Last Sunday’s Climate of Positivity Concert at the Honokaa People’s Theatre featured reggae superstar Pato Banton, local musicians Mikey Fiyah and the Good Vibe Tribe, and Hawaiian hip-hop artists Hualalai Keohuloa and Hou! Kanaka. There was also an array of community action groups in the lobby, and local activist Koohan Paik-Mander gave a short speech about environmental concerns for the Big Island.
The four-hour event probably could’ve used an MC to guide it along at least until headliner Banton took the stage. There were several gaps of uncertainty about who would be taking the stage next, but eventually it all worked.
First up was the Big Island’s reggae singer/songwriter Mikey Fiyah, backed by the Good Vibe Tribe. Fiyah’s latest single is “Higher Love,” and has recently returned to Truth Musiq Studio to work with producer Luke Clebsch on a song called “New Heights” due for an April release.
The Good Vibe Tribe is a power trio that also features drummer Orlando Smith and Arthur Howard (aka Cane) on keyboards and vocals. This is the second time the band has played HPT and with Pato Banton. Mikey Fiyah plays several Big island venues, and his music can be found on numerous platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.
Following Fiyah came a fiery set from Hawaiian hip-hop artist Hou! Kanaka. He performed several selections from his recent release He Wahi Ma Waena. Hualalai Keohuloa also offered several originals and was joined onstage by his wife Alohilani Keohuloa and young daughter. Both sang harmony vocals on the last number. Keohuloa was also on last year’s concert bill with Pato Banton. [You can read an interview I did with Keohuloa here.]
Before his set began, headliner Pato Banton offered free copies of his latest CD to various age groups like those under 12. The music began, and the dance floor quickly filled to capacity. Banton’s band, The Now Generation, was joined by guest conga player Carter “CC” Collins. Collins has performed with Richie Havens, Laura Nyro, and Tower of Power to name a few. He’s currently a resident of Kapaau.
On one song, Banton gave the direction to the crowd to start swaying to the beat, but stopped the music midway to correct one concertgoer who was throwing everyone off. “I’m watching you,” said Banton to a misguided man in a black and white shirt. “We’re goin’ dat way!,” he commanded. Clouds of smoke parted, and the music resumed.
Banton played many crowd favorites like Marley’s classic “Jammin.” The good Reverend called out to his flock of fans, “I want you to turn around and give the person next to you a high-five. We’re all one family, right?!” The vibe of positivity spread throughout the theatre as hugs and high-fives made their way around. Banton watched and smiled.
There was a fun moment when Banton performed his 1987 worldwide hit “Don’t Sniff Coke.” Gazing out over the crowd, he saw three passionate fans singing along, but one stood out in particular. He invited him on stage for the rap section of the tune. Dressed in a camo jacket and cap and staring directly into Banton’s eyes, the young man rapped at incredible speed.
Banton told the crowd his stance on legalized pot. “Decriminalize it, Hawaii!,” said the singer. “In California, you can just drive into a dispensary and choose from a vast variety of herbs, edibles, drinks… so many choices! We’re fighting to decriminalize and legalize it all over the world.”
After playing “Bubbling Hot,” Banton appropriately asked the crowd if they were concerned about climate change. The crowd roared with approval. Before segueing into “New Day Dawning,” Banton preached, “I believe there’s nothing man can do to this planet, that we cannot un-do when we come together with good intentions. I encourage everyone to do everything you can do to save our environment.”
After leaving Hawaii, Banton and crew are on a tour that covers the remaining 49 States. In our interview, the singer told me the rest of 2019 looks very busy for him. “I’m on a mission to spread love to all the States of America. And while I’m doing that, I’m gonna write a new album and complete my autobiography.” Additionally, he books his own shows, produces his music in his studio, and offers ministry services as well – he plans to marry a couple on Kauai later this year!
For the latest tour and music info, please visit Pato Banton’s official site: http://patobanton.com
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: Steve Roby