Skip navigation
The Uncharted Soul of Hawaii
Label Feature

The Uncharted Soul of Hawaii

Like a crate-digging beachcomber, Roger Bong founded Aloha Got Soul in 2010 to scour golden musical nuggets from the islands of Hawaii. Not the obvious finds, but unexpected gems: funk, jazz, disco, AOR, and more ‘Non-Hawaiian’ music that signifies the spirit of Aloha.

By DannyVeekens
undefined cover art
Add track to favorites
Add or remove track from collection
Share track
Download track (1 credit)
4:03

Aside from running Aloha Got Soul, do you make any music yourself?

I grew up making beats myself. That’s how I got into records. I would like to do that more; I need to get back into it. That’s always the goal. Like, ‘This is gonna be the year I’m getting back into producing.’ But that still needs to happen [Laughs] My biggest influence is Madlib. The first record that really blew my mind was Madvillainy. And J Dilla’s approach to sampling also really blew my mind. Madlib digs really deep, and then there’s J Dilla who gives a whole new life to a song. No matter how he chops it up.

undefined cover art
Add track to favorites
Add or remove track from collection
Share track
Download track (1 credit)
3:09
undefined cover art
Add track to favorites
Add or remove track from collection
Share track
Download track (1 credit)
3:33

Did Madlib’s digging also inspire how you wanted to set up Aloha Got Soul? Unearthing hidden regional gems, just like he did for his Beat Konducta series?

In a way, yes. When I first started thinking of launching the label, I reached out to Egon, his longtime partner with Now-Again Records. He was kind enough to answer a bunch of questions. And we maintained that relationship since, which has been really nice.

I guess there’s also a parallel between Aloha Got Soul’s diverse catalog and that of Stones Throw Records.

Definitely. They were obviously first focused on hip-hop but eventually branched into jazz, post-punk, and new wave type of stuff. Think of Gary Wilson, to name one. A bit of everything. In a way, I also wanted to get to a point that I could do a bit of everything, too.

undefined cover art
Add track to favorites
Add or remove track from collection
Share track
Download track (1 credit)
4:08
undefined cover art
Add track to favorites
Add or remove track from collection
Share track
Download track (1 credit)
2:58

But there’s no hip-hop on Aloha Got Soul. Or not yet?

We’re trying to get there for sure. We’re working on something that represents hip-hop from Hawaii, which is planned to be released early next year. There’s just so much ground to cover with every style of music… My goal is now that I’m getting a lot of licenses for the label, we can actually branch out to legitimately licensed sample-based beats, too.

undefined cover art
Add track to favorites
Add or remove track from collection
Share track
Download track (1 credit)
3:28
undefined cover art
Add track to favorites
Add or remove track from collection
Share track
Download track (1 credit)
4:14
Roger Bong (Photo: Mark Kushimi)
Roger Bong (Photo: Mark Kushimi)

DJ Muro’s ‘Hawaiian Breaks’ mix back in 2009 inspired you to start Aloha Got Soul. Did that spark your love for music from Hawaii, or were you already fascinated by music from the islands?

DJ Muro’s mix was definitely a starting point for me. But I should add that before then, I was sampling Hawaiian music unknowingly. When I look back at some of my earliest beats that I made in high school with friends, we sampled an acoustic Hawaiian album. Purely because it was in the collection of my friend’s parents. We thought it sounded cool but never stopped to take the time to think of where it came from. And then 10+ years later, I’m in this Aloha Got Soul thing, blogging, digging up music online and whatnot… And eventually found the music we sampled back then! It was Peralta by Ray Peralta. I’m actually going to reissue that record next year.

DJ Muro’s Hawaiian Breaks also made me realize the scope of how much amazing funk, soul, jazz, R&B, and whatnot from Hawaii there is. So much more than you think there is. If I ask someone from the other side of the world what Hawaiian music sounds like, that person is likely gonna mention hula, ukeleles… This is true, but there are a million people living on the island of Oahu alone. All kinds of people with all many different influences. Electronic music, house, EDM, funk, straight jazz, reggae… You name it. There are people out there making every type of something.

undefined cover art
Add track to favorites
Add or remove track from collection
Share track
Download track (1 credit)
4:26
undefined cover art
Add track to favorites
Add or remove track from collection
Share track
Download track (1 credit)
5:03