Ties that bind different cultures

Hopis and Rastafarians treasure lives of harmony

POLACCA -- Owen Smith sees similarities between Hopi people and the Rastafarians from his native Jamaica.

"I like Hopi because it's very, very cultural," Smith said. "More than anything, it's traditional--just like the Rastafarians in Jamaica."

He said that Hopis, like Rastafarians, live a life of harmony by being good neighbors. Smith also has one more subject in common with Hopis--music.

Smith, owner of Shooting Star Records in Mesa, said that due to his working relationship with the Hopi people that he wants to put Hopi musicians on his record label.

Smith visited Hopi Jr/Sr High School on Oct. 14 and he told band teacher Brian Logan that he wants the high school to send him their best Hopi musicians, but he also wants to hear from musical members of the Hopi community.

"I would like to get two groups from the high school and another from outside the high school, but still on the Hopi Reservation," he said. "This program is for Native Americans whether they're younger or older."

Smith said native musicians need to get motivated, get involved and come to his studio in Mesa.

Smith has been playing reggae music since he was young and performs in the reggae band Dread Warriors in the Phoenix valley. The Dread Warriors performed in the reggae festival on Hopi in early September.

"We were well-received and now I want to give something back," he said.

Aside from looking to put Hopi musicians on his label, Smith also donated $200 to the Hopi Jr/Sr High School band program. Logan said the funds would be used for much needed equipment.

"Awesome," was Logan's description of the unexpected donation. Smith also told Logan that if his group has a music show on Hopi that Logan should have his students perform.

Smith said he thanks Logan and all the supporters that he has on the Hopi Reservation. Smith said that he is starting with the Hopi musicians because he feels a special bond toward people from the tribe, but he hopes to work with musicians from other tribes in the near future.

Smith came to Arizona from the East Coast eight years ago, but he was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica.

"I met a beautiful Hopi girl who invited me here (to Hopi) and I love the atmosphere," he said.

Smith became involved with the youth in Jamaica. He said the cities in Jamaica can be violent so he wanted to do what he could to get youth off the street. So, he worked with youth with music and he also started

His Majesty's Basic School, which remains a well-known pre-school in Jamaica. He also served as president of a youth club in Jamaica from 1976-96.

Smith's advice for youth is to live a good life by being in harmony with neighbors.

For more information, telephone Smith at his studio at 480-833-9380.

(Stan Bindell, former Observer editor, is journalism and radio teacher at Hopi High School.)

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