Roger Bong, Cedric Bardawil, Oliver Seguin

Soul Time Conversations with Oliver Seguin & Cedric Bardawil

When Kalani Wilhelm of Honolulu Pulse interviewed me last week for his blog, On The Record, he sent me a handful of interesting questions that I felt should also be passed along to my friend and fellow Soul Time DJ Oliver Seguin. Although the main focus of Kalani’s article landed on me, I think you’ll enjoy hearing Oliver’s take as well.

Intrigued by the idea of two parties in different cities (and different countries, actually) coinciding with each other on the same night, Kalani also sent a few inquiries to Cedric Bardawil, one of the DJs for London’s Soul Time In Hawaii event. Although Cedric’s answers didn’t make it into the final published piece, what he shared makes for a worthwhile read about the backstory of how he and I got together for this project.

To give you a better understanding of Oliver and Cedric’s involvement in Soul Time In Hawaii (and a bit about their musical histories), I’ve compiled their interview answers below into a three-person ‘conversation’ that could’ve taken place in real life, if only we were all together in the same place at the same time. (Ced—you gotta make it out to Hawaii soon!)

Roger Bong, Cedric Bardawil, Oliver Seguin

Left to right: Roger Bong, Cedric Bardawil, Oliver Seguin

What aspects of the “Soul” of Hawaii are you most interested in?

Oliver: I’ve been into soul music since forever, my dad was into it when I was young, like Stevie Wonder. For me, DJing, b-boying and hip hop led me to find the roots of what guys were using to spin. And then actually listening to funk and soul, the basics like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin. But it wasn’t until 2000 that I started looking for Hawaiian funk and soul. There’s something about local Hawaiian vocals over James Brown-inspired beats that intrigued me, and I wanted more. But there was no info at the time so we had to dig.

It’s connecting locally, like the slang we use here, artists like The Aliis or Buddy Fo use it with a funky beat.  I like funk and soul with the Hawaiian link that all us kids can relate to, everyone who grew up here. It was mostly like 60s and 70s though, that I was searching for. It wasn’t until I started hanging out with you [Roger] that I started getting into 80s. I would always pass those up cause I was looking for late 60s early 70s kind of local music at the time.

But now, it doesn’t matter anymore. I want to hear something different, to listen to more music not just one specific Hawaiian genre from what I was digging before. Of course, vinyl is preferred.

Roger: Rediscovery. I feel like our current generation isn’t fully aware of the local soul music scene from back in the day. A lot of that music hasn’t really been passed on to us—Kalapana and C&K for sure, but other music has been forgotten. What interests me is there’s always something new to discover from the 70s and 80s. And the quality of soul music from here is unique, it’s got a sound of innocence and tropical vibes you don’t find anywhere else.

Cedric: I unknowingly discovered Hawaiian soul music over 10 years ago through Lemuria‘s Hunk of Heaven on DJ Spinna’s compilation Strange Games And Things. Its tropical vibe separated it from the rest of the compilation. Several years later I heard Nohelani Cypriano‘s Lihue, which I remember thinking sounded unique, the groove and instrumentation intrigued me. This eventually led me to DJ Muro’s Hawaiian Breaks mixtape, and Roger’s Aloha Got Soul website.

How would you describe the rich soul music history of musicians in Hawaii to the average everyday person?

Oliver: I can’t describe it. It’s a melting pot. I don’t even want to describe it. How would you describe it?

Roger: I think it’s all the musical influences from the mainland came here, just like all the other things from the mainland came to the islands, and because the local musicians were so hungry to do something different or new, when they heard this music from the mainland they said, “Let’s do this, and let’s do it our way.”

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Where do you think your appreciate for local funk music derived from?

Oliver: We’re diggers, so for me it just takes one track. Then you get this—you question everything: maybe there’s something else that’s just as funky? And the challenge in Hawaii is that no one was documenting or even thinking of sampling Hawaiian records at that time. Everyone would pass it up, except, luckily, for a few certain people who were also digging up Hawaiian stuff. For me, I was hungry, believing there was more. I don’t wanna say I envisioned it but, many days and many years of going out and looking around I always hoped I would find more.

My appreciation grew from finding songs we can relate to, local people who grew up here and maybe moved away, they hear something funky with Hawaiian singing on top. How can you not love that, you know? It’s unique. Let’s say I wanna hear a song about Aloha Tower, you never know it could’ve been made already but you gotta dig it up. “Makapuu” by Bart Bascone, hearing songs like that and then driving in that area. Or even Al Nobriga, “Lahaina”, I wanna hear that when I’m in Lahaina. You know what I’m getting at.

Roger: It makes a stronger connection. You can connect with music of any kind, but for it to connect with where you’re from makes it even stronger.

Cedric: Aloha Got Soul has been fundamental to my exploration of Hawaiian music, aside from the fact that there is very little other coverage, the content and presentation is great. Regardless of the genre of music, very few other websites or even record labels go through the labour of providing exclusive stories, interviews and photos of lost and forgotten bands.

How did you connect/meet?

Cedric: Admittedly I searched for several Hawaiian albums before giving Aloha Got Soul much attention, I wanted to play and share the likes of Lemuria and Nohelani Cypriano regardless of their origin. I tried record shops in London, NY, Amsterdam and Paris before I hit the internet.

Initially all I found were comps, Maiden Voyage by the guys from Trüby Trio had the track Lihue. Around the same time I found Muro’s Hawaiian Breaks CD, that’s when I realised there was more incredible and unique sounding soul, funk and disco from Hawaii and returned to Aloha Got Soul with a new interest. Roger and I started exchanging e-mails (and records) which eventually led to discussions of a t-shirt collaboration. He was as eager to share discoveries, and records (many of which he hadn’t yet posted about) as I was to explore and play them at my Cafe 1001 residency in London.

Oliver: I was selling records at Kavet’s Lightsleepers record sale (Beatroot Bodega July 2011), where I first met Roger. From there we exchanged numbers and he started coming by the cafe I worked at. We would hang out there and talk Hawaiian music.

Roger: I met Oliver at that Lightsleepers sale, started hanging out at the coffee shop. Then a year later we met again at the Friends of the Library sale and I think it was your birthday?

Oliver: Oh yeah! It was my birthday. That was about 2 years ago?

Roger: I was in line before you. [laughs]

Oliver at the Lightsleepers Beatroot Bodega, July 2011.

Oliver at the Lightsleepers Beatroot Bodega, July 2011.

Roger and Kavet the Catalyst at the Lightsleepers Beatroot Bodega, July 2011.

Roger and Kavet the Catalyst at the Lightsleepers Beatroot Bodega, July 2011.

How has your friendship grown to the point where you decided to help throw an event in London?

Cedric: We were both working on various other projects at the time so decided not to rush the collaboration, the mix you are listening to now was recorded at the start of December 2013 when we made the initial Soul Time In Hawaii promo t-shirts.

The idea for a joint party came afterwards, I had support in London from various venues, and friends such as Mark “Good Vibes” Taylor who compiled several Hawaiian tracks for both Americana: Rock Your Soul Compilations on BBE Records. Around this time Roger told me about his upcoming Do-Over gig in Honolulu: we were thrilled to hear that one of LA’s biggest parties were interested in Hawaiian music from the 70’s and 80’s. The joint party in London and Honolulu came organically from these discussions.

Roger: It’s all built on our interest in local music. Cedric’s across two oceans but he still loves Hawaiian soul just as much as me. From there our relationship grew and we had all these ideas which, once they came to fruition, we wanted to share with other people and celebrate. I still haven’t met Cedric in person, but if we did we’ll have to throw another party for that.

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