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Hawaii at SXSW: Obama, Irie Love, Pow! Wow! artists rep isles

  • A screenshot of President Obama speaking at the South by Southwest festival today.

  • KAT WADE / JULY 2015

    Irie Love celebrates her birthday at the Republik on July 10.

Ten days and nights of events at the South by Southwest Interactive, Film and Music conference and festivals began today in Austin, Texas, with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama among the notables scheduled to appear.

In addition to President Obama, Hawaii participants include Kailua musician Irie Love, who is a showcasing artist, and the street artists of Pow! Wow! Hawaii.

Love is the sole musical artist from Hawaii to be accepted as a SXSW showcasing artist this year. She will headline Friday, and was invited to open for Canadian pop/reggae act Magic on Wednesday. On March 19, she is part of an all-female musical lineup, featuring 2016 Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo.

The soulful reggae and R&B singer, songwriter and performer, who was born and grew up in Kailua, lists Steel Pulse, Hawai artist Fiji, Chaka Khan and Lauryn Hill among top influences.

Last year, she released two singles, and successfully raised $20,000 on Kickstarter to record a new album, “We Rise,” tentatively planned for release this summer.

“It’s exciting to see that the whole ‘island vibe’ has a place in popular music,” she said. “I’m excited to be a spokesman to say that.”

Recording continues on “We Rise,” Love said — she’s stopping in L.A. for several days in the studio after her Texas appearances, and a concert in San Diego.

“Brown Bags to Stardom” brought Love to the public eye; she was a finalist on the Hawaii musical competition in 1999.

She moved to Los Angeles the next year to study music in college. In subsequent years, she toured as a back-up singer with pop artist Pink, Chaka Khan and others.

In 2006, Love moved to Kingston, Jamaica to pursue a solo career in reggae music, and toured worldwide with Jamaican group Morgan Heritage.

Love released her first full-length, original album, “This is Irie Love,” in 2012.

President Obama gave the opening keynote address at SXSW Interactive today at 10:30 a.m. Hawaii time, discussing “civic engagement in the 21st Century.” Festival programming continues through March 20. Technologies “allow us to tackle big problems in new ways,” he said, pointing to government efforts to use “big data” to find targeted cures for cancer, or to encourage more participation in voting and government.

Michelle Obama is scheduled to open SXSW Music tomorrow, discussing the Let Girls Learn initiative, which aims to break down barriers to girls’ education worldwide.

Among the notable films receiving their world premiere at SXSW are “Everybody Wants Some,” an ’80s college dramedy written and directed by Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”), and “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” bringing Paul Reuben back to the big screen as Pee-wee Herman.

Six Hawaii artists from Pow! Wow! Hawaii are on the roster for the impossible Walls Project, collaborating with Texas-based muralists at multiple locations throughout Austin.

Get more information about the festivals at Find out more about Irie Love at

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