texas fans of Polynesian reggae a melodic, South Pacific twist on classic Jamaican roots reggae have been pretty lucky this year.
Even though located far from the swaying palms and beautiful beaches where this music was born, they were treated to a Fort Worth double-bill from New Zealands Katchafire and Mauis Maoli in the spring.
Now, a few months later, theyre getting Honolulus the Green, one of Hawaiis most popular bands, at Dallas Prophet Bar on Saturday. The groups infectious third album, Hawaii 13, recently reached No. 1 on Billboards reggae charts with tracks like the hooky Power in the Words and the sweetly romantic Count to 3. It follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, Ways & Means, which also reached No. 1.
But guitarist/singer Zion Thompson says locals shouldnt be too surprised since the goal has long been to move beyond reggaes known strongholds of Hawaii and the West Coast. The first tour we ever did went all over the country, he says by phone from Honolulu. We have better crowds in places like the South and the East Coast than some places [in the West].
What concertgoers will discover is a group neck-deep in the traditionalist reggae and lovers rock pioneered by the likes of Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley and Gregory Isaacs. On top of that, they layer hints of the harmonies of Polynesian music. There arent many nods to the more contemporary music of the Caribbean like the more aggressive dancehall or reggaeton that have come in reggaes wake.
We love all forms [of reggae], dancehall and more of the rough stuff like that, says Thompson. Were into everything. But we have a more R&B background, soul or bluesy vibe. Thats combined with the rootsiness of old-school reggae.
The group with Thompson, singer Caleb Keolanui, singer/guitarist JP Kennedy, bassist Brad Watanabe, keyboardist Ikaika Antone and drummer Jordan Espinoza formed in 2009 and released a self-titled debut disc that won best reggae album of the year honors from iTunes.
Thompson says reggae was a natural rhythm for them to fall into. After all, the music has become the soundtrack for the Pacific Islands, to the point where Jawaiian (Hawaiian reggae) and Kiwi reggae (New Zealand reggae) are official sub-genres.
Thompson says the Caribbean and Pacific Islands share similar concerns so it makes sense there would be common musical ground.
We grew up listening to Hawaiian music and [Jamaican] reggae. For me, its the island vibe, living in a place surrounded by the ocean, the mountains and a tropical climate, Thompson says of the appeal. And there are similar things going on [in these places]: tourism, environmental issues and all that kind of stuff.
Yet he says reggae still has universal appeal, even if it doesnt have a high profile in pop culture.
Everybody, even if you dont know you love reggae, will like a song like [Inner Circles] Bad Boys [theme from Cops], he says. No one thinks of that as a roots-reggae song by roots guys.
Now, the Green are taking their sound global, far beyond Texas and the mainland U.S. A Brazilian tour is set for 2014.
Reggae is big in South America, Thompson say. [D.C. reggae band] Soja is huge in Brazil. [Brazilians] have helped to blow up our Facebook [page] so were trying to get over there and face it for real.