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Localness and Indigeneity in Hawaiian Reggae


The musical genre of Hawaiian reggae is typically considered a combination of reggae and Hawaiian music, and has been popular in Hawai‘i since the 1980s. Also known as Jawaiian or island music, this genre involves the ever-shifting identity and cultural categories of localness and Hawaiianness. Localness in Hawaiian reggae involves rootedness in and affective connection to place, multicultural inclusion and equalization, and opposition to an “outside” or the global. Musicians and listeners of Hawaiian reggae will reference these characteristics in the music directly or when speaking about it. Localness in Hawaiian reggae also involves the cooption of Hawaiianness. Localness as a general category becomes legitimately connected to Hawaiian land through coopting Hawaiian indigeneity. In Hawaiian reggae, cooption occurs when musicians incorporate elements that sound Hawaiian in order to make the music sound more local. Listeners of the music also recognize sounding Hawaiian as serving this function. Although cooption and other settler colonial processes that legitimize localness make it highly problematic, it is the reality of many people. For this reason, I suggest that localness expresses a different connection to the land than that of indigenous Hawaiians. It is at once legitimate and highly problematic.

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