If not for music, cultures would have a difficult time traveling thousands of miles around the globe in hopes of sharing the spirit of their lifestyle with cities worldwide. But luckily, we have music to connect with each other no matter where we live. But instead of a guy in Honolulu (me) sharing a Hawaiian mixtape with someone in Europe, DJ Tobago’s mix does the opposite.
An enthusiastic French DJ named Alexandre Watelet-Escudero, also known as DJ Tobago, recently shared with me his mix of 25 Hawaiian rare groove tracks. Not only was I excited to hear how a Frenchman might mix together Hawaiian funk, I also wanted to learn more about Alex. So I decided to ask him a few questions about his interest in Hawaiian music. Enjoy!
You are a big collector of tropical/island music. How did you become interested in this kind of sound?
I am half French and Spanish, born in Paris, I always wanted to explore further [about the world]. My university at Elephant & Castle (London) gave me the opportunity to make many international meetings with people and culture of vinyl record! From there, my francs and pounds would be spent on American records: disco, Philly, deep house, soul, jazz-funk…
With several trips to West Indies and one year in the Indian Ocean, I focused my attention completely to the music that is “exotic”, with a preference for the Caribbean (my nickname ‘DJ Tobago’ comes from my love for steel band)—While still expanding my curiosity towards other horizons: Brazil, Jamaica, Cuba, Africa… to Hawaii!
You just released a nice mix of Hawaiian records on Mixcloud. Have you visited Hawaii before? Where did you find all your Hawaiian vinyl?
In 1999, I first listened to Hawaiian folklore music in my local record shop. These discs are nostalgic compilations for European tourists! Unfortunately, having never set foot on the islands of Hawaii, I discovered much later all the other genres such as: Hawaiian modern-soul, disco, folk…
The majority of the selected disks in the mixtape have been ordered by the United States, from local shops & on Ebay. Fortunately, I bought some of these records before DJ MURO’s mixtape, in 2009, and the new popularity which has followed. But we must recognize that without internet, my knowledge and my collection would be limited with Hawaiian rare groove. For example, my mutual friend Waxist Selecta, helped me discover the album by Ira Nepus on Heaven Records, and found it for $1. (Note: Last time I saw a copy of the Ira Nepus in a local Honolulu store, it was going for $20.)
In your opinion as a DJ and a music fan, what makes Hawaiian music special?
I am especially passionate as I found a particular interest in Hawaiian rhythms. I wanted to include solid dancefloor tracks in this selection, like Bart Bascone and others. But it was essential that we find all styles. I was surprised when I discovered that the Hawaiian music could be so modern in the years 1970–80, while we only know the folk aspect. I hope to communicate this to other people’s surprise!
In music, I am looking for a color and warmth. This may seem strange, but I do not heed to the words, as I do not limit myself to languages that I master. Hawaiian music is a good mix of folklore, with instruments that survive [changing times] and take influence from [outside sources]. Vic Malo is the best example for me is the Hawaiian Lou Rawls.
What do you enjoy about the website, Aloha Got Soul?
For me, what I like about Aloha Got Soul website is that I found [similarities in] my approach, to share what you have learned with one other. This is a great source of information and I thank you Roger. In addition, for those who love Hawaiian sounds throughout the world, it is also our home base!
Is there anything else you want to add?
I would like to say a big “Bonjour” to all users of this page. I hope they enjoy this selection, completely free!