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A new generation is discovering local music treasures at Aloha Got Soul in McCully

Roger Bong, owner of Aloha Got Soul
Noe Tanigawa
Roger Bong, owner of Aloha Got Soul

The COVID-19 pandemic and long periods at home have changed people's music listening habits, according to the owner of a local record label. A new generation is discovering local music treasures, including increasingly rare favorites from the 1970s and '80s.

Roger Bong started his record label, Aloha Got Soul, or AGS, six years ago. He opened his brick-and-mortar shop on King Street in Honolulu just last June.

"Yeah this is the old McCully Chop Suey Building," Bong says, as he gives HPR a tour.

You may have noticed the row of mod-looking shops: Truest, Mono, Wimini, Mojo Barbershop.

"It's definitely design-focused, small-business-focused, people who are passionate about what they do. They've made this block what it is. We just came in to round it out," Bong says.

AGS specializes in music from Hawaiʻi, vinyl, often B-sides or underappreciated works. Also, unexpected finds in Japanese city pop, jazz, funk and electronic music.

Bong says there's incredible demand for music from the 1970s and '80s in Hawaiʻi — Kalapana, C and K, Country Comfort, Sunday Manoa — Bong can't keep up.

"Every day somebody asks for Kalapana. Before you were here, somebody was like, 'Do you have any Olomana?' And luckily I had something back here. We're at this point now where this music that came out in the '70s on vinyl is getting harder and harder and harder to find," he says.

That's where AGS can help. Bong has reissued Kalapana's debut album on vinyl for the first time ever. Another reissue, "Catching A Wave," is the satisfying first release by Steve Maiʻi and Teresa Bright.

Aloha Got Soul is located at 2017 S. King Street.
Aloha Got Soul is located at 2017 S. King Street.

"Some of these artists you can't even listen to on digital outlets. Spotify? You can't hear Olomana on Spotify. They're not there."

Another reissue you probably haven't heard — Arthur Lyman's long-lost collaboration with Gordon Broad from 1980, called "Island Vibes."

"And it's pure bliss. It's just vibraphones and nature sounds. People love it because they can escape in it. And with the past 18 months being what they are, it's the perfect escape," Bong says.

AGS also pressed new work by jazz pianist Jason Gay and singer/songwriter Nick Kurosawa, along with a compilation of instrumentals by exotica band Don Tiki.

Aloha Got Soul issues vinyl first, and digital editions when possible.

There's a full-service online shop, or, to stop by the store, find street parking on the mauka side of King, just past McCully.

Be sure to cross at the light!

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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