Music

Feeling Hirie in Hawaii

Friday, November 08, 2019

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Having lived in several countries, singer Hirie grasped the importance of diversity early in life. Born in The Philippines, she was raised in Italy, and lived most of her life in Hawaii, where she discovered reggae.

“I've always considered myself a world-citizen — an individual who embraces ethnicity, culture, colour and religion. My mother is Filipino and my father is British, with both sides sharing a heavy Spanish lineage. When my father worked for the United Nations in Rome, we would have guests from all over the world over for dinner. We would be cooking Indian, food listening to Gypsy/Balkan music and speaking Italian, and all these elements changing on any given night,” she explained during an interview with the Jamaica Observer's Splash.

Hirie is lead singer for a band of the same name. They are among many reggae acts that have emerged from Hawaii in the last 25 years. That list also includes J Boog, The Green, Kolohe Kai, Tenelle, Rebel Souljahz, Fiji, Natural Vibrations, and Anuhea.

Each has had success on the Billboard Reggae Albums Chart.

Hirie has charted three times on that weekly table. Their 2013 self-titled effort reached number five, while Wandering Soul topped the chart in 2016. Their latest album, Dreamer, peaked at number two in September.

“I discovered Jamaican music when I moved to Hawaii in 1999. The radio stations on Oahu were predominantly reggae, and roots music was revered by all. You would listen to a station that played island reggae greats like Natural Vibrations on one tune and Gregory Isaacs on the next. Soldiers of Jah Army, and then Tanya Stephens, who is my favourite female Jamaican artiste,” she explained. “I fell in love with roots music in the same way I fell in love with island life. They both came to me at the most important time of my life, adolescence.”

Like most American bands, Hirie's largest markets is the United States West Coast, especially California where roots-reggae has flourished for over 40 years.

“We're currently on our nationwide 'Dreamer Tour' and the shows have all been wonderful and full of rising new fans. Our biggest markets currently reside on the West Coast with California being our strongest numbers. We have many fans listening to us around the world, but California and Hawaii are our top two,” Hirie disclosed. “We really look forward to growing our markets and venturing off into other countries as well. After all, reggae is universal and so are we.”

Her influences range from pop stars like Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Lauryn Hill, to Italian opera singers Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti. Other favourites are neo-soul singers Norah Jones and Joss Stone, Stephens and Dezarie, a roots-reggae singer from the US Virgin Islands.

“I have always loved diversity and so my affinity for music grew and grew. Cultures are like colours on a paint palette; every colour can be appreciated on its own, but when you blend the complementary colours together, you yield beautiful sounds, unique and worthy of appreciation,” she reasoned. “My band and I all stem from different cultures and beliefs — I think this is why our music is unique and colourful.”


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