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Global citizen

Maui provides inspiration for Jamallad, an African artist who creates ‘In the now’

May 29, 2008
By JON WOODHOUSE, Contributing Writer
We first heard about African musician Jamallad in the summer of 2005 when he played at the annual Maui Invitational Band Festival. This ambitious two-week fest presented a series of music-student workshops culminating with five concerts featuring classical, Hawaiian, jazz and African musicians.

Born Lucien Kouassi in the West African nation of the Ivory Coast, Jamallad is a younger brother of reggae star Alpha Blondy. Singing in French and English and about seven African languages, he plays an inspired mix of reggae, Afro-pop, cavasha (a precursor to soukous) and folk rock.

Feeling warmly embraced by Maui, Jamallad ended up moving to our island, but then tragedy struck. As he explains in the liner notes of his impressive CD “Global Citizen,” “I suffered a fall that would temporarily partially paralyze me.”

Broke and uninsured with a spinal chord injury, he received a depressing prognosis. Following surgery, he was informed, he might never sing again.

An angel stepped into his life in the presence of Chetanaa Zoeller, who assisted his healing by offering to exchange bodywork for music lessons for her son. Surgery proved successful, his voice was fine, and in time the duo began collaborating on song writing with Jamallad creating the music, and co-composing lyrics with Zoeller.

An uplifting, spirited world beat CD, “Global Citizen” resulted.

With roots in catchy West African music, “Global Citizen” opens in celebratory mode with the intoxicating soukous dance rhythms of “In The Now.” Singing in English, French, Spanish and an African dialect, Jamallad implores us to embrace the richness of life. From here he slides into the infectious Afro-reggae groove of “Abidjan La Belle.”

Other stirring, reggae-fueled tracks include the Ziggy Marley-flavored “Happiness,” “Jamallad,” and “War No More,” which echoes Bob Marley’s intense power. Other potent songs include the funky, rocking title track, which features a spoken prayer of hope by Zoeller’s son, Suntana Villanueva, and the jubilant, closing “Ode To The Land,” that recalls Youssou N’Dour’s brightest moments.

A bunch of Maui musicians helped him record the project including guitarist Joel Shankar, drummer Josh Greenbaum and bassist Deon Estez.

“I have found such wonderful, good souls here,” says Jamallad. “After the accident, help came from an unexpected source. You count on family in hard times and I didn’t have anyone here, certainly not my brother. I have found a family here. It taught me that we are a global family.”

Jamallad first became entranced with reggae music when his famous brother returned to the Ivory Coast after studying at Columbia University.

“He came back with reggae and it quickly became my passion,” he recalls. “At the time the music in the Ivory Coast was folkloric, very local. My country is barely a bit bigger than Rhode Island and it has about 63 different ethnic languages. Singing in diverse languages. Alpha became universal and it opened new ways for African artists.”

Recently reconnecting with some musicians he used to play with on the East Coast, Jamallad is looking forward to performing songs from his CD with this band on a Mainland tour and hopefully presenting some Maui shows in the fall.

“The tour will be an opportunity to tighten the band, and come here and present the album properly,” he explains.

Looking ahead, he hopes to release more music, a new album focused on our island.

“I’m writing songs for Maui,” he notes. “I have one called ‘Haleakala,’ and there’s one on the Banyan Tree, and it will probably be an acoustic album.”

• For more info on Jamallad, check out

There’s another opportunity coming up to catch the Rolling Stones’ latest doc when the Maui Film Festival presents “Shine A Light,” in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Wednesday evening.

Directed by Martin Scorsese (who many years back was part of the “Woodstock” crew) and shot at New York’s intimate Beacon Theater in late October 2006, “Shine a Light” catches the legendary rockers in top form.

“In director Martin Scorsese’s exhilarating documentary, ‘Shine a Light,’ the Stones have made the greatest rock concert movie since ‘The Last Waltz,’ raved the San Francisco Chronicle. “Forget about all those indifferent, uninspired albums the band has churned out for the past 30 years — the stage is where the Stones live.”

Shot by a legendary team of cinematographers, the two concerts draw from a spectrum of the band’s legacy — from an acoustic version of the folky “As Tears Go By” and the country-flavored “Far Away Eyes,” to Keith Richards’ ravaged vocalizing on “You Got the Silver.”

Guests include Jack White of the White Stripes dueting with Mick Jagger on “Loving Cup,” blues great Buddy Guy jamming on Muddy Waters’ “Champagne and Reefer,” and Christina Aguilera on “Live With Me.”

“Shot with an electric energy, “Shine” captures a band performing their unassailable catalog of songs with spark and zest that leave you agape,” praised Portland’s Oregoneon. “How in blazes do guys in their 60s bring such freshness and drive to music they’ve been playing for decades?”

And the New York Daily News concluded: “Regardless of age, they can still rip this joint.”

Of course a number of reviews refer to the Stones as the world’s greatest rock band. Maybe it’s time to retire that crown. They were, and now there’s … U2.

• “Shine A Light” plays at 5 and 7:30 p.m. in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets are $12 or $10 with a MFF pass.

The Maui Film Festival will screen a number of music-themed works at its upcoming June fest. Among the films, the world premiere of “Dreadlock Rock” by Big island reggae musician Jack Miller, featuring interviews with Peter Tosh, the Wailers, Third World and Toots; a fascinating new doc about banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck and his journey to discover the African roots of his instrument; and a profile of African hip-hop star Emmanuel Jal, a former Sudanese child soldier.

• For more information on the Maui Film Festival at Wailea and the Maui Arts & Cultural Center June 11 to 15, visit

Charley’s in Paia is back in the entertainment business, all spruced up after their fire. Last weekend was a soft reopening with performances by Vince Esquire, and Aisha Kahlil from Sweet Honey in the Rock backed by Dr. Nat and Rio Ritmo. The grand re-opening happens on Friday with a great lineup of the Haiku Hillbillys, the Planetary Bandits, the Mana‘o Radio Orchestra, Vince Esquire and Gomega.

“Our stage is bigger and better, there’s a lot more room, and we have a quality, superior sound system,” says owner Jim Fuller. “It’s a better venue.”

• For details, visit

The Californian reggae band Groundation headlines a show on Saturday at the Lahaina Civic Center. Also on the bill: Ooklah the Moc, Versatile, The Alliez, DJ Boomshot and MC Spence Jah.

Fueled by their love for authentic roots reggae, Groundation has captured fans in many lands, including playing for around 45,000 people in Morocco, 10,000 fans in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and for 15,000 headlining a SummerJam fest in Germany.

• The show begins at 4 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door.

Maui filmmaker Jason Evans will premiere his documentary “Beyond the Grass Skirt” at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Lahaina Jodo Mission.

Focusing on the lives of four members of Maui’s most popular luau, it spotlights the challenges that performers experience sharing Hawaii’s culture with visitors. Musician Jason Ho will open the presentation at 7.

In other news, Maui filmmaker Kenny Martinez Burgmaier has been selected to produce and direct a documentary on a “Bebop to Hip-Hop” concert featuring jazz legend Herbie Hancock, hip-hop star Doug E. Fresh, Chali 2na, and Thelonious Monk Jr.

The event will showcase the work of young students who have participated in “Bebop to Hip-Hop,” a music education program spearheaded by the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.

• Contact Jon Woodhouse at

Article Photos

African artist who creates ‘In the now’



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