|by Stu Dawrs|
You could say the artistic collaboration of Elepaio Press and Hawaii Dub Machine was born underwater. In the mid-’70s, writer and teacher Richard Hamasaki spent a lot of time spearfishing with buddies Doug Matsuoka and Mike Moriarty. "Mike’s motto was ‘eat whatever you spear,’" Richard says today, "and since we wanted to taste every possible reef fish, we speared everything—hýnalea, weke, whatever—then we’d just go home and fire up the hibachi."
Doug Matsuoka, Richard
and Mark Hamasaki (left to right)
photo: Kent Hwang
Sitting next to a small bank of recording equipment in Richard’s Windward Oahu home, Matsuoka chuckles: "We know what they taste like: weke—good; hýnalea? Baaaad. Pretty, but bad."
This collective desire to taste everything has defined the crew’s creative output ever since: There was Seaweeds and Constructions, a literary journal that Richard produced with the late Wayne Westlake and others from 1976 through ’83. There was 7 Poems/8 Photographs, a self-published collaboration with brother Mark Hamasaki that was the official beginning of Elepaio Press; the Hawaii Amplified Poetry Ensemble, a reggae band Doug and Richard formed in the mid-’80s; the slow collection of used recording equipment that led to the Hawaii Dub Machine garage-studio; Hawaii Reggae International, a CD/cassette compilation produced by Doug in 1991 ....
Long story short: To date, Richard, Doug, Mark and friends have produced six CDs and hundreds of pages of print by writers, artists and musicians from throughout the Pacific—including, most recently, Jan Ken Po, a live-in-Honolulu recording of the Beat-era poets Gary Snyder, Albert Saijo and Nanao Sakaki.
Fittingly, when asked to summarize their creative philosophy, Richard returns to the ocean: "As Brother Mark says, ‘Art is collaboration.’ We’re independent, contemporary, regional artists whose muses draw from wansalawata—Melanesian Pidgin for ‘one-salt-water.’"
For information on Jan Ken Po and other Hawaii Dub/Elepaio productions, visit nativebookshawaii.com.