Island Jam

The Power of Audio and Place


One of the reasons I’ve dedicated so much time, energy, and money to building Iwahai and VoiceMarkr has been because of my background in radio and truly understanding the power of the human voice.

When I was in my twenties, fresh out of the U.S. Marines - I was working as a housepainter in Bellingham, Washington. Our local independent rock station was all of we painter’s go to for music and entertainment. We especially loved listening to the morning shows and having the chance to win concert tickets or other prizes.

The voices of those DJs were all of our friends. We knew them as well as we knew each other - maybe better - because we rarely sat around talking as much as the DJs did. I’ll never forget one particular promotion they did - it was called Island Jam. It was the world’s most technologically advanced concert and it took place at a secret location. They gave away tickets for months. They were using technology to bring back dead artists, bringing in all the best bands in the world, and doing much more amazing things.

Of course, a concert and technology feat of that magnitude wasn’t in the power of a small, family-owned, local radio station. It didn’t matter. They did it anyway. Island Jam in 1996 was the most astounding concert ever put on. The catch was that it was all put on in our minds. We heard it. We heard the crowds. We heard the announcers. We heard the brought back from the dead artists. We heard it all. And it was all real.

I dialed desperately for weeks to win a ticket to Island Jam. I finally won.

Don’t worry. I understood it was theatre of the mind. In the Marines, I’d been a radar air traffic controller. I was no stranger to the power of the human voice. I’d controlled destiny and saved lives with my voice multiple times. I had never seen anything like Island Jam though.

The concert itself, was a party with the DJs and a few local bands. It was fun. I wasn’t there for the concert though. I was there because I’d fallen in love with the power of sound and the power of voice. I wanted to be connected to this magic.

I met the programming director and told him how amazing I had found it. I also told him that I wanted a job at his station - any job, I explicitly stated that I was willing to clean toilets to become a part of the magic. Apparently, I impressed him. He called me in a few days later and offered me a job. For the next couple of years, I was a part of the magic. I made radio commercials, produced a morning show, DJ’d the Grateful Dead Hour and any other shifts that came up. It was all as amazing as I’d dreamed it would be. All of it built on the power to listen, the power to hear, the power of the human voice.

A few years later, the station sold to a big corporation and the format was changed. I could have stayed, but the creativity and freedom I loved had been corrupted by the bottom line. I moved on to publishing a magazine, working in a dot-com era tech company, and writing books. Still, the power of the human voice - paired with placing it on a map - as had been done with Island Jam and the imaginary island it took place on - that never left me. There were lots of things that inspired Iwahai - but Island Jam looms large.

As I see voice taking on new importance with apps like Clubhouse and even Twitter allowing people to leave voice recordings - I still know that our secret sauce remains to be discovered. Human voice combined with a rooted location on a map means that anything can happen.

Ron Astin (our CTO) and I are slaving away daily to get our technology and platform to where we want it. Once it’s there - we can’t wait to share it with you. Get ready, because we are going to blow you away.

Christopher Damitio

CEO - Iwahai, Inc.