'Soul' searching for rare Hawaii tunes
Finding a Honolulu-based DJ who spins nothing but vinyl records is a rarity these days.
Just 10 years ago, it was common to find the island’s top talent continuing to haul crates upon crates of vinyl to gigs. CD-playing “turntables” called CDJs were growing in popularity, but some DJs found the technology didn’t afford them the same level of creativity as vinyl when manipulating music on the fly. Serato Scratch Live, which debuted in 2004 and was the professional standard among DJs until it was replaced by Serato DJ in 2013, had yet to achieve critical mass and create the mass exodus into to the digital realm we now live in.
So the news that Aloha Got Soul’s Roger Bong would play an all-cassette set alongside Los Angeles-based ethnomusicologist Brian Shimkovitz, who started the blog “Awesome Tapes From Africa” in 2006, made this reporter do a double-take.
SOUL TIME IN HAWAII
Presented by Aloha Got Soul
» Where: Bevy, 661 Auahi St.
» When: 9 p.m. Dec. 26
» Cost: Free
» Info: www.alohagotsoul.com
Mixing with cassettes? In 2015?
“Mediums like vinyl or cassette tape, there’s a lot of stuff you can’t find anywhere else,” Bong, 28, said during a break in the action at Bevy on Dec. 3. “Music has gone through phases. Records were the thing. That went out. Tapes came in and went out. Then CDs came in. Now it’s digital downloads.
“I think for what we’re doing, it’s just a process of rediscovery for us. It’s like a game for me. It’s a passion.”
Bong has built a name for himself digging through the music of generations past and sharing the best stuff he finds with like-minded fans once a month at Bevy in Kakaako. Along with the monthly Soul Time listening party in Honolulu that started in 2014 and followed two well-received mixtapes in 2012 and 2013, he now has partners who live in Chicago and London who host Soul Time events in each of those cities as well.
“We’re really not trying to do anything different. We’re just doing what we enjoy,” he said. “I think it’s because throughout the world there’s a lot of like-minded people doing the same thing. In Europe and Japan there’s a much bigger audience.
“If we were in any other city in the world right now and we were doing this with Awesome Tapes from Africa, we’d command a much bigger audience. The music scene here is pretty small compared to other places, so the level of interest for something like this is even smaller than what it might be somewhere else.”
Besides the monthly party at Bevy, Aloha Got Soul uses Soundcloud to get its sound out to the masses. Bong has also assumed the duties of a record label executive after re-releasing Nohelani Cypriano’s self-titled 1979 album on vinyl in August, which followed the release of a 7-inch vinyl single of 1960s and ‘70s local recording artist Mike Lundy’s “The Rhythm Of Life” and “Tropic Lightning.” (A follow-up pressing of the complete “The Rhythm of Life” LP released in September sold out as well.)
In February, Bong will partner with Strut Records to release an “Aloha Got Soul” compilation that features “rare Hawaiian grooves” by Lundy, Cypriano, Aura, Nova, Hal Bradbury and ‘Aina that were originally released between 1979 and 1985. It’s just the first of multiple releases planned for 2016.
“At the end of next year, I’m planning to release a compilation by a new-age artist who made electronic music here in the 1980s,” he said. “It’s in the same vein of what we’ve been doing so far.”
Bong added that while looking to the past to uncover forgotten music has worked well to establish the Aloha Got Soul brand, there’s only so much old music from Hawaii available to rediscover.
“Hawaii is a musically rich place,” he said. “What we try to do, I’d say we’re 65 to 70 percent of the way through. It can only grow so much.
“I’m trying to grow and evolve this naturally. It’s not always going to be us looking for old-school stuff. We’re going to need to bring the old and new together.”
Starting this month, Soul Time in Hawaii moves to the last Saturday of every month at Bevy. Bong will be joined by DJs Oliver Sequin and Hideki Yamamoto for another evening of soul, funk, disco, jazz, boogie and Hawaiian music. Visit www.alohagotsoul.com for more info and audio from previous parties.