If you miss home, bring pieces of it with you.
That’s the ethos for Michael Nobu Shinohara. He’s the brains behind Aina Roots, a local promotional company bringing Hawaiian reggae to the Vegas Valley. Since moving here some 20 years ago, Shinohara has booked an impressive roster of bands, including the chart-topping Fortunate Youth and soul/reggae heavyweights Common Kings. Judging from Aina Roots’ crowded Facebook calendar, Shinohara isn’t slowing down.
“When I moved from Hawaii, I missed the style of music I’d hear every day—on the streets, in the clubs, in venues … everywhere,” he says. The sound is specific: an amalgam of genres including soul, funk and traditional (Jamaican) reggae, with lyrical themes often revolving around the social and cultural issues of the Hawaiian islands. “Even though there were a lot of islanders here, I found it odd there were very few [island music] shows happening here.”
That fueled his decision to begin booking Island-style acts in his new hometown. Over time, local interest grew, and the audiences at Shinohara’s shows began reflecting that. This year, Aina Roots formed a close relationship with Brooklyn Bowl, which has led to no fewer than 25 bookings thus far in 2017. “They call this city the ninth island,” he says. “We have a network of trans-planet pacific islanders here looking for a home.”
Island reggae’s growth this decade has been a national phenomenon, too, but Shinohara hopes he contributed to the boom. “That kind of music is poppin’, and I’d like to think that I’ve been a part of that success.” He hasn’t done it alone. Aina Roots has five principal members who promote shows through means new and old. The goal is to spread the word about their events, and raise awareness of island music in general. “It’s gone from a small group to a full-blown army … and we’re still recruiting,” Shinohara laughs. “Anyone who wants to get involved can.”