Shining Seas: Born in the USA

Outrigger off Diamond Head, Hawaii

Rowing together, outrigger canoe off Diamond Head, Hawaii

Counter-clockwise, it’s 4 o’clock and the messages are in the bottle… Feel 8:

Download: Feel 8 – Hawaii and the Shining Seas: Reborn in the USA, at 160 kbps


“Way far out and at land’s edge, the imagination is free to dream big. America’s ambitions do not end at the coast but leap from sea to shining sea. On wooden then iron boats, immigrants came to America’s shores seeking a better life. Others came against their will, bound and sold into slavery, carried along the slave routes from West Africa to Jamaica and onward. From the Gulf of Mexico up East along the Atlantic, life at sea still exists with long nautical pride. Out West, the people look for new beginnings and second chances, a Manifest Destiny drawing them to the sun’s set. And then Hawaii, the 50th state, a curious star in the country’s spangled banner, not just a paradise but a military stronghold and the world’s navel.” 

Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the many islands, coasts and seas under the power of the United States, don’t often come to mind when Americans think about their homeland. But combined these make up the largest expanse of America, from Polynesian territories to the Caribbean, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Much of American history has been impacted both by our separation from Europe and Asia and our simultaneous connection to the world through oceanic trade, naval battles and seafaring exploration.

Future Sound of London's Gaz Cobain

Sober and reborn, Future Sound of London’s Gaz Cobain

Electronic dance music is itself a kind of cultural sea, its countless productions spreading across the globe via the Worldwide Web, on DJ decks, or in the small bedroom studios of producers in Japan, India, Australia, Europe and on and on. Sonically electronic music also has a deep ambient tide lapping underneath its various styles, including slow beats, bottomless flights of harmony and soft synthesizer tones that can fill space like a warm breeze or a soothing wave. Southeast of the continental United States come the Jamaican vibrations of Reggae, as well as the Latin and Afro-Caribbean rhythms that echo through the history of Jazz, Rock and Hip Hop.

Dub in particular continues to be a major influence on electronic music artists the world over. William Orbit’s Torch Song project has used it to devastating effect while progressive house aces Spooky have used it to fatten their fleet-footed rhythms. It’s impact on Drum ‘n’ Bass and hence Dubstep cannot be overstated. The coasts also emanate with a spiritual power, whether it be the Californian vibes of the Beach Boys or the gorgeous grooves of Eastern Sun and Brian Seed. Eastern Sun and John Kelley’s “Rapture At Sea” is a decidedly Pacific vision of electronic euphoria.

Further out West are even wilder encounters that still capture the Western imagination, from Future Sound of London’s “Papua New Guinea,” an electronic hallucination of tropical paradise, to The Clash’s “Straight To Hell,” a song about the biracial children of American G.I.’s from the Vietnam War. Bruce Springsteen’s ode “Born in the USA” draws heavily from this same chapter in American history:

I had a brother at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone
He had a woman he loved in Saigon

Asia has played a big role in the history of the United States and it’s only growing. Known in some ways more for the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii has also been an indispensable gateway to Asia and our future. In its diverse setting, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, was born to a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother. The story looms high because it shattered our assumptions about American identity and power. The truth is, the history of miscegenation is as old as the human race itself. Electronic music and the “unlikely” story of Obama have simply reminded us that the world is far bigger than we think.


Download: Feel 8 – Hawaii and the Shining Seas: Reborn in the USA, at 160 kbps
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