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Recap: How to Shoot a Documentary Film in 3 Weeks

I couldn’t have asked for a greater way to finish 2016 and begin 2017 than with an opportunity like the one we are currently pursuing: a documentary film based on the musicians featured over the years on the Aloha Got Soul blog (as well as artists soon-to-be-released on the label).

Almost all filming finished last Friday, although there are still a few things left to shoot before the remaining crew flies home to Brazil and New York.  The crew consists of myself, my wife Leimomi, and three Brazilians: Pedro Ramos, Filipe Zapelini, and Pedru Carvalho. Filming began on December 26, 2016 and wrapped up (with a few exceptions, as mentioend) on Friday, January 13, 2017.

Needless to say, these three weeks were a whirlwind of events, including more than a dozen interviews, a bit of hiking, lots of driving, and traveling inter-island to the Big Island, where we only had enough time for the east side. We’ll have to go back another time and explore the west side and the musicians living there.

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Mike Lundy.

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Howard Shapiro.

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Gary Washburn.

Alice Wise.

Alice Wise.

We took a big leap of faith when we decided to do this project. We didn’t know each other outside of our emails and two Skype calls. We didn’t have any financial backing — all of the expenses over the 3 weeks were to come out of our own pockets. None of us had ever really worked on a documentary film before. And for some of our interviews, it would be the first time I would be meeting musicians in person after years of phone calls or emails (or Facebook messages).

I really didn’t know what to expect in working with these guys, but I knew that they were willing to take a chance on life and travel 8,000 miles from Porto Alegre by way of Houston (Filipe traveled from Brooklyn, where he currently resides) to do something out of passion and love for music and film, for new experiences and meeting new people. They arrived Christmas Day. We invited them to Christmas dinner at my grandparents’ AirBnb in Waikiki. We shared a huge meal and drinks under the sky of a setting sun. Pedro and Pedru had traveled for 38 hours, but they weren’t tired. When they landed and walked into the open-air Honolulu International Airport, Pedro said he felt a wave of energy awaken him. “This is crazy, so surreal,” he told us more than once. Already he and the others felt the unique vibrations of the islands. All our concerns fell by the wayside and collectively we knew, just by the look in our eyes, that something special was about to happen over the next three weeks.

The idea, as you might know, came in September 2016 when Pedro, a DJ and record collector, put the thought in front of me. During Filipe’s visit home to Porto Alegre, Pedro introduced him to Aloha Got Soul. Filipe liked the idea; they also liked the challenge of creating a documentary. Pedro was back on email the next day. I had always wanted to create an Aloha Got Soul documentary but never had the resources or time, so the thought of collaborating with others who were as enthusiastic as I am about telling the stories of veteran and “obscure” musicians of Hawaii made me seriously consider this idea.

I was worried about time, to be honest: they wanted to fly over in December and film through mid-January. I didn’t think three months was enough time to prepare. On Skype, we worked out the idea with the help of two other New York-based friends, Guto and Beto, and what I realized is that what we would be producing in December/January could be just the preliminary work towards a fuller production. In other words, we won’t have to get everything done during these three weeks. Instead, we could get what we needed to create a solid “pilot” and use this to pitch around for support that would allow us to put more time and effort into the film later on.

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At Kirk Thompson’s studio.

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At The Dragon Upstairs.

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Nick Kaleikini.

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Howard Shapiro.

Looking back on the past three weeks, I’d say we have almost everything we need to create the full documentary as we intended. I’m glad we decided to do this now instead of waiting.

Actually, I shouldn’t use the phrase “as we intended”, because we came into this project with an open mind and somewhat malleable vision. “I just like to let things happen and it will take us in the right direction”, Filipe would tell me when we first met.

The initial idea was a documentary about how the nature of Hawaii influenced these musicians. The volcanoes, the forests, the sea, the mountains. A lot of imagery catching their eyes as they researched from their homes in Brazil and New York were of the incredible natural beauty of the islands. They wanted to see the hundred-plus-foot waterfalls, the active volcanoes and lava pouring out, the massive waves of Oahu’s North Shore. But as we completed each interview — first on Oahu with musicians like Mike Lundy, Kit Ebersbach, Robin Kimura, Pierre Grill, Kirk Thompson, Maryanne Ito, and Nick Kaleikini — we realized that this documentary would not be about nature’s influence, but about the influence of the spirit of aloha.

Each interviewee found it difficult (and understandably so) to answer our question of “What does aloha mean to you?” But the general theme in each of their answers was this: aloha is respecting others, an inclusivity of all things. That’s why, in Kit Ebersbach’s perspective, Hawaiian music so openly accepted and incorporated outside ideas into their music, from the earliest beginning of Hawaiian hymns as well as the adoption of stringed instruments like the ukulele, guitar or double bass. (An excellent resource to consult is Hawaiian Music and Musicians, edited by Dr. George S. Kanahele and updated by John Berger.)

During these interviews, Filipe operated the RED Scarlet camera, using a selection of vintage Nikon lenses with Canon adapter. He brought a beautiful Lensbaby with him for portraits. Pedro, Leimomi, and I would be conducting the interviews, although often Filipe and Pedru would have a question to ask. Leimomi would sometimes step back for a couple of behind-the-scenes photos. Pedru was in charge of lighting and audio, although Pedro started monitoring the audio since lighting often placed Pedru on the other side of the room.

The most difficult part was probably scheduling everything and subsequently communicating this schedule amongst five people. There were moments of confusion and miscommunication, for sure, but our shared Google Calendar keep us on track. If we weren’t sure what was happening next, we checked the calendar. If an interview time changed or got canceled, we updated the calendar.

I intend to follow up on the interviews that got postponed, even after production is finished. Why? Because a film can only show so much, so there’s a limit to how many interviews and voices we can fit into the film. A blog or book, however, can show so much more. So my intention is to share some of these interviews in full in written form. I’ll have more on this when I’m ready to share.

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Pedru Carvalho.

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Leimomi Bong.

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Pedro Ramos.

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Pedru and Filipe Zapelini.

I suppose I didn’t anticipate working from 9am to 9pm every day on this project, but that’s what we did. Setting up lighting and audio took a good chunk of time prior to our actual interviews. Sometimes we had interviews back-to-back, like in the case of Robin Kimura and Pierre Grill at Pierre’s Rendez-vous Studio, or Gary Washburn and Edie Bilke in Honoka’a. Perhaps we didn’t always give travel time our full consideration — the Big Island demands a lot of driving, even if it’s just on the east side! And because we had a short amount of time to prepare in the first place (all of us were working full-time in the three months leading up to this project), there was a lot of planning the night before or morning of. But at the end of the day, we needed to eat, shower, backup footage, and simply get to know each other that planning the next day and discussing the documentary’s direction as a whole wasn’t the most immediate thing we wanted to do.

One of the most important things I learned from this project is the power of connecting with other people. Meeting these guys from Brazil and working together on a project like this has expanded my view of what’s possible. If one puts his or her mind to it, anything is possible. What matters is taking the initial steps to get there. Even more powerful were the conversations we had with each interviewee. Most of these musicians are in their 60s or 70s. They’ve experience a lot in their lifetimes. To have these young documentarians arrive at their doorstep, asking them questions like “What legacy would you like to leave behind?” followed by “What is your life’s purpose?”, created deep connections between people who before this were worlds apart, but now are here in Hawaii passionately sharing stories — this was the most powerful part of our documentary film project. I am forever changed because of this. I will always hold close the connections we’ve made and the conversations we shared.

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Momi Riley and Leimomi Bong.

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Gary Washburn and Roger Bong.

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Kit Ebersbach.

Maryanne Ito.

Maryanne Ito.

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Shirley Abe-Cuskarovska.

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Robin Kimura.

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Pierre Grill.

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For those of you eagerly awaiting to see the documentary film: we plan to have an official trailer online next month. What we premiered at our screening event on Saturday, January 14th was a preview of our work over three weeks. It wasn’t a trailer, but a sampling of what’s to come. At this moment, we hope for a full release in late summer or early fall — but we’re leaving it open for now.

We will have a Kickstarter campaign up soon. Subscribe to the mailing list for notifications about that.

There’s lots more to write about making a documentary in three weeks, but for the moment I’ll leave it as so. Thanks for reading.

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January 14, 2017: Presenting the first Aloha Got Soul Documentary Film

We’re hosting a special event on Saturday, January 14th at the Surfjack hotel:

Aloha Got Soul Documentary Film
Exclusive preview screening
+ talk story Q&A
+ live music by Maryanne Ito
Saturday, January 14th, 2017
7pm – 11pm
The Surfjack Hotel
Free entry

So we’ve been scurrying around Honolulu, coffee-fueled, shooting interviews with all kinds of artists whose music has inspired the Aloha Got Soul project since its inception in 2010. People like Kit Ebersbach, Mike Lundy, Kirk Thompson, and even Robert ÆOLUS Myers (we interviewed him over Skype from our apartment in Moiliili. It’s been hectic, but so very rewarding.

The idea to do an Aloha Got Soul documentary has been floating around for a while, but the opportunity to fully commit to it didn’t come about until this fall, when a Brazilian film producer named Pedro Rämos reached out via email. The initial conversation with him was simply to trade some records — a stack of Brazilian vinyl for a stack of Hawaiian — but in early September we talked about making a doc about AGS. Some back and forth emails and a couple of Skype calls later, Pedro and his pals Filipe and Pedru are here in Hawaii, gear in hand, ready to see where this adventure will take us.

So far, it’s been amazing.

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We’ve had the chance to have incredible conversations with musicians whose careers have been wide, varied, and inspiring (to say the least).

Along the way, I’ve begun to realize many new things about the musicians I’ve connected with, and also new things about myself. Each interview has been an opportunity to learn more about Hawaii, about music, and about the people we meet and the work we create in our lifetimes.

The Aloha Got Soul documentary is only in its earliest production, and we plan to have a short 2-5 minute edit to preview at the event on January 14th. But rest assured we’re making it happen.

Follow @alohagotsoul on Instagram for the latest updates.

RSVP for the January 14th event here.

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ÆOLUS: An anthology from Hawaii’s new age visionary, Robert ‘Aeolus’ Myers

Two years ago I came across an extraordinary blog of new age cassette tapes around the same time that I was thoroughly engrossed in Music From Memory’s Talk To The Sea anthology of Gigi Masin’s music. With a near insatiable desire that I scrolled, click, and consumed several releases on the aforementioned blog, called Sounds Of The Dawn.

I remember the exact moment when I came across the album Rays, with its steel blue jacket of two manta rays in underwater flight. The artist was Aeolus, the label Global Pacific Records.  Intrigued by this mysterious, gorgeous cover and the record label’s name, I quickly dug deeper online and discovered that Rays was a locally produced release, and Global Pacific was founded in Hawai‘i. The music was unlike anything I’d heard from these islands.

My eyes widened and a huge smile broke over my face — I knew this would become the gateway I needed, a launching point into discovering a new age music scene that has existed in Hawaii, yet until this moment was a complete unknown for me.  Of course, the roots of Aloha Got Soul are in the jazz, funk, and soul music I’ve somewhat obsessively talked about on this blog. But as the blog expanded into a record label in 2015, I knew that the scope of music discussed and distributed through this channel must also expand.

For my most dedicated readers, this was apparent when I wrote about my design for the label logo:

Aloha Got Soul is now a record label, focusing on quality reissues of rare and relatively unknown Hawaiian soul, funk, rare groove and beyond.

…Refining the mission helped establish a concept for the logo: that the music of our islands is one, regardless of genre or generation. It quickly became evident that the wave provides the perfect symbolism for this: for every wave in the ocean is connected.

Although I’ve since further refined that first sentence, the phrase “and beyond” hinted at what would eventually come: AGS-LP003, a retrospective release in collaboration with Robert ‘Aeolus’ Myers himself. For it was in May 2014 that he and I first floated the idea of a sort of “best of” spanning the four solo works in his discography, which include the following albums:

  • Aeolian Melodies (1982, 1984)
  • Rays (1985)
  • The Magician (1989)
  • High Priestess (1993, 2006)
A conversation between Robert 'Aeolus' Myers and Roger Bong.

A conversation between Robert ‘Aeolus’ Myers and Roger Bong.

Slowly and surely we pieced together a potential tracklist, settling on 13 tracks that now compose ÆOLUS: A Retrospective.  Each composition flows into the next, creating a sonic journey in which the listener discovers a greater sense of who ÆOLUS is with each song, culminating in its final moments with the exhilarating “The Magician” and the contemplative, meditative “On Angels Becoming Humans” (which is an excerpt of the 20-plus minute original found on Aeolian Melodies).

For the release’s liner notes, Robert and I wrote a few sentences about each track. Robert’s take provides a look at the creative process and artistic intention behind each composition. My notes take a different approach, threading a storyline through the anthology’s carefully selected tracks.

Liner notes excerpt from 'A Retrospective'.

Liner notes excerpt from ‘A Retrospective’. Roger’s notes in oblique, Robert’s in roman.

AGS-LP003 showcases recordings that were previously available only on cassette or CD.

The only song previously available on vinyl is “Archangel Michael”, which can be found in large quantities for cheap on Discogs and eBay (I bought mine immediately). Rays was released on CD only in Japan concurrently with the US cassette release of the same title. I haven’t been able to find a single copy of this CD. Robert tells me the left and right channels were mistakenly switched during remastering, so maybe it’s better there aren’t so many copies available.

(There are local new age cassette tapes still to be found — some of which Sounds Of The Dawn has done a good job of, like sharing this curiosity from Kahului, Maui — but my guess is that Global Pacific was the biggest, most successful new age label from the islands (later relocating to the West Coast) that had few competitors or compatriots in Hawai‘i. Here’s a quick read about the genre from a 21st century perspective.)

Considering the solid catalog of four solo works, one might assume that ÆOLUS carved a new path for electronic music in Hawai‘i. It’s true, as far as I know, that few artists in Hawaii have produced a body of work, let alone embarked on a musical journey, such as the one that ÆOLUS has created. But much of the islands’ general population didn’t ever quite fully embrace the burgeoning New Age scene that ÆOLUS found himself a part of during the 1980s and the early 1990s. My hope is that AGS-LP003, as a unique representation of the kinds of music that is created in Hawai‘i, will inspire a handful of local musicians as they travel along their own creative journeys, perhaps bringing out new ideas and sounds that the islands are now ready to hear. We shall see.

As the time drew nearer to officially announce this double LP anthology, I began to update the wording behind Aloha Got Soul’s mission to better reflect the new expansion into genres beyond jazz, funk and soul. This release marks a new chapter of “bringing rare and relatively unknown music of Hawai‘i to the surface,” which is where this blog-turned-label is at now.

Often ethereal, ÆOLUS’ music is driven by synthesizers, melodic flutes, sweeping patterns, and subtle rhythms to seed inspiration from deep within the listener. This anthology of 13 tracks tells the story of a man whose music elevates its listeners to a place of inspiration and enlightenment.

At face value, AGS-LP003 is a marked departure from something like The Rhythm Of Life — on the surface, the sounds presented on this latest release are much different from anything we’ve released on the label so far. Yet below the surface, the music is still part of the same ocean of ideas, inspirations, and vibrations; music created by inspired individuals in Hawai‘i. This is what Aloha Got Soul is all about.

ÆOLUS: A Retrospective is slated for worldwide release on February 17, 2017. You can pre-order AGS-LP003 here.

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English translation of Aiko’s “Fly With Me” and “Time Machine”

When I spoke with producer Dale Senaga on the phone earlier this year, he admitted he doesn’t speak Japanese and thus wouldn’t be able to provide an English translation for these songs. That’s okay. With the help of a Japanese professor, Google translate, and a small working knowledge of the language, I was able to piece together a simple translation of “Fly With Me” and “Time Machine”.

By no means is this a true representation of how Aiko (or Yoko Takahashi, who penned the words to “Time Machine”) intended the songs to be in English. This is merely a simple way for non-Japanese speakers to understand what the songs are about.

There are subtle nuances of the language that can only be picked up by native or learned speakers, so we’re lucky to have all the help we receive on these translations.  For example, “みるうちに” is most likely short for “みるみるうちに”, which means something like “in an instant” or “right before our very eyes”. Or this: there was a popular thief known as “Nezumi Kozo”, a.k.a. “The Rat Kid”, who lived in the early 19th century and acted as a sort of Robin Hood figure, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.

If you have any suggestions or improvements for these translations, please leave a comment below.

Both songs are available digitally on Spotify, iTunes, etc., and also on 7″ vinyl.

 

FLY WITH ME (Japanese and English lyrics)
あー大空へ 二人飛んで 夢をつかもう
Together we fly to the sky and catch a dream

あーゆきすぎる
To go too far

わずらわしさ 小さなこと
Little annoyances

悩みなんか みんな忘れて
Forget all our troubles and

二人だけで 虹に 乗ろうよ
Let’s ride a rainbow, just the two of us

あーみるうちに
In a moment

人や家が遠くなるよ
People and houses will be far away

あー鳥になる
To become a bird

羽をひろげ 高く高く
Spread these wings and go higher and higher

言葉なんか みんな忘れて
Forget all the words and

二人だけで 虹に乗ろうよ
Let’s ride a rainbow, just the two of us

飛ぼうよ
Let’s fly…

Fly with me

あー消えてゆく
All will disappear

何もかもが過去の世界
Everything is in the past world

あー愛しあう
We love each other

熱い心 それが全て
Fully with passionate hearts

涙なんかみんな忘れて
Forget all the tears and

二人だけで 虹に乗ろうよ
Let’s ride a rainbow, just the two of us

飛ぼうよ
Let’s fly…

Fly with me
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TIME MACHINE (Japanese and English lyrics)
もしも今生けるのが厭になったら
If I do not want to live now

後向き 宙返り 遠いふるさと
Spinning backwards, a distant hometown

ああ タイムマシン ねずみ小僧に
Time machine, Nezumi-kozo (a real life, Robin Hood-esque thief who lived in the Edo period)

ああタイムマシン 変身したい
Time machine, I want to transform

しのび足  大義賊  金をばらまき
With stealthy footsteps, master thief, make the money fly

世直しの人助け 気どってみたい
Help the poor and set the world aright

ああタイムマシン 夢の中だよ
It’s a time machine, in our dream

ああタイムマシン 何でも出来る
In our time machine, we can do anything

この腕に 宝物 握りしめたら
If you clench your treasure on this arm

やり直し もうー度 熱い人生
Redo a life of passion

泣き乍ら 暮してる 夜のちまたで
We live our lives while crying in the night

この世では無理なこと知っているけど
I know that it is impossible in this world

ああタイムマシン クレオパトラに
Time Machine, Cleopatra

ああタイムマシン 変身したい
Time machine, I want to transform

男達 悩ませて 燃える 瞳で
Tormented men with fire in their eyes

憧れ恋人をつかまえてみたい
I want to catch a longing lover

流される 現実の時計を止めて
By stopping the real clock that passes

穴だらけ大都会自中に泳ぎ
Swimming freely in a big city full of holes

ああタイムマシン恋をし乍ら
Time machine, always being in love with someone

ああタイムマシン思いのままに
Time machine, as you wish
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If you have any suggestions or improvements for these translations, please leave a comment below.

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Reflections on the Highlights of 2016

This blog post was originally sent out to our mailing list on November 24, 2016. Subscribe here for email updates and exclusive news. 

Aloha friends and fans,

The year has come and gone quickly, but not without bringing some incredible opportunities to the table. As the end of 2016 draws closer, I’m writing this to express my gratitude for the supporters, collaborators and believers who have helped Aloha Got Soul grow organically and steadily throughout the year.

Thank you to the Soul Time crew: Cedric, Solson, Oliver, Hideki, Darryn. In March we hosted a week-long series of events in Honolulu to the celebrate the two-year anniversary of Soul Time. Cedric flew from London with Psychemagik’s Danny McLewin; Solson traveled from Chicago; and Red Light Radio’s Hugo Van Heijningen joined the party to live broadcast every single event — which are available in entirety here. We had the generous backing of Red Bull Hawaii, and had the opportunity to talk story with artists like Kirk Thompson, Mike Lundy, Nohelani Cypriano, Steve Maii, and Kit Ebersbach. The anniversary culminated with a live performance by Mike Lundy, backed by a full band. It was the first time Mike had performed his original songs since 1989.

Thank you to Bevy and Surfjack for believing in what we do at Soul Time and allowing us the opportunity to share relatively unknown music from the Hawaiian Islands with locals and visitors.

Thank you to Hungry Ear for organizing the annual Hawaii Record Fair in the midsts of temporarily closing their doors in anticipation of opening a new location in early 2017, which we are all eagerly looking forward to.

Thank you to Strut Records for opening the doors to reaching new listeners with the collaborative Aloha Got Soul release, which has now been named as one of the best compilations of 2016.

Thank you to Gotta Groove Records for making it easy to press quality vinyl. If you live in the US and are thinking about pressing a record, give GGR a try.

Thank you to the artists who have given me the chance to reissue their music on the label this year, and whose music will be made available soon in 2017. This includes, but isn’t limited to: Al Nobriga, Aura, Aiko / Dale Senaga, Robert ÆOLUS Myers, Rob Mehl, Phase 7, Nova, Tender Leaf, and ʻĀina. (Yes, you read that list correctly!)

Thank you to my wife, Leimomi, whose invaluable input helps ideas take shape and projects run smoothly.

And finally…

Thank YOU, for it is your interest and support that keeps me going. Aloha Got Soul wouldn’t be what is today (and what it will become tomorrow) without people like you who believe in this humble project that is headquartered in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whether you’re a long-time supporter or a curious new fan, thank you.

Here’s looking forward to what the future will bring.

– Roger

P.S. Mike Lundy and Aura are performing live on August 5, 2017 at Ala Moana Hotel. Time to plan that vacation to Hawaii.

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The Simplest Guide to Making a Vinyl Record

Last month in anticipation of the Hawaii Record Fair, I distilled the knowledge and experience I’ve gained on making a record in the 21st century into a simple booklet for others to use as a launching point for pressing their own vinyl. It’s called “The Simplest Guide to Making a Record”.

Today, Aloha Got Soul is seven releases in: five singles, two albums, and a double LP on its way for January 2017. So far I’ve used three different pressing plants. But I’ve also made a handful of missteps and have learned plenty along the way.

When I sat down to outline this guide, I realized that there are, simply speaking, six steps to making a record: Mastering; Placing Your Order; Lacquers; Stampers; Test Pressings; and Final Production.

Aiko test pressings just arrived… and they're blue!! Thanks @gottagrooverecs! #ags7005

A post shared by Aloha Got Soul (@alohagotsoul) on

 

I still am a newcomer to this in several ways, and admittedly don’t fully understand all the processes involved in pressing vinyl. The long list of jargon related to making a record is mind-boggling and, it should be said, intimidating: two-step plating, lathes, acetate-coated aluminum discs, electroforming, galvanic process, nitrate, nickel sulphamate electrolyte solution, spray booths… I still can’t wrap my head around it!

That’s one reason why I’ve put this guide together: so that others don’t have to feel so intimidated by the processes they face when deciding to put their music on wax. My hope is that “The Simplest Guide to Making a Record” will serve as an important resource to inspire motivated individuals in taking the first step towards realizing their dream.

Another reason was that, as the Hawaii Record Fair drew near in early October, I thought to myself, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could spark a healthy vinyl-making community in Hawaii?’ Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Hawaii was home to dozens and dozens of record labels big and small pressing vinyl. Today, few local labels are putting releasing out on a record (understandably so, since vinyl has only recently experienced a mainstream resurgence; plus, vinyl is expensive to make and even more expensive to ship to these islands!). Why do I believe it is important to reinvigorate a vinyl-making scene here? Because record-making communities create lasting documentations of cultures and subcultures. When vinyl is pressed, a tangible and audible impression of an era is captured for generations to come.

Take, for example, the subculture of soul and funk music made in Hawaii during the 1970s and 1980s. It was with records by artists like Lemuria, Mike Lundy, Aura, and Nohelani Cypriano that I could begin to understand this obscure subculture. Without the music of this era made available on a physical format like vinyl, Aloha Got Soul simply wouldn’t exist.

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For anyone who is looking for a helpful start to making a record, I know you will find this useful. At the moment I haven’t decided to publish the entire guide online, instead I’ve made 40 copies of the guide in booklet form — a physical, tangible form that those looking to put their music into a physical, tangible form can appreciate. Check it out here.

Hungry Ear at University and King in Moiliili
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Hungry Ear’s Last Day at University & King

Hawaii’s oldest record shop is temporarily closing its doors as it looks for a new home in Honolulu.

Hungry Ear Records first opened in Kailua in 1980 and is the organizer of the annual Hawaii Record Fair. It is now one of many mom-and-pop businesses in Honolulu that have recently met with the changing face of a city where demolition of old buildings and construction of mixed-use development and condominiums are on the rise. You can’t stop progress, which in this case means that Hungry Ear and all the other tenants of University Square — a quaint shopping plaza just a few blocks from where I currently live, down the road from the University of Hawaii — must evacuate by the end of October 2016. Come November 1st, demolish will begin to make way for new apartments aimed at college students.

As you may know, Monday October 24 will be Hungry Ear’s last day open for business at University Square. We’ve been in this spot for a little over two years and we’ve really been through a lot. We’ve held three Hawaii Record Fairs, been the subject of an episode of a Brazilian series on US record stores (which unfortunately we don’t have the rights show you), had one of our co-owners decide to leave the store, been visited by Jack Johnson, Haruki Murakami, Atmosphere and Randall Park, and even managed to sell a few records. …

Our delay in announcing our plans to move to a new location was based on the knowledge that until we had all the answers, all we’d get is a lot of questions. Unfortunately, we have not yet secured a new retail home. We’d thought we’d found a nice space in Kapahulu, but somehow the owners have let negotiations dwindle away. When we finally gave up on Kapahulu, we began looking at Kaimuki and elsewhere. We are now in talks for a space in the heart of Kakaako. Everything looks really good so far, but nothing is sure until the papers are signed. But rest assured, you, our faithful customers, will be the first ones that we report to, but only when there is something real to report. …

We won’t be able to open back up at the beginning of November; it’s just not how buildouts work. Plans need to be drawn, and permits need to be applied for. We are intent on making the wait as short as possible, but there are a lot of factors that are just out of our hands.

While Hungry Ear is temporarily shuttered, we plan on staying in touch. Any confirmed news we get, we’ll pass on to you. We have plans during our hiatus for buying trips, pop-up stores and so much more. We’ll see what we can get done.” — Official statement from Hungry Ear (link)

We stopped by on their final day to bid good luck to Ward, Mary, Jim, and Mele as they begin a new chapter for Hungry Ear. We ran into some friends while digging, including Hideki Yamamoto, who came across a few finds to spin at Soul Time In Hawaii. Below are some photos from Hungry Ear’s last day at their University location.

Here’s to the next step in Hungry Ear’s journey as one of Hawaii’s only record stores!

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Busy digging.

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Mele.

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Hideki Yamamoto.

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Mary and Ward.

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5pm. One hour left until closing.

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A few holes that won’t need filling.

Hungry Ear at University and King in Moiliili

Hungry Ear’s University Square location in the morning, a few weeks before closing. Photo by Leimomi Bong.

Visit hungryear.com for updates.

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Fly With Me: The Story of Aiko and her Music

It was in early 2014 that a friend of mine alerted me to a recorded-in-Hawaii Japanese LP that he recently found which featured a disco track. Simply having a contemporary track on a Japanese album isn’t always enough to pique my interest (those Lauren Nakano albums were certainly a bit of a let down), but the cover looked like a quality self-produced, private press release, so I gave it a try. The album in question is My Home Town, by Aiko.

Around the same time, I came across  a blog post from a Japanese collector featuring a review and two cuts from the album.  One of those tracks was “Fly With Me”. I was instantly hooked. Thanks to my friend, I was happy to have the LP in my possession, because I soon realized — as the Japanese blogger had — that when paired, “Fly With Me” and “Time Machine” (the disco tune my friend had mentioned) complement each other.

 

A 7-inch was in order for the then-forthcoming Aloha Got Soul label. I set out in search of Aiko, whose last name was unknown to me at the time. I found a blog featuring the photographs of Don Touchi, who had written about Aiko’s karaoke class and its elderly participants in 2012:

“It has long been believed that music is an effective method of treating physical, emotional, social and mental problems that individuals have. One person goes a step further and uses music as a means to help to prevent such problems from occurring. Or, at least to delay the effects of aging. Such a person is Aiko Sekiguchi, a renowned singer from Japan. “

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Digging for vinyl gems at the Hawaii Record Fair
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The 2016 Hawaii Record Fair (New Location!)

The one and only annual gathering of vinyl record dealers and enthusiasts is the Hawaii Record Fair.  And it’s returning to Honolulu in greater glory on Sunday, October 9th, 2016.

Founded in 2012 by the oldest record shop on Oahu—Hungry Ear Records—the fair continues to grow and evolve. This year it’ll forgo its regular venue for a much-welcomed move to the Ala Moana Hotel’s Garden Lanai ballroom. Thank goodness, because this means air-conditioning! Hungry Ear had us in mind when they looked back on those sweaty few years digging in the stagnant heat of the McKinley High School cafeteria.

Admission is still crazy affordable, so there’s no reason not to attend General admission is just $5, early admission is $8 and gets you in at 9am.

Aloha Got Soul is proud to offer records and merch for sale at this year’s Hawaii Record Fair. Here’s what we’ll have in stock:

  • Strut Records x Aloha Got Soul compilation (vinyl & CD)
  • Aura LP & 45
  • Mike Lundy 45s & LP (limited stock!)
  • Al Nobriga 45
  • AGS and Soul Time t-shirts
  • AGS slipmats

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Stack o’ wax.

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Jah Gumby and his finds.

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Hawaii Record Fair
Sunday, October 9, 2016
10am – 3pm
Early admission: 9am
Garden Lanai at the Ala Moana Hotel
410 Atkinson Drive
Honolulu, Hawaii 96814.

$5 General admission
$8 Early admission
$3 Late admission at 11am
$1 discount for students, military, seniors, and persons with disability
Free for kids under 12

For more information, go to www.hawaiirecordfair.com

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Mix: Heavy Mellow, exploring Hawaii’s seriously sublime musical palette

Heavy mellow: two words that can describe so much of the music that’s created in Hawaii. This is what inspired us in our latest mix, the relaxed sounds of our islands that move us deeply.

On June 10th, 2016, clothing company Claymore Minds invited Aloha Got Soul to spin records for the launch party of their “Heavy Mellow” T-shirt series, hosted at About The Goods in Honolulu.
We jumped at the opportunity, embracing the theme to curate a unique selection that showcases the seriously sublime soundscape of Hawaii’s musical palette: new age and folk from the 1980s; psych from the 1970s; hip hop from the 1990s and 2000s; funk and soul from the 1970s.

From the opening track of a subtly forward-thinking, slack key-inspired tune called “Melody Of Hanalei” (mellow-dy?), to the outro that competes for the rest of the world’s currently insatiable hunger for boogie — this mix is an excellent example of what weenjoy spinning when the canvas is wide open. Claymore Minds granted us full creative control to fill the room with the music we love. We couldn’t thank them enough for this.

Recorded live. All vinyl. (Limited time download, just a heads up!)

 

Selections by Roger Bong, Oliver Seguin and Hideki Yamamoto. Check the Soundcloud for more details.