IRIE is one of the most often used words in reggae. It can be translated as "the optimum sensation of well being."
Irie is Irie Love's real name. "My mother wanted to name me Jasmine but my father was so into the reggae and a group called the Irie-ites that he demanded my name be Irie " the statuesque Kalaheo High School senior explains. Love is also a direct descendant of baker Robert Love, who founded Love's Bakery in Hawaii almost 150 years ago.
Irie Love has been visible for several years as a high school athlete. She's been getting even more attention these days as a recording artist. She made her debut last month with her imaginative reggae-tinged reworking of "Tell Me Something Good," which is the featured new track on John Iervolino's "Roots Music V.2." anthology.
The album has been out just over a week and is a hot seller in local record stores. A visit to Tower Records Keeaumoku found life-size "stickee" promotional posters of Love prominently displayed. Several guys watched from a distance as "the chick on the poster" posed for photographs.
As an artist just getting started, it's amazing how fast word can get around, Love says.
"It's really exciting to have people recognize you on the street or come up to me at school and say they've heard me on the radio."
Love met Iervolino earlier this year through the I-94 Brown Bags To Stardom program. He was one of the judges who selected her to be Kalaheo's representative at the statewide finals in June. She didn't win Brown Bags but came out of the competition signed to Iervolino's Quiet Storm record label.
She says recording "Tell Me Something Good" "was an eye-opener. I expected it to be hard work, but (recording engineer) Dave Tucciarone was easy to work with."
Love and Iervolino are reviewing material for the full-length debut album she'll record during Christmas vacation.
Iervolino, who has seen his share of self-important young star wannabes, describes Love as a hard worker and "a pleasure to work with."
"When she gets focused on something she really works. There's no 'star' attitude with her. Another one of her gifts is that she's very approachable."
Love's approachability and unpretentiousness reflects her cosmopolitan background and experiences. She was born in Hawaii, taken to Southern California at 9 when her mother remarried, and returned here four years later. Since then she has traveled with her family around the Caribbean and South America.
Athletics is her passion. She surfs "as much as possible," has been a canoe paddler for several years, played volleyball for 2 years, soccer for six years and basketball for nine. She also runs "about 3 miles a day" as part of her personal fitness program.
Love says the five years she spent studying Spanish paid off when she visited South America. She plans to major in foreign languages when she attends college in California next fall.
In the meantime she says some people here still have a problem deciding how to define her. Is she black, "local," Hawaiian, Jamaican, or what?
"I had a friend who knew me for 9 years before she found out I wasn't Hawaiian. Some people take me as black but the African-American people at my school almost shun me in a way because they don't know what to think of me. They kind of segregate themselves as the 'black group,' but my group of friends is really diverse in our ethnicities. That also makes it hard for people to decipher what I am because I'm hanging out with everything -- African-American, white, Asian, Hawaiian."
Others are confused because Love "looks Jamaican" but speaks grammatical standard English. She grew up listening to her biological father's reggae collection, and says one thing she won't do on her recordings is affect the imitation Jamaican dialect used by local Jawaiian singers.
"I think it sounds pretty ridiculous. It's that whole fake thing -- trying to imitate someone else instead of being who you are."
"Erykah Badu, Lauren Hill, Sade, Bob Marley and Don Carlos inspire me as musical role models because they're people with original styles. I like that whole original thing when you can't really put them into a category. They're my inspiration to create my own sound. That's what I'd like to do."
A good ride on'Roots Music V2,'
Various artists (Quiet Storm - QS1007)
Quiet Storm Records: http://www.quietstormrecords.com
A local classic by an expatriate Jamaican, and the world debut of Irie Love, are key tracks on producer John Iervolino's second hybrid reggae anthology. The first one did well on Billboard's Reggae Albums chart. This one should do as well.
The concept is simple: Iervolino licenses the rights to some international reggae classics and adds recordings by local acts. Love's reworking of "Tell Me Something Good" includes hints of Grace Jones without making her sound like a poser (or imitation) Jamaican -- this song should launch her. Maacho's 1992 original, "Hail Up Now," in which he recalls telling his teacher that his shirt is wet because of "last night riddim," is the biggest local reggae hit.
The reggae classics are less mainstream than last time but a fine collection. They include authentic statements of Rastafari faith as well as simple secular sex songs. Black Uhuru's "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner," Macka B's "Bob" (a cryptic tribute to Bob Marley), and Peter Broggs' "Rastafari Liveth" are among the most notable. Some selections are out-of-print elsewhere; new recordings by local groups Rockers Rights and Ten Feet add fresh material.
Iervolino completes the package with liner notes providing an overview of the history and significance of each selection and the basic composer and publisher credits.
Mpeg Audio Clips:
Tell Me Something Good Irie Love
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner Black Uhuru
Hail Up Now Maacho
Quicktime | MPEG-3 info
John Berger, Special to the Star-Bulletin
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