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Marty Dread: Hawaii’s Reggae Ambassador from Lahaina to the world

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Jan 15, 2021

“I was honored to sing ‘We’re All in This Together’ on the CD titled ‘All in This Together,’ ” said Marty Dread. “A song like this could be an anthem that the whole world could sing.” PHOTO BY SELKET KAUFMAN FOR PACIFIC WHALE FOUNDATION.

LAHAINA — Marty Dread, Hawaii’s Reggae Ambassador, singer, songwriter, guitar player and humanitarian, has produced numerous CDs and has performed at a variety of venues throughout the Hawaiian Islands and around the world. This year, 2021, marks 26 years since the release of Dread’s first album.

He has played at the White House in Washington, D.C., Moscow’s Red Square in Russia, the Cotton Club in Harlem and major festivals, including Reggae on the River, Farm Aid, Reggae on the Rocks, Sierra Nevada World Music Festival and many more.

Honored with the Ghandi and Martin Luther King Peace Hero Award, Dread has also toured with Willie Nelson, with whom he appeared on stage at Nelson’s annual Farm Aid concerts.

“I was honored to sing at the White House and Moscow’s Red Square, but my biggest accomplishment was playing at Farm Aid on stage with Willie Nelson,” Dread noted. “The reason is that the act of giving on that level is so amazing and heartfelt. I have so much respect for Nelson and his musical genius, but more so for his humanitarian nature and his sense of philanthropy. The fact that he has consistently shed light on the plight of the small farmer is remarkable. I have been so honored to have performed all over the country with him on tour and to have recorded with him. However, mostly it has increased my own desire to pay it forward.”

In Hawaii, Dread’s live performances have been, before COVID-19, on sunset cruises, in addition to other engagements on Maui and throughout the neighboring islands.

“Although I have traveled all over the world, my heart and home base remains on Maui,” Dread said. “My love of music started as a boy in New York before I moved to Hawaii, but it was the islands that really inspired me.”

Dread’s very first paid gig was with the band Culture Shock in the Artful Dodger bookstore in Kahului. “It was such a tiny venue that people were dancing in the book isles,” he recalled.

“We then went on to dominate the music scene on the West Side for over 20 years starting at Studio 505, then Maui Brew, World Cafe and Blue Tropix. Our last eight-year run was at Hard Rock Cafe. I am so grateful for my time on the West Side and the kickoff it was to my career.”

In 2020, Dread donated his considerable talents by playing virtual Aloha Friday concerts, “An Evening with Marty Dread,” a live-streamed virtual concert benefitting Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF).

Dread explained, “This has been a great way for people who cannot be in Hawaii to still experience the energy of the cruises. At this difficult time for all of us, the virtual concerts have been a way to reach out to thank our friends who have supported the Island Rhythms Sunset Cruise over the years. We very much appreciate that support and need it even more now.”

Dread added, “The virtual concerts were built on the popularity of my pre-pandemic cruises with PacWhale Eco-Adventures. Realizing the pandemic was not going to be over soon, I suggested we stay relevant by doing a virtual show. Even people who are not on island tuned in, made song requests and realized how important the PWF is to Hawaii. We were able to reach the world and bring a sense of Maui and aloha.”

Currently, with the absence of live music, Dread has been compiling material he has accumulated over the years with a plan to release six new albums in 2021.

“I put out my first album when I was 25,” Dread stated. “It has almost been one a year, so it is time to get them all out to the world. I have set my sights on working my past catalog and trying to get old and new songs placed in film and television programs. The six releases ready to unleash on the world are ‘In Good Company, Vol. 1, Singing with Friends;’ ‘In Good Company, Vol. 2, Rapping with Friends;’ ‘Dub Defender;’ ‘Positive People;’ ‘Mr. Right Now;’ and ‘Laws of Nature: The Willie Nelson Duets.’ My wish is to share the level of joy all of these songs have brought me over the years.”

These challenging times inspired Dread and a group of Maui musicians to create a CD titled “All in This Together,” bringing a message of love and unity through inspirational words and music.

Collectively the group celebrated how the world, working together, can raise awareness about peace and healing — much needed at this time. All proceeds from the CD go to MusiCares.

Dread, who sings the CD finale “We’re All in This Together,” said, “The album is relevant today with what the world is currently facing with COVID-19. I was honored to sing the song that I truly felt would create a better version of the world. A song like this could easily slip under the radar in a less challenging time, but now it could be an anthem that the whole world could sing. There is such a strain on everybody individually to cope with the state of things, and music is a great mechanism to reflect and ponder on. Hearing the right song, at the right time, could really change a listener’s day. It has happened to me many times, as a listener, and also as the person providing melodic comfort or relief.”

Dread continued, “The words in ‘We’re All in This Together’ have the same guiding principles of practicing aloha in its lyrics. Our future in the post-COVID era will be ours to create. If the core concept of aloha were more widely practiced, we could get closer to a utopian society. On a basic level, it all comes back to love. I have always tried to walk this path, musically and personally. I know I fall short sometimes, like we all do, but the important thing to do is acknowledge our mistakes and get right back on the path to aloha. I think we all want a better world, but seem to get clouded sometimes by the dogma and fear of living in modern society with so many distractions. To see past this, I believe music can play an integral part. Our future in the post-COVID era will be ours to create. I truly hope ‘We’re All in This Together’ and the CD touch some hearts and shed a light on a path to betterment and an end to global suffering.”

Album Producer Cindy Paulos said, “Marty has such positive energy that he uplifts all who hear him sing. When he worked on ‘We’re All in This Together,’ he brought his own heart to the song. I wrote the song for Marty a while ago; however, in these challenging times, I felt the need not only to bring it back but to do a new CD based on that phrase. When you listen to him sing it, you not only believe the words, but you also feel inspired. The inspiration and hope is what we all need now.”