When the nine-piece Hawaiian roots reggae band
Ooklah the Moc performed at the Hard Rock Cafe this past summer,
the audience packed the restaurant. So tightly that the only
open area was the stage, where some audiences later danced
with the band.
Security officers did not stop them because no one complained
and the audience was peacefully enjoying the music.
According to a dictionary Web site, roots reggae, affiliated
with the infamous Bob Marley, includes elements of ska, American
rock, Rhythm and blues, and pop music. It is considered the most
popular and accessible form of reggae music (thefree-dictionary.com).
The band does not play the music of such superstars as Bob
Marley or Jimmy Cliff. Finding a band that plays such music
is hard. “Actually,
we play a few covers, but we try to make it sound like our songs.” said
the guitarist Asher Philippart, who was born in the Philippines
and has lived on O‘ahu since he was six years old. “We
try to capture the essence of the music we love, not copy the
sound. Roots always come first.”
At the Hard Rock Cafe concert, the group played 20 songs from
The band consists of Ryan “Jah Gumby” Murakami, the
band’s main song writer, on bass; John “Barrucus” Davis
on drums; Asher Philippart on guitar; Gary Nakano on trumpet/flugelhorn;
Tony Bush on trombone; and Brad Watanabe on keyboard.
The three vocalists are Jimbo “Ras Bird” LaPierre, “Sista
Mickey” Huihui, and Nick “Kali” Navales.
Me and Asher and Ryan, we used to play in a hard-core band (in
1994). We started [hard-core], but that was like for a few months,
and then we started roots reggae,” John Davis, who was
born and raised on O‘ahu, said.
I was probably getting into this stuff [reggae] like Police when
I was like 12. I listened to metal, even glam rock, like Motley
Crue, and then Player, and Metallica…, actually more
hard-core, and then I got into reggae.”
Davis explained how the group came to name itself. “We
decided at the second parking lot in Manoa town,” Davis
said. “We were talking about Thundarr the Barbarian.” Ooklah
the Moc was a character in the early 1980s’ Saturday morning
animated cartoon show, “Thundarr the Barbarian.”
Ooklah was formed in 1997 to play a mix of reggae and hard-core
Hard-core music took its roots from punk rock, but was
largely adapted to North America suburban themes where
looking a way to express their frustrations and disillusionment
Through three years and several changes, Ooklah came to
play only roots reggae music reached its present nine-person
in 2000 (ooklahthemoc.com).
In January 2001, Ooklah released its debut album, Ites
Massive, a 16-song original roots reggae conglomeration.
first album was named after a sticker made by our drummer John
Davis. It doesn’t have an exact meaning. Ites takes after
the Rasta word ital which means pure, but it is also a way of
saying ‘heights’. And Massive can mean either really
big or a tight group of people”. He also said, “So
ites massive can be really high or ital community. But chose
the name for the way it sounds, not so much what it means.”
Ooklah’s second album, Rearrange Your Positive, having
14-track, was released on March 24. This album was ranked first
in KTUH radio’s new-world top 10 list on June 28. [KTUH
is the University of Hawai’i’ radio station and Hawai’i’s
only 24-hour, non-profit, non-commercial educational radio
Additionally, Ooklah has tracks on the Quiet Storm Records
compilation disks, Roots Music I and Roots Music III.
In its second album, Rearrange Your Positive, two new singers,
Kali Navales and Mickey Huihui, debuted. Davis said the
vocal trio made Ooklah’s music thicker than before.
When asked why he joined Ooklah the Moc as a vocalist,
Navales, who was born in Manoa and raised in Aiea, Koloa,
said: “First of all, they were my favorite group,” said
Navales. “I kind of grew up with them.”
“First time I saw them was at a party in Kahalu’u in high school
days. [They] really struck me, and then I got to school at Kapiolani Community
College, and the bass player, Jah Gumby, was in my guitar class,” said
Ooklah has played shows all over Hawai’i and finished its first tour of
L.A. and San Diego in March. “We’re going to keep trying to go to
the Mainland. It [the tour] was cool. It was good fun, good response,” said
“We’re planning [to perform in the Mainland] sometime in October,” said
Reger, other HPU students, and fans, will have the opportunity
to see and hear the group as they continue to perform on