Hawaii’s Vinyl Scene Showcased In Brazilian TV Show
By Roger Bong
How many of you watch Canal Bis? Probably not many. But some 8 million people do: It’s Brazil’s largest music television station.
Why ask? Because Hawaii’s vinyl music culture is getting the spotlight in the most comprehensive Brazilian production on American music ever made.
Created by London-based production house Ton Ton Films, the TV series Minha Loja De Discos (“My Record Store”) documents record stores and music scenes around the world — including Oahu’s own Hungry Ear Records.
Back in March, I got an email from Ton Ton’s producer/director duo Elisa Kriezis and Rodrigo Pinto. They planned to finish their four-month, 12-city journey across the U.S. with a week in Honolulu to film Hungry Ear’s annual Hawaii Record Fair in July. While here, they wanted to interview me about my favorite Hawaiian records, upcoming projects and digging in Hawaii.
They also asked if I could suggest any musicians they could feature. Prospects were thin thus far: They hadn’t made any solid contacts yet, and neither had ever visited our islands. My research into the under-appreciated, relatively unknown world of Hawaiian funk and soul afforded me the chance to connect Ton Ton Films with a handful of local artists who don’t always have the opportunity to share their stories with an audience of 8 million.
“Hawaii didn’t come to our mind at first, thinking of the USA,” Elisa later told me.
That paradise so far from London and Rio de Janeiro, was it a wellspring of music? Was it more than the traditional (or touristy) sounds that perpetuate the world’s idea of Hawaiian music?
“Then we started researching about music from Hawaii,” she said. “It was the best surprise ever!”
My first suggestion for them was Kirk Thompson. You probably recognize his name: He was the founding keyboardist of groundbreaking act Kalapana. He also formed Lemuria, a gospel-soul super group whose sole album from 1978 is a “Hawaiian holy grail” in the worldwide record-collecting community.
“(Elisa and Rodrigo) knocked on my door four or five times,” Kirk told me. “They kept coming back. They were amazed when I showed them Lemuria.”
Kirk gave Elisa and Rodrigo a copy of Lemuria’s CD.
“It was one of the best things we discovered on this journey,” Elisa said. “We played that CD roughly 100 times while driving across Oahu that week.” (Check out Hunk Of Heaven, you’ll learn why.)
“We were very lucky to meet amazing people connected with Hawaii and talk to them about the music that has come out of this place,” Elisa told me via email last month following the show’s season premiere featuring the jazz scene in New Orleans. “This made us go beyond the clichés of U.S. music.”
Local music figures including Kirk Thompson, Mike Lundy, Paula Fuga, Hungry Ear’s Dennie Chong and Ward Yamashita, Mapuana de Silva and more share their stories alongside the likes of Moby, Cut Chemist, Taj Mahal, The Pixies and Ahmad Jamal in season two of Minha Loja De Discos.
Visit facebook.com/minhalojadediscos for more info.
For more from Roger, check out his blog at alohagotsoul.com.