Aloha Got Soul, the brainchild of Roger Bong, was once a blog where he unearthed and told the stories of Hawaiian soul, funk and groove music from the 70's and 90's. It has since turned into a record label, where Bong plans to re-release higher quality versions of the many gems he has discovered over time. We've been fans of Aloha Got Soul and were stoked to be able to pick his brain a little.
1. Where did you grow up and how did that influence your taste in music? What did you listen to growing up?
I grew up in Mililani and skateboarded a lot as a teenager. I think skateboarding opened my mind up to all kinds of art, music, and ideas. It’s a highly creative sport, and so naturally you’ll meet a lot of interesting people because of it. Growing up, my taste in music progressively went from punk to emo, to hip hop and jazz. My family moved to Hawaii from Seattle in 1995, we didn’t have a connection to Hawaii outside of the job my dad got that brought us here, so I didn’t grow up listening to Hawaiian music or anything like that. As kids, we listened to Duran Duran and Green Day ‘Dookie’ all the time. It was only until I moved away for college in 2006 that I felt homesick and started paying more attention to music from the islands. This longing for Hawaii coupled with collecting jazz and soul records led me to my interest in local R&B music from the 1970s and 80s.
2. Tell us about one of your favorite music discoveries and the story that you got to tell about it.
Let me direct you here: https://soundcloud.com/thevinylexam/episode-29#t=27:17
, where I share a story about a double LP recorded at the University of Hawaii. It’s called "Life In A Day" by a band called Justin Thyme. I discovered it at a thrift shop in Waimea, Big Island, while on a trip with my wife. We’d only been dating a couple months at the time. I discovered it at a pivotal point in my life. Have a listen.
3. At what moment did you realize that this project was worth pursuing and sharing with the world?
I’m still realizing this every day. It’s a trip to see Aloha Got Soul reach people in such far off places. I started receiving emails from record collectors around the world shortly after starting the blog. They were looking to buy such-and-such album. Nowadays, because it’s a record label in addition to the blog, I receive emails from all over from people who simply want to say they enjoy the music and appreciate the effort we’ve been putting into re-releasing these treasures. Whenever I receive one of these emails, I realize the importance of this project.
4. What makes the Hawaiian sound/soul different than what else is out there?
It’s the carefee feeling, relaxed vibes that resonate throughout the music. Soul music from Hawaii has an uplifting quality. Elsewhere in the country, you might find the blues embedded in the music. But here we have the aloha spirit, and I think you can hear it, or at least feel it in the music.
5. Any upcoming projects or collaborations that you're excited about?
March marks the two-year anniversary of Soul Time In Hawaii. To help celebrate, we’re flying in Cedric Bardawil who organizes Soul Time In London and DJ Sol Son who runs Soul Time In Chicago. I’ve yet to actually meet these guys in person!
I’m also working with Mike Lundy
to host the first Aloha Got Soul live band performance at the anniversary in March. We’re bringing in Amsterdam’s Red Light Radio
to broadcast the entire event.
For me this is huge: I’d only dreamed of reuniting old school acts when I first started the blog in 2010. Now’s it a reality with Mike Lundy performing with a full band — and we’re bringing in guys from the other side of the globe to support us!