BEHIND THE MUSIC OF MAACHO
Ma'acho, called "The Godfather of Reggae" in Hawai'i, is considered by many to be one of the most influential personalities in the Hawai'i Reggae Community. Ma'acho (meaning "eyes in the language of Swahili) was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Mongoose Town. Maacho lived in England during his teen years, "toasting" for Danny King Hi Fi Sound System. He graduated from the prestigeous school, Stockwell Manor, while simultaneously developing his left-handed guitar style. then to Connecticut and Bronx New York where he joined up with the Sylvester Inc. Roots Band.
Moving to Hawai'i in 1975 Ma'acho has pioneered the Hawai'i scene with his roots rock reggae sound, his deeply spiritual and inspirational lyrics, and his unique, highly charged and inspiring stage presence. Previous bands include: The Cool Runnings Band/ The Movers/ and currently Cool Connection.
Opened for Toots and The Maytals/ Jimmy Clif/ Inner Circle/ Alpha Blondy/ Ziggy/Damian/Jr. Gong Marley/ Azwad/ Mikey Dread/ Shinehead/ Marcia Griffits/ Eek a Mouse/ Bunny Wailer/ Luciano/ Dean Fraizer/ Mikey General.
Maacho also appeared at Reggae on the River, 2001, backed by the Fully Fullwood Band.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
"I'd rather transfer that energy into singing."
Isle reggae performer, on not throwing outbursts and keeping a calm demeanor
Reggae artist rises to
the challenges of life
By Gary C. W. Chun
For the man named Maacho, it's been a life of trials and tribulations, but also one filled with the joyful spirituality of reggae music.
The transplanted Jamaican has called Hawaii home for more than 20 years. During that time, he has built a reputation as one of local reggae's stronger singers and performers.
In spite of setbacks in health and finances, he's looking forward to a long-overdue return to the stage, as he and his new band, Cool Connection, gear up for a gig at Anna Bannana's tomorrow night.
Respect for Maacho is such in the reggae community that he guested with Ooklah the Moc in a Kauai gig five weeks ago.
The soft-spoken singer came to Hawaii back in 1975, on a journey that started in his home in Kingston, Jamaica. His family had moved to England, then to Connecticut, where Maacho found work as a telephone installer and repairman, knowing all along that he needed "to learn more about people and needed a challenge in life." So he enlisted in the U.S. Army.
"When I was given the choice of either being stationed here (in Hawaii) or Germany, there was no problem," he says. "I chose the place where the sun is always up! It felt good the minute I set foot here; the natural warmth, the sunshine, it was like Jamaica. It was natural living for me, no stress."
Well, that would come later, but Maacho's taken it all in stride.
Maacho's reggae background precedes icon Bob Marley's time. "I remember hearing rock steady and 'bluebeat' before it became reggae, when the family was already in England. That sound reached into my soul, and I connected with it like a lightbulb to a wire."
As a teenager in Kingston, he remembers being with his family and "happening to get bold in church one time and singing out," thus liberating the voice he would use in reggae.
Maacho was also into "toasting" (a precursor to rap that originated with reggae), his inspirations being Dennis Alcapone, the two Roys -- U-Roy and I-Roy -- Dillinger and Scotty. But he also liked "deep dubs" and the sweet-voiced Delroy Wilson, Desmond Dekker and the Heptones. Adding John Holt and Horace Andy to that list, Maacho says he likes "their vocal texture -- it's that feeling that you get in body training, where the nerves burn and everything gets activated."
His Hawaii singing career was at its height from 1987 to 1997, by his calculations. But since then, he's had to battle through complications due to tooth surgery that may have damaged some nerves to the extent that his face was once paralyzed on one side.
"At first, it was thought it could've been Bell's palsy, but I think it was due to the injection I received for the surgery," he says. "I had no health insurance and I tried to get compensation, but that didn't work out."
Thankfully, friends of his organized a benefit concert that helped pay some of his medical bills.
"Now, 97 percent of my original feeling in my face is back," he says, "and, you know, life goes on!"
Maacho has supported himself with auto-mechanic work and backstage concert work, driving a forklift to help load material for outdoor concerts and conventions.
Maacho and the band plan to play some of his newer material, such as songs from his "Too Deep" album from a year ago. And therein lies another life challenge; it's a project he's been trying to reclaim financial control of, once he finds out where his supposed business partner has gone off to.
"I always tell myself it's gonna be a better day," he says. "So long as it's not bleeding, everything else is OK." Still, he admits that, in the process of looking for this guy, "I ask myself, 'Why me?' I wouldn't have run off on him!"
Besides revisiting past fan favorites such as his self-penned "Chain Gang" and "Heal Up," he may be doing his covers of "54-46 Was My Number" and "Kung Fu Fighting." Maacho also plans to perform "some serious Bob, like 'Concrete Jungle' and 'Soul Rebel,' some of Marley's more educational songs."
When asked how he can keep such a generally calm and quiet demeanor in everyday life and be such an animated singer and performer on stage, Maacho gets philosophical and uses his day job as an example. Life has been a constant lesson in what he calls "attention, discipline, safety and reality."
"See, my task as a mechanic is to be focused on my work at hand," he says. "If I get angry, throw tools around, nothing gets done. I see no meaning in that kind of outburst. I'd rather transfer that energy into singing.
"And it's also about taking care of yourself," he says. "It's like man creating an object as an automobile that's like his own body -- both need air to breathe, water acts like a coolant, blood like oil, the wheels like feet, the electrical system like organs."
He starts laughing as he stretches this analogy out. "The crankshaft is like the backbone and the timing is our heartbeat!"