Island Mele: Dread blends country, reggae

Aug. 23, 2015 | 0 Comments


During the early years of the Jawaiian boom, back in the last years of the 1980s and in the early 1990s, self-styled kanakafarians would take a popular oldie, add what Hawaii hip-hop innovators Sudden Rush contemptuously call a “same old beat, same old skank” rhythm, and consider the results a job well done.



Marty Dread (Five Corners Records)

With the songs on “Upcountry Boy,” Valley Isle reggae stalwart Marty Dread is integrating Afro-Caribbean rhythms and other musical genres with a finesse that the kanakafarians of old would never have imagined.

The album title refers to an area of Maui where paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) reign. It also references the fact that many of these songs are from the country music charts — “I Love a Rainy Night,” “Live Like You Were Dying” and “I Want To Be Loved Like That,” to name three.

Dread writes in the liner notes that he likes songs that “tell a good story.” And so, along with the country classics, he’s also doing hits by Stephen Stills, Harry Chapin, Orleans, Buddy Holly and Marc Cohn.

Here’s why this works so well: When Ray Charles recorded “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” in 1962, he did country songs his way rather than trying to sing country.

Dread takes that approach here in singing these remakes in the same style he uses when singing his reggae originals. Everything fits together in familiar ways even as he shows his imagination reworking other artists’ work.

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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at

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