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Guam musical artists share culture through West Coast tour

WestPac: All-Island Tour brings a slice of home to the CHamoru and Guamanian diaspora in San Diego


For The Daily Aztec Arts and Culture Section


“This one’s for Guam,” said Jonah Hånom right before he opened for the WestPac: All Island tour, a show featuring some of Guam’s biggest local artists on Saturday, Sept. 23.

Jonah Hånom performs at the WestPac:All Island Tour along the west coast at The Soap Factory in Normal Heights on Saturday, September 23. Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

San Diegans from Guam who can’t afford a $2,500 roundtrip ticket to visit the island found a pocket of home in the five-hour show hosted at the Soap Factory in Logan Heights.


San Diego State University student Isaiah Artero said he felt like he’s been living in someone else’s world since he left Guam two years ago. Events like this allow him to take a breath from fast-paced San Diego, he said.


“I’m out of my element, but I finally feel at home (and) able to relax,” Artero said.


Guam is a U.S. territory with a population of 170,000, including 20 thousand military members and their dependents.


Guam residents come to America for better opportunities and become a part of the island’s diaspora, living away from their traditional homeland.


But most can’t afford the steep prices for a trip back home. The word “homesick” does not do justice to what the diaspora feels like when being 6,000 miles away from where they grew up.


What Artero feels is “mahålang,” he said. In CHamoru — Guam’s indigenous population and language — the word mahålang means to yearn for their home, family, culture, land and belonging.


Concert-goer Cali Sanchez said Guam-centered events in San Diego bring her a feeling of home. Sanchez left Guam in 2016 to pursue a degree in psychology and hasn’t been back since 2020.

Audience members dance to performances at the WestPac:All Island Tour at The Soap Factory in Normal Heights on Saturday, September 23. Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

“I love our community back home because it’s all about love and respect,” she said. “Everyone is family on Guam. Everyone out here at the WestPac tour is family.”


The tour featured The John Dank Show and Hawaii artist High Watah as co-headliners along with other musical talents: Jason J, KPV and the Homies, Jonah Hånom and Straight Up Jed.


The show aimed to bring the “Hafa Adai (welcoming) spirit” to five West Coast cities and Hawai’i as part of the tour by Crown and Beyond the Reef Music Festival in partnership with The John Dank Show, according to ticket distributor GuamTime.


Frankie McJohn, guitarist and singer for The John Dank Show, said the show’s blend of R&B soul, reggae and pop is a representation of Guam’s diversity. McJohn said this couldn’t have happened without the support of residents of Guam.

KPV performs cover songs at the WestPac:All Island Tour along the west coast at The Soap Factory in Normal Heights on Saturday, September 23. Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

Kaylee Perez Villasoto of KPV and The Homies was the only female musician touring with the group. She mentioned that as a performer, social media works in favor of communities that don’t have as much mainstream influence.


“We have just as far a reach as anyone else in the mainland (U.S.),” she said. “You don’t need to leave Guam to be successful.”


Perez Villasoto said she hopes to influence more indigenous women to pursue music.


Sanchez said most don’t realize how talented the people of Guam are. She hopes tours like this will put her home and its people on the map.


“I’ll never get tired of explaining what Guam is and who we are,” Sanchez said.


When asked what he would say to the mahålang Guamanian and CHamoru diaspora, Hånom said to come home sometimes.


“Guam will always be here waiting for you,” he said.




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