After the song ends, Craig calls out to his listeners asking for “funky facts about Hawaii”. Mr. Charles, here’s a handful of gospel truths about Hawaii’s funk and soul music scene.
The High School Circuit, a prelude to the Waikiki Nightclub Scene
Bassist and bandleader Rob Kimura described the 1970s music scene in Hawaii during an interview. Forty-some years ago, dance bands started playing gigs at gatherings organized by high school social clubs. These dances took place almost every weekend throughout Oahu, and featured some of the best upcoming talent in the dance scene.
Rob and his friends were a group called Greenwood, with heavy hitting horns and dirty dance grooves à la Tower of Power. They weren’t the only band blessing the scene with raw funk and soul music—Natural High, Power Point, The Nomads (Aura), Glass Candle drew crowds of loyal fans and dedicated dancers.
The best bands (and there were plenty) moved on to the Waikiki nightclubs, pumping funky dance music into Honolulu’s nightlife. Every night, locals (and maybe a few tourists) would move their feet to some of the hottest funk bands around, like Aura at The Point After, for example.
This one might be obvious but…
CTI jazz-funk-fusion stars Seawind are originally from the island of Hawaii, nicknamed the Big Island. Lead singer Pauline Wilson continues to wow audiences with a powerful voice from a petite woman.
But what about Don Ho, Tiny Bubbles, and the tourists?
Yes, there were plenty of places where musicians fed tourists with sometimes cheesy, never-too-funky routines. In fact, many of Hawaii’s best funk/soul acts were showbiz entertainers, including The Aliis, Phase 7, and the ever-so-soulful Vic Malo.
But parallel to the tourist-friendly nightclubs were dozens of discotheques the locals frequented for downright groovy dance music.
Seawind’s manager revealed that, even if Honolulu’s jazz/funk/soul music scene was small compared to Los Angeles, following the ‘word on the street’ lead to Hawaii’s best offerings:
“Having just moved to the islands from LA after playing in a jazz-funk-R&B club band for 5 years, I knew how difficult the club life could be. New in town, I was slightly miffed that there was so little music scene there in Honolulu. Everyone I had seen in Waikiki so far, was playing “Tiny Bubbles”! The word on the street about “Ox” was good, however, and I knew they were going places the minute I walked into the lounge and heard them burnin’ on Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon”…”
Let the music speak for itself:
Top Ten Hawaiian funk and soul albums
Most people who stumble upon Lemuria’s classic self-titled album don’t realize the Hawaii connection. A funk and soul band this good, from Hawaii?! The truth is, there are several noteworthy albums that exemplify the surprisingly outstanding Hawaiian funk/soul sound.
Here’s my top ten favorite LPs that showcase the funky, soulful sounds of Hawaii.
- Lemuria Lemuria
- Mike Lundy Rhythm of Life
- Aura Aura
- Babadu BABADU!
- Lil Albert Movin’ In
- Phase 7 Playtime
- Mackey Feary Band Macky Feary Band
- Music Magic One Man Lady
- Chucky Boy Chock Chucky Boy Chock and Oahu Brand
- Vic Malo Vic Malo
Feel free to discuss this top ten list in the comments.
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