Meeting Checo for the First TimeI realized this with a moment of clarity as Checo and I said our goodbyes in the parking lot of a Waialae Zippy's. I met Checo for dinner and an interview (which, by the way, proved difficult because you can't talk much while eating!) just a few blocks east of the new Harry's Music Store location. Checo had been into Harry's earlier to chat with old-time friends and in search of a keyboard rental for a friend's wedding gig. He was in town for a week, visiting Oahu all the way from Canada, where he now lives and works as the leader of the Vancouver VOC Sweet Soul Gospel Choir director. After a handshake and a hug and a friendly "keep in touch!", we hopped into our separate cars. I drove off first, but as I passed Checo's white SUV rental, he threw me a shaka with a big smile.
Checo Tohomaso and I met at Zippy's on Waialae Ave. to talk about his band, Nova, healthy food, and Marvin Gaye.
Checo says "shaka brah!"
Keeping Aloha AliveThe realization was immense, but it had been there all along: Checo's all about aloha. He knows that just like this soul music we love so much, the spirit of aloha needs to be nourished, cherished, and passed on to the people around us. Aloha needs to be kept alive. That's what's cool about Checo Tohomaso, a multi-instrumentalist/singer/composer who grew up in Manoa Valley, just minutes north of Honolulu and Waikiki. For Checho, aloha and feel good music go hand-in-hand. Just give his music a listen. The uplifting mood, the positive lyrics, all of this pours from a single underlying drive: Checo loves making feel good music.
Nova, Obama, and Donald ByrdDuring our very first conversation, an international phone call from Canada during a sunny day in Hawaii, Checo revealed that his band, the funky disco outfit named Nova, played at Barack Obama's junior prom in 1978 at Punahou School. "Can you imagine that?!" Checo asked me. Indeed, I could vividly imagine Barry getting down to Nova's irresistible groove. He's that kind of President. And Checo's got that kind of funk you want to smile and dance to. Then there was Nova's numerous gigs as the opening act for headliners at Honolulu's Blaisdell Center, including trumpeter Donald Byrd. They also performed at places like The Point After and Sweet City Disco, military bars and boat cruises.
Nova performed with Donald Byrd and the Blackbyrds (here, mispelled as "Nove").
The best part of it all, Checo told me, is watching everybody get down on the dancefloor when you play a song.
Nova, an obscure funk-disco outfit from Honolulu, 1980.