SOUND CHECK: HIRIE Breathes Life Into A Unique, Pop-Infused Form Of Reggae
Hirie, a charming Hawaiian singer and songwriter, skillfully fused her rich multicultural background to breathe life into a unique, pop-infused form of reggae music.
Hirie, a charming Hawaiian singer and songwriter, skillfully fused her rich multicultural background to breathe life into a unique, pop-infused form of reggae music during the mid-2010s. Born in the Philippines, raised in Italy, and now based in Oahu, the artist made quite the splash with her 2016 album, Wandering Soul. Packed with spirited reggae led by a strong female presence, the album radiates an abundance of positive vibes and exceptional musicianship. With the help of her brilliant six-member band, her success was further amplified with the 2019 follow-up Dreamer, an eclectic album which showcased a diverse palette of sound, from laid-back reggae to rhythms swayed by ska.
Growing up in Oahu, her “spiritual home” where the majority of local radio stations are dedicated to reggae, Hirie discovered a deep passion for the genre and quickly adapted to its surrounding culture. Drawn to its uplifting energy, the warmth, and the kinds of people the feel-good music often attracts, the artist’s intention was to shape the band into a Hawaiian version of Jamaican reggae.
“The beautiful thing about reggae is that it seems to draw in the best people,” she said. “Reggae is pure. It’s love. It’s peace. It’s all the good things.”
From her early years, Hirie has always aspired to be a singer, a passion her parents acknowledged by gifting her a karaoke machine while she was still very young. However, entering the music scene as a female reggae vocalist was an eye-opening experience, given the rarity of women in the genre. Drawing inspiration from Tanya Stephens, a reggae sensation who rose to fame in the late 1990s, Hirie has gained a renewed sense of empowerment, utilizing her talents not only to sing, but to deliver powerful messages to those willing to receive them.
“There is a huge weight that I think we carry as a new wave of reggae artists,” she said. “We don’t live in Jamaica, and we don’t have a lot of the same oppressive situations that many Jamaican artists sing about. It’s part of why they wrote so many good songs. But we still listen to the legends. We listen to their messages and then we take them, and we continue to perpetuate these messages through our own experiences and music. The subject matter might change, but the heart stays the same.”
Almost every year, Hirie experiences times of deep introspection, fully grasping the impact of her achievements, including HIRIE’s most recent album Mood Swing (2022). Living in a state of gratitude and mindful of her blessings, she, along with the band have enjoyed an incredible journey up to now, and they have no intention on hitting the pause button anytime soon.
Hirie: lead vocals, guitar, and uke
Chris Hampton: saxophone, flute, melodica, and accordion
Andrew McKee: trombone, guitar, didgeridoo, and percussion
Andy Flores: bass
Blaine Dillinger: lead guitar
Joey Muraoka: drums