In the smallest elementary school in Hawai‘i, with only five classmates, the music career of one of Hawai‘i’s most beloved reggae artists started to take shape some three decades ago.
“They had a kupuna program,” said Sasha, adding that a kupuna (respected elder) would sing songs while the children would learn how to strum an ‘ukulele.
“That was my start on music,” said the artist known worldwide as Sashamon.
Many years have gone by since Sasha attended Molokai’s Maunaloa Elementary School, but he still keeps the warm, cool smile that only a person without worries in life could display. That’s Molokai style.
Sasha became famous after one of his songs, “Japanese Squeeze,” hit the charts on the Big Island. Following the success of that upbeat love song, “Necta” exploded all over Hawai‘i, making Sasha a household name, especially among the surfing crowd.
It has been a long road since Sasha first picked up the ‘ukulele, and certainly a bumpy one. But his relaxed attitude suggests an otherwise smooth ride, which may as well be true, since what really counts is how we react to life rather than what happens to us.
Mostly, Sasha’s music brings a positive message, speaking of love and peace. “Japanese Squeeze,” “Necta,” “Malia” and “Merry” could easily become any couple’s trademark love song. “Justice,” “Peaceful Vibration,” “Peaceizafya” and “Herbal Criminal” pretty much ask for a better world.
What make Sasha’s music so popular are lyrics that we easily identify with, and tunes that we cannot help but dance along to.
During Sasha’s senior year in high school, one of his friends introduced him to the guitar, and he was hooked on the instrument. After graduating high school Sasha left Molokai.
Luckily he landed not too far away, at O‘ahu’s University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.
“I didn’t have much of a social life; it was just me and my guitar, six hours a day,” he said of when he first started college.
Sasha laughs remembering how he used to beg people to teach him a thing or two on the guitar. He would borrow guitar magazines, and go to a 7-Eleven to make copies of songs with Xerox machines.
Utilizing a flexible liberal studies program at UH, Sasha shaped his own bachelor’s degree.
“Philosophy of arts, computer classes, drawing, painting, multimedia,” he said, listing some of his classes. “I created my own major, music and arts.”
Right around that time Sasha wrote his first song. He humbly credits the kupuna, who several years earlier gave him “the very basic understanding of music.”
Also at that time, Sasha got a job at the host stand at Duke’s Waikiki.
“Aloha, welcome to Duke’s, follow me to your table,” he says, joking about his lines at work.
“They put the pretty girls out there to kinda draw more business,” said Sasha, adding that the girls were always trying to give away shifts, which he promptly picked up.
His work back then may seem fun and upbeat, but Sasha said it was boring. So one day he asked his boss if he could bring his ‘ukulele along.
“Next thing I knew, I found myself there five days a week, three hours a night, playing the ‘ukulele, just messing around,” he said.
He kept singing what he learned on the guitar, but transferring to the ‘ukulele, just by remembering what he learned back in elementary school. Some people would jokingly advise him to never quit his day job, while others would be amazed by his music.
“I didn’t really know who to believe,” Sasha said.
Luckily for us, he believed in himself. Today we all can enjoy his upbeat music.
Molokai, a rural island with a 60 percent Native-Hawaiian population, breathes culture every single day, to a point that locals claim Molokai is the piko (center) of Hawaiian culture.
Music carries on the culture on a daily basis there. From government meetings to church affairs and community events, music opens and closes every gathering on Molokai. Even political enemies hold hands and chant.
If children are not introduced to music at home, they will embrace it at the schools. “I always wanted to say ‘Hawai‘i has the message,’” Sasha said. “The message is aloha.”
To the ‘opio, Sasha said Hawai‘i has the potential to become a modern Nashville. “Everyone is so talented here.”
Sasha has already influenced many with his lyrics. Back in 2004, when “Necta” exploded on the charts in Hawai‘i, one of his youngest and biggest fans died in a car accident, alongside a young and gorgeous Hawaiian girl.
Tyson Pagador, only 22 years old, used to “pound” Sasha’s music everywhere he went. He and 17-year-old Alyssa Gonsalves perished in a one-car crash in Koloa. Their friend Adam Frazier survived, but had some serious injuries.
Several family members of Pagador tattooed butterflies on their shoulder, just like the lyrics on “Necta.” Sasha said the family made a sign that read: “Now you are free to chase your butterfly.” The touching story goes on to describe a butterfly that landed on the sign and immediately died.
Sasha’s first album was entirely made in a home studio, with him playing all the tracks, using different instruments. His next CD is still in the making, and his fans will just have to wait a little while.
“I hope that it will come soon, but it’s coming slow,” said the relaxed Sasha.
Last Saturday Sasha played at the recently revamped Lava Lounge, launching a spring tour that will take him to at least six performances in California. See www.sashamon.com for more information.
S A S H A M O N: Press
After his self-released album One Day Maybe in 2005 (created entirely by himself in his home studio), Sashamon’s---One Day Maybe has spread without virtually any marketing, except word of mouth, and the show in Redondo at Kilkenny’s was evidence of how popular Sashamon’s music has become on the mainland. “We’ve had a good response on the mainland. In the beginning, our shows would be packed on Hawaii, and now it’s kind of the same thing over here.
New people, something different,” said Sashamon. “People just like Hawaii, it’s just a fact. I think people on the mainland can feel that paradise Hawaiian lifestyle in the music: the beach, the chill, no traffic, clean air and the warm weather. The music is a little more chill and a little more groovy. I think people like it because it’s not so hectic, and sometimes I think it can be hectic on the mainland.”
Sashamon’s musical background is deep rooted with the ukulele strumming Kupuna, or respected elders on Molokai, and this musical upbringing shines authentic in Sashamon’s own relationship to music. Not only is Sashamon’s unique musical blend of roots reggae, Dub and Jawaiian addictively refreshing, his themes and soothing Hawaiian temperament have calmed the Line Up office for years in deadline time. Sashamon’s smooth-grooved Molokai vibe, powerfully delicate voice and feel-good rhythms reverberate in the better senses of the listener—the more peaceful senses. “I think the best music comes from happiness, and it transfers into the music,” explained Sashamon.
“People just want to feel happy when it comes down to it.”
Sashamon agreed that One Day Maybe spread widely because of the pro surfers on Hawaii and their inherit travels. As the album rippled through the surf community, the blend of simple arrangements and upbeat melodies made for a good listen to those living in laid back beach communities on the mainland.
“Big ups to Pipeline Posse and all of the Kauai boys; it was definitely the pro surfer scene that helped spread my music,” said Sashamon. “The surf scene just shared the music, and I have to imagine it wouldn’t have spread if people didn’t like it. I think on One Day Maybe my love of the ocean and that feeling and sound came through. I mean a lot of people like my music on their surf videos. The sound just seems to go with surfing.”
Sashamon is featured most notably on Jamie O’Brien’s Freak Side and Freak Show. O’Brien is a good friend and big fan of the musician, and recently gave Sashamon one of his magic boards. The musician admitted he’s never surfed better. His music is also featured on the videos Shrink and East Coast Theory, as well as The Surf Roots compilation albums. The Surf Roots albums, produced by Resin Music, are part of an ongoing fundraiser with proceeds benefiting the USA Surf Team, another example of how deep-rooted in the surf culture Sashamon’s music truly is.
Fire Marshall capacities and sing-along crowds are always a good sign, and Sashamon’s newly acquired band makes for a vibrant show. Rounding out echoing hooks with an aural one-two punch of tightly underlying percussions and melodic power, the musicianship of the band compliments Sashamon’s songs seamlessly. His songs are also loosened up a bit with the instrumental fluidity and improvisation of the band members.
“I love the interaction between musicians, bouncing off each other and being in the moment,” said Sashamon. “Looking back, I’m glad I did One Day Maybe alone. I think its success had to do with the uniqueness, but from what people tell us, the live show is a lot better than the CD, which is what I’ve wanted, a good live show. I think a band helps because it’s just creating more music.”
After the show in Redondo, me and my travel companion Kristin hung out with Sashamon and the band for the next few days, and I got a glimpse of what makes the affable musician tick. Catching a ride from Hermosa to San Diego with Sashamon’s tour bus, through traffic I’m sure he’s not used to, the musician had a lot to say about what drives him musically or otherwise.
Like any successful songwriter, Sashamon’s philosophy and ideals take the forefront of his musical intentions and although his songs aren’t political, he does see some of the current American ideal off-kilter with living appropriately. “I think people want to get out of the rat race. They see it, they’re in it. It’s how it is set up. ‘Do as much work as you can and use that money to build as big of walls as you can around yourself.’ ‘Oh, my neighbor has a Mercedes, I only have a Honda. I’m going to work harder now.’ What is really the point? People aren’t enjoying their families anymore. How can they? I think capitalism can work, but it’s when the dollar has more value than humanity that it doesn’t.”
According to Sashamon, the method to help people realize the fault in this ritual is simple—help people have a good time. It’s not too hard to follow his logic either. People have a good time, people feel good about themselves, people are in an environment with people having a good time, people feel good about others. It’s not hard math, but he does realize that it can’t always be that simple. Idealism rarely is. However he does believe in the spark of idealism.
“Everything is energy. Music is energy. Light is energy,” said Sashamon, punctuating each sentence. “I think the best art is like a beacon or a lighthouse that illuminates the truth and the beauty and shines on you to create a light inside of you. It’s like if God is the lighthouse, then music is just a part of that vibration. Music at its best, to me, is the cousin of the Creator. And we are creators, creators of life. I think music is for praise and the illumination of this. If music helps show the innate godliness of ourselves, it can help us to treat one another more like human beings. I think ultimately we’re just vessels here to help one another out. I don’t think we’re here to suffer.”
Sashamon’s idea of artistry seems to be one that many artists share—the notion that art is the creative pursuit of truth. Sashamon’s truth is his faith in peace through music, and the substance of that message comes with the restraint of the “let me tell you something” musical egoism. Rather his subtlety and the “here, can I show you something” musical humility makes his music something listeners can make there own.
Before arriving in San Diego, we stop to eat lunch at the percussionist, Mario Rodriguez’s, parents’ house in Carlsbad. Sitting on the back porch surrounded by so-Cal foliage and a sizzling grill that accompanied mid-afternoon laughter, I couldn’t help but appreciate being in the presence of a band enjoying the promise of a hopeful future around the bend, or in this case across an ocean. Their show in Redondo was received with a capacity crowd that echoed every hook of every song on One Day Maybe, and as they waited for their show in San Diego tonight, confidence surrounded their steps and excitement hovered over their words. Not the confidence of a braggart or the excitement of a novice, but something more natural and humble. Maybe it was just becoming clear to the band that the mainland was more than ready to feel the Hawaiian breeze, if only for a show, to remind us that life doesn’t have to be hectic, at least while we dance.
Toto, we’re not in Kingston anymore. Once in a great while, at least locally, an artist comes along who makes you appreciate music again, especially when that genre of music has been churning out groups faster than you can say reggae.
One Day Maybe is the debut album of self-produced artist Sashamon. Maybe that day is now. It’s a reggae album, but not in the traditional sense. And not in the Jawaiian sense. Sashamon takes his listeners on a musical journey. It’s whimsical, fun and all over the place melodically—a new breed of reggae surf music. There is no raga filler with the fake Jamaican accent, though Sashamon’s vocal stylings do take on the occasional rootsy-mon lilt.
The first song on the album, “Jah Roots,” is a light, easy tune with one-drop beats to appeal to the purists. “Necta (Butterfly)” is the album’s sing-along track about Sashamon’s charming infatuation with a girl. On “Japanese Squeeze” (resist the urge to be offended, we like our ethnic categorizations here) we’re told of a memorable Waikiki encounter with a Japanese girl.
But Sashamon’s not all butterflies and bikinis—he’s got a message and the demonstrative “Peaceizafiya” and “Herbal Criminal” give the album some edge. One Day Maybe is one for everyone—even if you’ve sworn off of reggae. This album is simply good fun, kick-back music. Jack Johnson to a calypso off-beat? Hardly. Sashamon’s got his own thing going—and it’s a good thing.
This month marks the official release of Sashamon’s hit underground CD, One Day Maybe, a raw blend of reggae, rock and Hawaiian music that was intended as a demo.
Until now Sashamon,born Sasha Makia Spiller-Reiff, handed out his CDs and played the role of both musician and distributor.With the CD’s increasing popularity, Sashamon recently decided to relinquish his duties as “a box packer"and focus his energies on assembling a band and creating a live version for his music.
Two of Sashamon’s songs on this album, Japanese Squeeze and Necta (Butterfly), have already been huge radio hits on the Neighbor Islands and have recently made their way to Oahu.
Sashamon’s upbringing on Molokai deeply influenced his love for music. It was during his elementary years on Molokai’s west side and singing along with the kupuna who introduced him to Hawaii’s musical culture.After high school, Sashamon attended UH-Manoa where he received a degree in music and the arts.
One Day Maybe incorporates many of Sashamon’s cultural and educational influences and demonstrates his diverse talents. Sashamon composed, produced and played all the instruments - including ukulele,guitar,bass,keyboard and drum sequencer.
“I made my CD all by myself on my computer. I did all the tracks and then all of a sudden I was getting radio play,” he says.
Sashamon, who now resides on Kauai, describes his sound as “all music trying to be wrapped up into one."And as for his vocals, he says “I wish I could sound like Bob Marley, but I’ve got a ways to go.”
With a new look, an actual press kit and a label support, Sashamon hopes to take this CD to the next level in Hawaii’s competitive market.
“The hardest part about being a musician is it’s not food, shelter and water,"adds Sashamon. “It’s not a necessity and you don’t need it to survive, so somehow you got to convince people to have your music be a part of their life.”
What language do you wish you were fluent in?
That’s a hard question because how can you choose? Maybe, English.
(laughs) I tell people, I can talk standard English and they look at me and say, no, you can’t.
What is your favorite candy bar?
3 Musketeers. But it’s bad for you, so I hardly eat that stuff.
How many meals a day do you eat on average?
I’m a vegetarian, so I’m closer to the five meals a day. But basically I eat when I can, when I remember.
What’s the saddest movie that you have seen?
I try not to watch that kind of movies. But Schindler’s List and Snow Falling on Cedars, those are good ones. Those were pretty sad.
What’s your dream car?
An oxygen-powered car made out of hemp.
In what sport are professional athletes the most overpaid?
I don’t know which sport is the most overpaid, but I gotta say that surfers are for sure the most underpaid.
What do you do to stay healthy?
I’m a 99 percent vegetarian and I try to surf as much as I can. I think the more vegetarian-conscious we can be the better. I’ve been vegetarian for about 10 years now, maybe a little more.
Do you believe in ghosts?
I believe that a person’s spirit can live on, so if that’s a ghost then I guess I believe.
What’s your favorite board game?
I can’t say I’ve played any board games recently.
Is there anything that can make you gag? Oh, yeah. I haven’t had it in a while, but for sure natto (Japanese fermented soybeans). That stuff is rough. But I’m pretty squeamish in general. I’m a vegetarian, so a nice bloody piece of meat could make me gag.
What celebrity would you like to spend the day with?
Paul McCartney, because he’s just the man.
Good Fun: Sashamon’s Four Hour Jam Session at Paddlers
Molokai Native’s Unique Surf Reggae Gets Crowd To Its Feet
The funk didn’t stop for long on Sunday night as Hawaiian music sensation Sashamon and his band, along with special guest Uncle Isaac Kamile on guitar, rolled into Paddlers’ Inn March 4 and rocked the house until closing time. Kamile, who taught Sasha how to play guitar and ukulele when he was younger, offered up sonic guitar licks over Sashamon’s rhythm section as they played songs from his album One Day Maybe, as well as up-tempo versions of reggae and roots standards by Bob Marley, UB-40 and others.
There was even a jovial new-wave element to the show; Sashamon found out that Maui County police were lined up behind the parking lot in anticipation of violence, or possibly some ganja burning, and played a mash-up rendition of Sting’s “Spirits in the Material World”, and dedicated the song to Kaunakakai’s finest. “Much love to the police out there!” was Sasha’s cry.
The police presence turned out to be needless; the show was peaceful and fun, with the smiling crowd staying out well into the night and leaving it all out in front of the stage in the form of good natured, hip-rockin’ revelry.
As usual, the biggest crowds on the dance floor came out when Sashamon played his two hits Necta (Butterfly) and Japanese Squeeze. The smokin’ frenzied versions of those tunes were given a little extra swing by Mario Rodrigues on bongos and Nathan Cwik on drums, who played with furious intensity all night long.
Surely, the most concrete sign of any good musical act’s likelihood of success and longevity is its love of playing. After the concert, Sasha and his band, manager, and some close friends invited the Dispatch to the house in Papohaku which is serving as their musical retreat while they are on Molokai. Despite a long day with performances at the Molokai Ohana Surf Club’s first meet, Sashamon and his band retained enough enthusiasm to stay up late into the night jamming new originals and old classics on ukuleles and guitars. Drummer Nathan Cwik even provided percussive rhythms with a cheese grater and cookie cutter.
No word yet on the date of the follow-up album to 2004’s One Day Maybe, but Sashamon’s popularity continues to grow despite the absence of new material. The Sashamon MySpace account now lists about 5,200 friends, double the roughly 2,600 friends he had last July. With radio play in such non-Hawaiian surfing hotbeds as Brazil, Australia, and Italy, the infectious sound of Sashamon’s “surf reggae” has many asking about new material on myspace and in press interviews, echoing a sentiment heard many times from fans at Paddlers’ Sunday night: Hana Hou! Hana Hou!
Sashamon "One Day Maybe"
Reggae will never be the same now that Sashamon has delivered his debut album. He is reggae in its truest, purest form. Just as Bob Marley did in the past Sashamon has brought us stripped down and raw beats and lyrics that are organic and pertinent. The coolest thing, perhaps, about Sashamon is that he is from Hawaii, not Jamaica. You'd never guess that he didn't call the Caribbean island his home. But from one tropical paradise to another, the music still remains the same. He fills his music with passion, surely derived from the ocean and sunshine that is so plentiful in Hawaii. From here we can expect Sashamon to bring us more great music, potentially combining his love for reggae with his native island's signature sounds for an altogether outrageous combination of musical bliss. For now, this debut album gives us just the right amount of escape from our ordinary lives.
Sashamon Live at Paddler's Inn
Paddlers' Inn found itself being rocked to the rhythm of the true island feeling Friday night.
Sashaman, a reggae guitar player and songwriter from Molokai, brought his warm sound back to the island lifting people to their feet.
His music had everyone bobbing their heads to the beat or up on their feet dancing wildly in front of the stage.
"This band is really good," said owner Jimmy Johnson. "Sashaman has made some good moves for his career and I can see them becoming really big."
Sashaman, 31, grew up on Molokai and graduated from Molokai High School in 1993.
"I grew up here on Molokai," Sashaman said. "I enjoy coming back here and playing for my friends and family and just playing music."
He has been friends with his lead guitar player, Isaac, since high school - and for good reason.
Isaac holds his guitar with the same sweet touch you would hold someone you love. Each time a new song begins he becomes apart of his beautiful, red guitar.
The rhythm section stands as a steady leaning wall for the rest of the group. They provide the stability needed for the insane solos and give off an amazing beat that keeps everyone moving.
In all, Sashaman's music is amazing and simply brings to life who he is and where he has been. He keeps his roots and represents his home through his brilliant and creative music.
Born on O’ahu, raised on Molokai, and now living on Kaua’i, Sashamon is an island boy. Reflected in his debut album “One Day Maybe” are the laid back vibes of growing up in Hawai’i.
Sashamon, born Sasha Makia Spiller-Reiff, enjoyed kanikapila jams in his early days on Molokai’s west side. He says he was blessed to grow up in a place a little behind the times, a place “reminiscent of days when music was still interwoven with family and community.”
He took his love for music with him when he attended the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and earned a degree in music and the arts. While in college, he learned to play the guitar and compose music. He also wrote the beginnings of the demo that later became “One Day Maybe.”
Tiring of city life on O’ahu, Sashamon moved to Kaua’i after graduation, where he learned to record songs on his computer. His homemade demo got in the hands of surfer and fellow Kaua’i resident, Braden Dias, who helped spread his music in the worldwide surf scene. The underground demo eventually made its way to radio station on the outer-islands and was soon in heavy rotation.
“My CD was intended to be a demo and it was an experiment to see if I could even write a song. I was surprised by its popularity and it is encouraging me to pursue a music career,” Sashamon said.
In September 2004, Sashamon released “One Day Maybe” independently. With no press kit or label support, he didn’t initiate mainstream airplay. However, through the same grassroots marketing he used for his demo, his debut release made its way to the ears of a variety of listeners.
“It seems that all ages enjoy my music, from three to 93. I heard a story about an elderly lady who was depressed for years. When she heard my CD, she got happy, got up and started dancing.”
Now Sashamon’s only concern is paying his rent.
“To bring a little joy and light was my goal. I think I’ve reached it and more. Now, I just gotta pay rent. I think most people burn my music. I no mo’ money people, support local artists!”
An irie mix of Reggae, Rock and Hawaiian, Sashamon’s “One Day Maybe” is an indie gem and definitely worth buying. One song, Japanese Squeeze,” is a playful story of a Japanese girl Sashamon met in Waikiki, “Necta” and “Malia” are also fun love songs.
But the CD is not all romance. Sashamon, who has renounced his U.S. citizenship and is a member of the Hawaiian Kingdom, dedicates the song “Rise” to the sovereignty of all people. He says the song is about “native cultures and their struggles in the modern economy.”
Playful or political, “One Day Maybe” is island-rooted. No matter what the subject of his songs, they have a peaceful vibe.
To purchase “One Day Maybe,” visit Sashamon’s website at http://www.sashamon.com or the iTunes music store.
By Cara Fasone
Ka Mana’o Staff Reporter
"One Day Maybe" is the best CD that came out of Hawaii in 2004, and that's REALLY saying something because this was an outstanding year for Hawaii's artists! Sasha it's really awesome that you did this, and that you did it on your own!! Everyone on Kauai is SO proud of you!!! Can't wait for the next one ;)
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