Things have been moving rapidly in our world today, with uncertainty. Every day, new updates alert us to stay safe, stay healthy, and for many of us: stay indoors.
Except that so many of us want to be outdoors at a time like this, breathing in fresh air, walking unguided through forests, solitarily striding along ocean shores... So to aide such desires, we're releasing a multi-part series of field recordings captured in Hawaii. It's called Aloha ʻĀina.
In other words: Aloha Got Soul is bringing you the sounds of Hawaii, literally.
In the five years of the label's existence, I never foresaw an opportunity like this, to share with others what our islands really sound like. Uncrowded beaches with booming surf… The white noise of a downpour from beneath a forest's canopy… Hiking trails populated not by people but by native birds and musical streams… It's all here, in the Aloha 'Āina series. Captured in stereo on location throughout Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island of Hawaii.
Here's how the series came to be.
For several years I've known Kit Ebersbach. Each time we get together, new ideas arise.
One day, in 2017 I believe, Kit asked if I knew any DJ's at KTUH, the college radio station at University of Hawaii at Manoa. Yes, of course I did — Lei, my wife, was the office manager and hosted a regular host every Sunday morning.
Kit was looking for new contributors for the Hawaiian Airlines in-flight radio programming, which he manages. Lei was just the right candidate. She was quickly added to the programming schedule and soon had her own in-flight show, Declarations of Independents.
That opened me up to the breadth of programming Kit manages for the airlines. Other shows include an interview series with local musicians, often hosted by Kit himself but also led by journalist Noe Tanigawa. (My favorite to date was a conversation between Kit and jazz bassist Dean Taba; they talked about the many recordings that Dean had been a part of during his ongoing music career.) There was a K-Pop channel, a Hawaiian music channel, a classical channel, and — my favorite — a channel called "Soothing Sounds".
Soothing Sounds features ambient and new age recordings designed to help passengers relax during their flight.
I love listening to it whenever I fly Hawaiian. The most recent flight I took (which was in 2019 — I haven't travelled since early February, and decided to cancel my early March trip to Los Angeles for what was supposed to be a Soul Time in LA and Soul Time in San Diego double hitter. LA went on with local DJs Vinyl Don and Mamabear with surprise guest Funky Brewster, but San Diego we had to cancel altogether), I tuned into Soothing Sounds to find myself enjoying a field recording of a musical-sounding bubbling stream.
Instantly I relaxed. But I also chuckled to myself, because I remembered sitting in Kit's studio one day while he finalized his latest in-flight show, only to find him mixing down a recording of a bubbling stream. This was that. I was at ease during my flight.
Field recordings of nature sounds have the power to put us at ease. Sounds of forest birds, swaying bamboo, soft waves washing ashore — these soothe our souls, transporting us to a world stress-free, where we can breathe deeply and feel whole.
It's a kind of anti-music music, field recordings are (cue Anti Music Music Club tees), and I love it.
Earlier this year, a Korean music blogger who goes by imagemeetssound reached out during her trip to Honolulu. She'd been following AGS on Instagram for a while, contacting me whenever she visits the islands. We had coffee at Kona Coffee Purveyors one morning, which turned into an interview for her blog.
One of her interview questions was, "If I wanted to capture some field recordings in Hawaii, where should I go?".
It's not the easiest thing to answer, because a few factors must be considered, especially what kinds of field recordings do you want to capture? If you're like me and Lei, you'd capture the uncomfortably noisy sounds of Waikiki for an art project, like the one we did in 2018 for CONTACT Hawaii.
But of course, imagemeetssound wanted the sounds of nature, uninterrupted by aircraft, vehicles, mankind.
Kit immediately came to mind. My answer, then, was "I know a guy who has a library of field recordings, exactly like what you're looking for. He goes hiking every weekend, to places far from the general population: forest trails and shorelines where people hardly frequent. Let me see what I can do about it."
The next time I saw Kit, I told him this idea to compile his field recordings into a release. He was intrigued.
A day later (or possibly that same afternoon), February 19th, I emailed Kit to reinforce the idea. He got back the next morning, saying:
"Iʻm gonna WeTransfer you an Environmental Journey HA inflight program. I did my hatha yoga exercise sequence last night while listening to this and it was totally non-intrusive in that backgroundy lo-fi way. I could easily concentrate on my exercise, which involves directing ones mind toward various areas of the body while moving into and holding the poses. So it could be tagged as perfect for exercise routines - an exactly hour long program of environmental ambiences. The only audio thing that needs to be done would be to bring the gain up by maybe 6 or 7 dB.
"Hereʻs the list of ambiences of the EJ Iʻm sending.
"What do you think of calling the series "Aloha ʻAIna volume 1" etc? It really does reflect my aloha for the land. I have lots of nice iPhone pix that can serve as "cover" source material.
"I can pump out like 4 of these within a few days if you like go full speed ahead."
Kit sent me that Environmental Journey program, and I was hooked. "Let’s do 4 volumes! Ready to move asap" were my exact words.
To date, as far as I know, Kit's personal recordings of bubbling streams and singing coqui frogs have only ever made it to the Soothing Sounds channel on Hawaiian Airlines, often times nestled alongside new age compositions. So outside of in-flights, he hasn't had a chance to share these sounds.
With the release of Volume 1 on Monday, March 16, 2020, we received generous, positive feedback from AGS listeners. I'm surprised — it feels like the most successful release of the year so far, even if we dropped future classics like FRNT BZNZZ'z "Was It Love" or Dae Han's debut EP, BLUE.
Mamabear wrote: "This album couldn't have come at a more perfect time…Secret Waterfall take me awayyyyyyyyy", and we couldn't be happier.
That's the story of how this series came to be. Kit and I currently have four (4) volumes ready, with Volume 2 releasing this Friday, March 20th. Kit has so much material, our goal is to release at least 10 volumes in this series.
It's a stark departure from the jazz, soul, funk, reggae and folk releases we've putting out since 2015. But if you think about it, the goal with every Aloha Got Soul release is to present quality recordings to listeners today. We think you'll agree, upon hearing these sounds of the Pacific, that Aloha 'Āina accomplishes that.