Celebrating local songwriting successes


I just got off the phone with Nohelani Cypriano, the local songstress who’s made waves in the Hawaiian music scene for years, starting with her debut album in 1979. It was with a series of compilations featuring local songwriters entitled Homegrown that her first big hit, Lihue, captivated listeners.

Radio veteran Ron “Who-daguy” Jacobs — who recently received a Na Hoku Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ha-waii Academy of Recording Artists — produced those Homegrown albums with great success throughout the Islands, and subsequently helped launch the careers of a number of artists like Nohelani. (That’s just the tip of the iceberg of Ron’s contributions to radio and the music industry.)

Following the inclusion of her song Lihue in the series, Nohelani continued to advance her career, recording her first full-length album with the assistance of producer Michael Cord — who recently passed away in his home in California.

Nohe’s career has brought her great success since that first “big win.” She’s recorded several albums, received numerous awards and continues to perform for both local and international audiences to this day.

Which reminds me of the Kauai Music Festival’s (KMF) Hawaii Songwriting Festival, a “celebration of the art and craft of songwriting, with an emphasis on collaboration, education, and music for film/TV.” The festival kicked off in Honolulu recently, with its first-ever Honolulu Open Mic Songwriting Contest.

Preliminary rounds were held at Lana Lane Studios and The Wedding Cafe, bringing together the likes of local musicians Tim Lee, Anna Sachs, Mai Sollner, Jacob Pierce and Tim Rose (whose Kickstarter campaign I covered a few months ago. That campaign was successful, and he plans to release the album in June, with a launch party in August).

Honolulu Open Mic Songwriting Contest finals will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 16, at Hard Rock Cafe. The prize is free attendance to the Kauai Music Festival in June, an annual songwriter conference and concert series that seeks to give artists the chance to connect with industry veterans and professionals while helping them hone their mu sic skills.

The KMF, as a place where “songwriters of all levels from all walks of life come together to connect with each other and music professionals from Hawaii, the Mainland, and beyond,” hopes to give both aspiring and established artists the opportunities needed to succeed in today’s music environment.

Perhaps it’s only a matter of time until we see some of Honolulu’s finalists making waves on a national scale. It’s too early to tell what will come of the contest results, but it’s not impossible that it may be a caveat for the beginnings of a successful, lifelong career in music.

For more from Roger, check out his blog at alohagotsoul.com.