The 21st of August 1959 was the day the Hawaiian history was changed forever. That day, Hawaii became the fiftieth and most recent American state. This changed Hawaii forevermore; including its cultural identity.

From that day onwards, Hawaiian music changed. The next generation of Hawaiian musicians would be influenced the British Invasion that swept America in 1964. Soon, the influence of American music began to permeate Hawaiian music. By the the end of the sixties, Hawaiian music was very different from it had been just a decade earlier. 

No longer was traditional Hawaiian music the most popular type of music on the island. Far from it. By the seventies, everything from rock, funk, soul, disco and R&B existed side-by-side with traditional Hawaiian folk music. It was the start of exciting times for the Hawaiian music industry.

During the seventies and eighties, the Hawaiian music scene was thriving.  Many new bands had been formed,  and had graduated to playing in the island’s pubs and clubs. So had a new generation of singers, who were among the first to eschew the traditional Hawaiian folk music. They sung A.O.R., R&B and soul, and were becoming a popular draw. The next logical step, was to record an album. This resulted in  a mini boom in the Hawaiian music industry.

Everyone benefited from this mini boom, not just songwriters, session musicians, arrangers and producers. So did anyone who owned a record studio or practise room. Soon, the Hawaiian music industry grew, and new studios and practice rooms were needed. This helped a local industry that was almost reliant on the tourist industry. However, unlike most booms the Hawaiian music boom lasted longer than most. 

It lasted not just through the seventies, but into the eighties. For nearly two decades, the Hawaiian music industry was thriving.  This period is documented on Strut Records’ forthcoming compilation, Aloha Got Soul, which will be released on CD, LP and download on 18th March 2016. Aloha Got Soul features sixteen tracks, including contributions from Tender Leaf. Aura, Aina, Hal Bradbury, Mike Lundy, Nova, Brother Noland and Rockwell Fukino. Familiar faces and rarities sit side-by-side on Aloha Got Soul, which I’ll tell you about.

Opening Aloha Got Soul is Tender Leaf’s Countryside Beauty. It was penned by Darryl Valdez, featured on Tender Leaf’s 1982 eponymous album. It’s best described as a soulful slice of musical sunshine with a hint of funk. 

1979 was a year of debuts for Aura, By then, they were one of the top bands on the Hawaiian music scene.  On 1979, Aura they released their eponymous debut album. It was released on Fusion Music. The lead single was I’ll Remember You. Tucked away on the B-Side was a real hidden gem, Yesterday’s Love which was penned by Aura. Soulful and funky, the irresistibly catchy Yesterday’s Love deserved a better fate than a B-Side.

Back in 1980, Aina released their one and only album, Lead Me To The Garden on Kumanu Music. It showcased a talented band, who seamlessly married musical genres together. Psychedelia, rock folk, and jazz shine through on Lead Me To Your Garden. One of the album’s highlights is the jazzy On Your Light, which features a guitar masterclass from Michael Joao.

By 1978, Lemuria  were one of Hawaii’s top band. This was the perfect time to release their eponymous debut album. It featured   Get That Happy Feeling a delicious slice of jazz funk. Key to the song’s success is a virtuoso performance from guitarist John Rapoza. Despite the quality of Get That Happy Feeling, it was overlooked as a single. However, it’s a welcome addition Aloha Got Soul.

Ed Roy and David “Roe” Rorick worked together in Audio Media, one Hawaii’s recording studios. In their downtime, they became Roy and Roe, who spent between eight and ten months recording their eponymous debut album. Once the album was recorded, it was  released on Bluewater Records. One of the highlights of the album was Just Don’t Come Back, a glorious fusion blue eyed soul, jazz and funk. 

Although Hawaii are remembered as a Hawaiian surf rock band, they’re much more than that. Hawaii were a versatile and talented band, who in 1980, released their debut album Out Of The Dark. One of several highlights was Lady Of My Heart, which shows another side to Hawaii. It’s a tender ballad featuring one of Brian Hamilton’s best vocals.

One of Hawaiian’s music’s best kept secrets is Hal Bradbury. He released his debut single Call Me, on Fan Records in 1980.  It’s a beautiful ballad where A.O.R. meets soul. A year later, in 1981, Fan Records would release Hal Bradbury’s debut This Is Love. It’s best described as a fusion of A.O.R. and soul. Call Me was one without doubt, the standout track on the album.

When Mike Lundy released his debut album  Rhythm Of Life in 1980, on Secor, he was one of the biggest names in Hawaiian music. Rhythm Of Life was well received, and even today, the album is something of a collector’s items. Surprisingly, when the singles were being chosen, the anthem Love One Another was overlooked. It’s another slice of aural sunshine. 

Nova were a Honolulu disco funk band led by Checo Tohomoso. He seems to have been ‘inspired’ by Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give It Up when he penned I Feel Like Getting Down. It featured on Nava’s eponymous debut album, and proved to be a popular song among DJs. They watched as the dance-floor filled when they dropped I Feel Like Getting Down.

After winning a talent show, Nohelan Cypriano released Lihue as a single. It gave her, her first hit single in 1978. Nohelan Cypriano’s debut album Nohelani followed in 1978. Four years later, and   Nohelan Cypriano was back with the followup, In The Evening in 1982. However, O’Kailua wasn’t on either of Nohelan Cypriano albums. Maybe it was deemed too controversial? 

The lyrics to O’Kailua criticise the continued development of Hawaii. Nohelan Cypriano sings: “Kailua needs no high-rise with her blue skies, not for our eyes. Can you realise?”  Meanwhile, elements of soul, funk, boogie and traditional Hawaiian music are combined to create a memorable and catchy track with an important message. 

Brother Noland’s Kawaihae is a funky jam from the 1980 album Speaking Brown. It was released on Solbrea Records, which it seems, was a vehicle for releases. Only Speaking Brown and Brother Noland and Solbrea’s 1981 album Paint The Island were released on Solbrea Records. Both are collector’s items, which isn’t surprising, given the quality of Kawaihae, an uber funky jam.

Marvin Franklin With Kimo and The Guys will be a new name to most people. That’s unless they’r the proud owner of Homegrown III, a compilation of Hawaiian music released in 1978, by KKUA Records. One of the featured tracks was Kona Winds, a surfer jam from Marvin Franklin With Kimo and The Guys.

During the seventies, Greenwood were a popular draw in Hawaiian clubs. Locals and tourists flocked to see Greenwood, as they covered   hits of the day. Despite their popularity, Greenwood never recorded an album until 1985, when they recorded Lost In Paradise. It was reissued on CD on 2014 by Lost In Leaf Records. One of the many highlights was the opening track, Sparkle. With its carefree, feel good summery sound, it’s guaranteed to brighten up even the dullest day.

In Hawaiian music, Chucky Boy Chock and Mike Kaawa are familiar faces. So it made sense to collaborate. Chucky Boy Chock and Mike Kaawa with Brown Co. went into the studio and recorded Papa’A Tita. It’s a dreamy fusion of funk, soul, A.O.R. and traditional  Hawaiian music. 

Twenty-nine years after becoming the fiftieth American state, Hawaiian was made the official state language in 1978. Suddenly, many Hawaiian gathered together, in an effort to to revive hula and traditional music. Two musicians who longed for Hawaii’s musical past were Steve and Teresa.

In 1983, Steve and Teresa got the opportunity to record their debut album. They were invited back to a studio after a concert, and in three hours recorded their debut album Catching A Wave. It was released on Kealohi Productions, which was a vehicle for Steve and Teresa’s music. One of the songs on Catching A Wave, Kaho’Olawe Song looked longingly and wistfully back at the culture that Hawaii had lost.

Closing Aloha Got Soul is Rockwell Fukino Coast To Coast. It was released on Ivory Coast Records, in the late seventies.  Coast To Coast is best described as Hawaiian yacht rock. It’s also the perfect way to close Aloha Got Soul, as it whets the listener’s appetite for Volume 2.

Hopefully, there will be a followup to Aloha Got Soul, which will be released by Strut Records on CD, LP and download on 18th March 2016. The Hawaiian music industry was thriving up until the mid-eighties. However, sadly, by then musical climate had changed drastically.

By the mid-eighties, DJ culture was born. Suddenly, DJs replaced live music. Incredibly, ‘music lovers’ preferred what was essentially a human jukebox to live music played by real musicians. This, some people believed, was musical evolution. Obviously, they hadn’t read Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. However, the effect of DJ culture proved catastrophic.

Given there was no longer the same appetite for live music, many clubs closed their doors for the last time. No longer had up-and-coming artists and bands a place to showcase their talents. It was the same for the bigger names in Hawaiian music. Venues they had previously played, sometimes for years, were no more. For artists who used clubs to showcase their albums and singles, this was disastrous. 

Without a showcase for their music, suddenly, record sales began to fall. For some smaller labels this was the end of the road. The shockwaves were felt throughout the music industry. There was no longer the same business for recording studios and pressing plants. Even to arrangers, producers and songwriters suffered. So did the industries who relied upon the music industry, everyone suffered when the boom ended.  The knock-on effect took its toll, not just in the music industry, but the wider Hawaiian economy. While the boom had lasted longer than most people expected, its after effects were felt throughout the island.

Thirty years after the boom in the Hawaiian music industry ended, interest in Hawaiian music continues to grow. For newcomers to Hawaiian of the seventies and eighties, Aloha Got Soul is the perfect primer. It’s a truly eclectic and lovingly compiled compilation, from Aloha Got Soul’s Roger Bong. He’s picked sixteen tracks that feature everything from disco, funk, rock, soul and traditional Hawaiian music. Aloha Got Soul is a tantalising taste of Hawaiian during its golden era.



















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