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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 3, 2007

With new CD, O-shen takes on the larger world

 •  Islands inspire O-shen's latest CD

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The Papua New Guinea-born O-shen's newest effort is about showing respect to native peoples and offers advice to his own homeland.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

O-shen lives on O'ahu's North Shore, and he has high regard for the area's great Hawaiian surfers.

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SUMMER ROOTS RIOT WITH O-SHEN

Also featuring Don Carlos, Lakina, Red Degree, Irie Souls

8 p.m. Saturday

Pipeline Cafe

$15

www.presaleticketsonline.com

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The release of O-shen's seventh CD "1 Rebel" this week marks the end of a project the Papua New Guinea-raised musician has been hard at work on since early 2005. Sort of.

To be honest, "in the last two months, we did the same amount of work that we did the previous two-and-a-half years, basically," O-shen said, laughing.

It's not that O-shen's been slacking. He briefly put aside writing and recording "1 Rebel" to put together last year's "Faya!" his first disc recorded entirely in Papua New Guinea. Long known for his creative matching of English, Jamaican patois and South Pacific dialects to hip-hop- style verse, O-shen blended seven dialects from his homeland among them Yabim, Rigo, Nakanai and Niugini pidgin into his lyrics on "Faya!"

If "Faya!" was a glimpse into the island nation that raised O-shen, "1 Rebel" is a look at a larger world that continues to feed his mind positively and negatively.

"This album came out of me maturing as an artist, observing the world and maybe just getting a little more political putting out my views and opinions," he said. "There's also a bit more expression. Opening up more. Showing the nice and fun side."

Still down with getting as multilingual as possible, O-shen matches up English, Jamaican patois, Hawaiian, Tahitian, Niu-gini pidgin and Spanish lyrics on "1 Rebel." Dropping guest vocals at producer Laka Preis Carpenter's Sharpnote Studios in Manoa Valley? Reggae legends Elephant Man, Third World vocalist William "Bunny Rugs" Clarke and Black Uhuru founder Don Carlos.

Carlos also drops by to perform at O-shen's Summer Roots Riot live reggae show Saturday at Pipeline Cafe, celebrating the release of the new disc.

We asked O-shen to lend personal insight to the music on "1 Rebel," track by track.

'1 REBEL'

"It's a little bit political. A song I wrote because ... I've always been a rebel at heart, a rebel in spirit. ... There's a verse about how people are so proud to be American but nobody in mainstream American society gives any respect to the native people of America in the media, the movies, sports, TV shows, in any way whatsoever. ...

"I feel it's not pono to live in America and not respect that there's real American people real native people in America. ... You should give respect to the first people who (occupied) wherever you live. When you're in China, you should respect the Chinese culture. When you're in Hawai'i, you should have respect for Hawaiian people and their culture, because you're living in their 'aina."

'GIRLS'

"(Guest vocalist) Elephant Man is a crazy, wild, abstract cat. He's just out there in every way. He's super creative. He's an unbelievable rhyming lyricist. It's amazing the way he uses his language to flow and rhyme. ...

"He did this two-and-half years ago here in Manoa Valley. Laka asked him, made the beat, played him the beat and as soon as he heard it he was, like, 'Yo, I'll spit on this.' ...

"It's a big thing to have Elephant Man (on '1 Rebel') because I respect Jamaican music. In Jamaica, it's always about who's the king of the dancehall. ... I feel blessed to have the king of the dancehall on my record."

'KU MAI'

"I live on the North Shore, so I know a lot of Hawaiian surfers. I became friends with a lot of the local surfers and local surfing legends like Buttons (Kaluhio-kalani), Rabbit (Bartholomew) and Buffalo Keaulana. ...

"So I wanted to make a song representing that surfing came from Hawai'i ... and give respect to the Hawaiian surfers who are still representing and competing. I learned the song's chant from my uncle in Waikiki a long time ago. It's part of an old chant people would (do) on the south shore for the waves coming from the south ... from Tahiti. I've always wanted to do something chant-style over a strong reggae beat, and it seemed to work for this. It had the flow of surfing."

'BEAUTIFUL ISLAND PRINCESS'

"Back to girls again. This one (is) more for the local girl. ... Hawai'i has some of the most beautiful women in the world because all the ethnic mixes are here. ... I'm just paying tribute to the girls."

'PEACE AND LOVE'

"There's a little bit of Papua New Guinea pidgin in that one (asking) people (there) not to believe (in) everything new (they) see in the modern world or on TV. Papua New Guinea is trying to develop and modernize itself. But people sometimes get confused by what they see on TV. They get brainwashed into thinking that anything Western is better than anything traditional. ...

"Their education teaches them that they shouldn't have pride in things traditional. I'm just saying don't get caught up in the whole craziness of the West. Maintain the peace and love, and don't get caught up in the material stuff."

'BABYLON DREAD'

"Third World has always been one of my favorite reggae bands, because when their music first came out, it was considered sophisticated reggae very intelligent and more complex than the reggae being played in Jamaica. ...

"I've always admired them for their courage to step outside of reggae and (at times) even have some of their own countrymen not really appreciate some of the stuff they did musically. ...

"Bunny was here for a concert. Laka put in a good word for me and what my music is about, got him in an irie vibe (and) played the track for him. ... Bunny liked the music, liked the track and just went in and sang it. He basically chose the subject for the track (and) sang his own parts before I recorded anything on it. I came in, listened to what he'd written and wrote about the same thing. ... To be with him on the same song is an honor."

'RUN AWAY'

"It has a reggaeton feel. My girlfriend is a Latina. Her family is from Nicaragua. I got to spend some time with her family in Miami, Nicaragua and El Salvador. On the East (Coast), reggaeton is huge with the Spanish-speaking population, (so) I got a little taste of it, a little immersed in it. Reggaeton isn't much different from dancehall. ...

"I had an idea of doing a reggaeton song using New Guinea pidgin instead of Spanish (and) giving it a Pacific reggaeton vibe. ... The subject (came from) dramas with my lady. My lady took off for a while, took a little break. I was a little heartbroken by that. So I wrote the song in my time of weeping." (Laughs)

'AIWARA'

"It came out of, again, the ups and downs of a relationship. It's (about) longing for someone to come back to you. 'Aiwara' is a Papua New Guinea pidgin word, which when broken down into two words means 'I water.' It means 'tears.' It's just saying, 'The tears flowed when you left me. I want you to come back to me.' ... It's like Chapter 2 of 'Run Away,' basically." (Laughs)

'REVOLUTIONARY SOULJAHS'

"I can't call myself a reggae artist in Hawai'i unless I say something about the illegal overthrow of Hawai'i, and that it used to be a nation. ... It was a country. It had its own government. It had its own constitution. It had its own money. Like any country, it had every right to determine its future forever as a country, but it was taken over.

"I always like to keep knowledge of that out there and alive. I don't think people should ever forget what happened. ... People should always have love in their heart for this place as a kingdom and a country. It never had a fair chance. ... It was taken over ... illegally, not morally ... by greed and money."

'LEGALIZE THE HERB'

"I've never looked at marijuana as a very serious thing. It's something that's illegal in the United States (and Papua New Guinea), but by all statistics in 4,000 years of being used, it's never killed anybody. Meanwhile, alcohol kills thousands of people every day. That's a fact.

"Whether it's a good thing for you or not is not the point. It just shouldn't be a criminal act. ... (This is not) a song saying you should smoke weed. It's just saying it should be legal. ... (People) shouldn't go to jail for it. In 2007, we're not being very civilized still putting people in jail for that."

'NEVA SEEN A GHETTO'

"In a lot of American hip-hop, everybody tries ... to talk about how where they come from is so rough and so poor and so rugged. In my opinion, nowhere like that really exists in the United States (compared) to what I've seen in other countries.

"A lot of these people that come (from) places they call ghettos are delusional. They don't know what a real ghetto is. They need to travel outside of the United States and see real poverty. ... The standard of what is called a ghetto in America wouldn't be called a ghetto somewhere else. In other countries, ghettos are where people lean some tin against a tree with a side of the house being a tarp. Here in America, we'd call that (being) homeless."

'JAH KNOWS'

"(Guest vocalist) Don (Carlos) chose the subject of the song and kept it really simple. As simple as you can get: 'One day, I know, all evil things shall fade away/Too long we've been in the darkness, living in wickedness.' (The song has) strong statements of being down with negativity and up with positivity. And Don's just saying that Jah knows. That God knows this. That God has known this all along. We just have to do the right thing and be good to one another. That's pretty much what Don Carlos lives in every song he sings: Just be good."

'LADY LOVER'

"Chapter 3 in the drama-with-the-girlfriend story. ... It's just me telling my lady, 'Hang in there. Don't leave when times get rough. Any problem can be worked out.' ... We're still together."

'ANAPANAPA'

"It's a Tahitian ballad (originally written and recorded) by Tora Ura. ... They're good personal friends of mine that I hang out with when I'm in Tahiti (and) they asked me to record it again. ... It's a beautiful love song about being on the beach at night with your lover.

" 'Anapanapa' means 'shining the stars.' So (the song) is basically saying, 'the stars are shining, the breeze from the ocean is hitting us, and we're in love together.' Real simple, you know? ... I wanted everybody to hear that song because I'd always heard that song and loved it."

Track 1: "1 rebel"


Track 2: "Girls (feat. Elephant Man)"


Track 3: "Ku Mai"


Track 4: "Beautiful Island Princess"


Track 5: "Peace and Love"


Track 6: "Balon Dread (feat. Bunny Rugs from Third World)"

Track 7: "Run Away"


Track 8 "Aiwara"


Track 9: "Revolutionary Souljahs"


Track 10: "Legalize the Herb"


Track 11: "Neva Seen A Ghetto"


Track 12: "Jah Knows (feat. Don Carlos)"

Track 13: "Lady Lover"


Track 14: "Anapanapa"

Reach Derek Paiva at dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com.