Aloha Got Soul

Aloha Got Soul


"Quite simply, the Aloha spirit, love and respect for others, embodied in the people of Hawai‘i’, will always be the main distinction between the islands and the mainland.” Scott Kohler, drummer

New on Strut for February 2016, ‘Aloha Got Soul’ encompasses a vibrant, varied, and inspired era of contemporary music made in Hawaii during the 1970s up until the early 1980s as jazz, rock, funk, disco and R&B co-existed alongside traditional and modern Hawaiian folk music.

Western music had influenced the music of Hawaii for over a generation. Ragtime fuelled the creation of hapa haole music (meaning “half Hawaiian, half Caucasian”) and a thriving recording industry brought Hawaiian music to the masses in the early 20th Century. By 1930, tourism in Hawaii had grown significantly and 1930 until 1960 was the “Golden Age” of Hawaiian music, with artists enjoying regular national radio and TV appearances, sold out revues at hotels across the nation and Hollywood stars singing hapa haole tunes on the silver screen.

By the 1960s, the bubble had burst. Hawaii’s identity was undergoing tremendous change: statehood into America in 1959, the advent of jet travel and the Vietnam War were the backdrop as Hawaii’s youth found inspiration in a new wave of international music: The Beatles, The Stones, The Rascals, Van Morrison, The McCoys, and many more.

The first major influencer on the scene was Tom Moffatt, the first DJ to play rock music on the radio in Hawaii, in 1955. Moffatt became (and still is) one of Hawaii’s most prominent concert promoters, bringing top mainland acts to the islands and pairing them with local support acts. Garage bands flourished: guitarist Mike Lundy co-formed The Deltones while still in his early teens and bassist Robin Kimura formed Greenwood, one of the most popular bands on the high school dance circuit. Waikīkī was filled with clubs during the ‘70s, attracting locals and tourists every evening. Ask any original musicians what their favourite nightspots were and you’ll hear a different list each time: The Point After, Infinity’s, Hawaiian Hut, Spats, Cock's Roost….

One of the first local artists to usher Hawaii into the soul-jazz sounds of the 1970s was Seawind, then known as Ox. Formed in the early ‘70s, Seawind found success on the Waikīkī nightclub circuit as inimitable jazz-funk innovators and became the go-to openers for mainland acts like Tower Of Power and Herbie Mann before releasing their first album on the revered CTI label.

Other artists came through a contest for new talent called ‘Home Grown’. Radio broadcaster Ron Jacobs – who launched Hawai‘i’s first Top 40 station, K-POI, in 1959 – produced the contest series for aspiring local artists to be able release their music on a compilation and begin building their careers. Singer Nohelani Cypriano won it with her crate digger staple ‘Lihue’, an instant hit on radio stations. Others, like Marvin Franklin, didn’t reach as far - his winning entry on ‘Home Grown III’: a soul surfer jam entitled ‘Kona Winds’, achieved limited success on release but the track has endured, most recently picked up by DJs like Mark Barrott and Andras Fox.

Many records from the period packed a serious message in the music. In 1978 the Hawaiian language was made the official language of the state and, after a long ban, was taught in schools again. A huge cultural movement to revive hula and traditional music arose called the Hawaiian Renaissance, awakening a generation to political, social and cultural issues confronting native Hawaiians. Brother Noland’s ‘Kawaihae’ describes a rural town on the Big Island and paints the opposite picture of the paradise that Waikīkī was marketing to the public: “If you go down to the road to Kawaihae, there you will find a paradise… down in Kawaihae nothing matters, people just live the same everyday: fishing to pass the time away.”  Similarly, Steve & Teresa’s ‘Kaho’olawe Song’ longs for an island that has long gone: an oasis of green mountains, blue skies, and “dreams of Old Hawaii.” The US military had been using Kaho’olawe as a bombing range since the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. Nohelani Cypriano too wrote a prophetic protest song about the once sleepy town of Kailua. Released in 1978, ‘O’Kailua’ laments development in this east Oahu town: “Kailua needs no high-rise with her blue skies, not for our eyes. Can you realize?” Kailua in the 21st century has become Oahu’s most popular tourist location, second to Waikīkī, and in recent years has seen the opening of major chain stores and new residential developments.

Only the best bands on the island earned a steady gig and Aura was one of them. From their early days as The Nomads, Aura was known for its incredibly tight horn section and two female singers. A family band consisting of eight siblings at its core, by the mid-1970s Aura had become the first local group to perform at the hottest disco in town, The Point After, where they remained the club’s headlining act for 10 years. Artists like Aura, Mike Lundy and keyboardist Kirk Thompson’s Lemuria took time in high quality facilities like Broad Recording Studio to make their albums. Others grabbed studio time when they could: Tender Leaf’s Murray Compoc worked for the city bus by day and, with fellow bus employee Darryl Valdez, recorded an album over several days during midnight sessions. Other albums were done spontaneously. In 1983, Steve Maii & Teresa Bright recorded their jazzy acoustic album in just 3 hours after being invited to record following a gig at a restaurant.

For the artists of the ‘70s, the climate for music began to change rapidly during the mid-‘80s. Dave Rorick remembered how “clubs and DJs began to dominate the venues and there was just no place to play any more.” Faced with rising rents in Waikīkī, nightclub owners cut back significantly on live entertainment. “Japanese investors were starting to buy up all of the hotels and strict DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) laws were introduced,” Rorick recalled. Luxury retail shops began to flourish. “The changes came quickly. Right on Kalākaua Avenue in Honolulu back in the ‘70s there were a hundred clubs and they’re all gone now.”

Hawaii’s R&B era shone brightly but relatively briefly but, despite many brilliantly talented musicians, regular gigs and album recordings, most of this music would barely make it to the mainland. Thanks to Aloha Got Soul’s Roger Bong, a new interest in this fertile era of Hawaiian music has steadily grown in recent years, culminating in a new compilation of overlooked Hawaiian gems. ‘Aloha Got Soul’ is compiled and annotated by Bong and features rare photos and original artwork.

1. Tender Leaf – Countryside Beauty
2. Aura – Yesterday’s Love
3. ‘Āina – Your Light
4. Lemuria – Get That Happy Feeling
5. Roy & Roe – Just Don’t Come Back
6. Hawaii – Lady Of My Heart
7. Hal Bradbury – Call Me
8. Mike Lundy – Love One Another
9. Nova – I Feel Like Getting Down
10. Nohelani Cypriano – O’Kailua
11. Brother Noland – Kawaihae
12. Marvin Franklin With Kimo And The Guys – Kona Winds
13. Greenwood – Sparkle
14. Chucky Boy Chock & Mike Kaawa With Brown Co. – Papa’a Tita
15. Steve & Teresa – Kaho’olawe Song
16. Rockwell Fukino – Coast To Coast

For more info, please contact, 323.254.4027.