Hopis connect to Reggae — keep on rocking

Some Hopi people lovingly refer to their remote reservation as “the doughnut hole” because it’s surrounded by the Navajo Nation and so far from a major city.

But three decades ago tribal members convinced Jamaican artists from the SunSplash reggae festival to make a major detour off the Interstate and venture all the way out to Hopi land.

Since then the Hopi have organized dozens of reggae concerts.

Jennifer Joseph, who goes by Jonnie Jay on KUYI Hopi Radio, recalls when reggae was first introduced to Hopi.

“The artists that came, they didn’t play to crowds that were 10,000,” Joseph said. “They played to crowds of less than a hundred. But they came and they came and they came because they felt the roots. They felt the connection.”

For three decades many Hopi have adopted reggae as their music of choice. It’s difficult to travel the three mesas that make up the reservation without seeing several gold, red and green bumper stickers, not to mention someone in a Bob Marley T-shirt.

Joseph said the Hopi can connect with a lot of reggae music’s themes, but oppression really hits home.

“Although they sing about their strife and issues where they live, we can really relate to it,” Joseph said. “Those are the same issues we face everyday up to today. And it’s always Babylon coming down on us…”

…KUYI Hopi Radio general manager Richard Davis said reggae has been a powerful yet peaceful expression.

“The message of peaceful resistance, conscious resistance is definitely something that is a direct link between Hopi culture and reggae music,” Davis said…

“Ziggy Marley he says love is his religion,” Joseph said. “Love is our religion. We were once the same people. When we came to this world we were all one people.”

Glad to hear the Reggae continues. I was at the Sunsplash concerts on Hopi Tribal land, early days. Great fun. Audiences tended to be Hopi, Anglos and Apaches. Navajos rarely attended – no surprise. I don’t know if that ever changed.

The music was a gas and, yes, it fit right. RTFA for context.