Field Notes: Digging Through Hawai‘i’s Vinyl Record Scene
Field Notes explores Honolulu’s vast and varied scenes and subcultures. This month: vinyl record enthusiasts.
Photo: Gary Saito
Vinyl will probably never die. Its resurgence in the Islands seems to track with the comeback of film photography, manual typewriters and other now-vintage gear. “The local interest in vinyl owes a lot to music blogs,” says Ward Yamashita, owner of Hungry Ear, Hawai‘i’s oldest record store. He adds that DJ mixes have brought attention to Hawai‘i music that was relatively obscure when it was originally released in the late ’70s and early ’80s; mostly jazz, funk or disco that was self-released and only minimally distributed, if at all. Today’s most sought-after titles include Babadu, Lemuria, Aura and Golden Throat.
Photo: David Croxford
Record collectors come in all ages. With Best Buy and Urban Outfitters selling turntables, more and more young people are getting into collecting. “Every collector I know is relaxed and friendly,” says Roger Bong, collector and owner of record label Aloha Got Soul. “Not only are most collectors easy to talk with, many of them are willing to share their knowledge—and their collections.”
One collector, Robert Moderow, shares his extensive collection of Hawaiian records with just about anyone who asks. “They can record it to listen to it—as long as they don’t sell it,” he says. He has loaned albums to hula hālau to record chants. He even has a historical record display at the Moana Surfrider hotel.
Photo: David Croxford
With four or five record shops in the state and even fewer record shows and vinyl events each year, Hawai‘i’s scene remains rather small. “Most everyone knows each other,” says Bong. Unlike the cutthroat atmosphere in malls on Black Friday, the environment at vinyl events is serene. People are relaxed and respectful—no one is throwing blows to get the best deal. “The aloha spirit and laid-back lifestyle permeate the collectors’ aura,” Bong says. The collectors are mellow, but passionate.
“What I feel is great about the Hawai‘i vinyl scene is that people really care about the music,” Yamashita says. “They don’t just look for the rarest records that will make them look the coolest, they just want the stuff that sounds great. Cheap or expensive, if the music is good, they’ll buy it!”
Kavet “The Catalyst” Omo, 38 at-risk-youth worker
“The Y generation is getting older and realizing MP3s sound weak compared to the analog sound of vinyl. If you can hear music and also feel it, that is awesome.”
Robert Moderow, 70 landscape consultant
“It’s not like collecting stamps. You can hear it; you can read the sleeve. I want to make sure everybody understands how important records are to the past, the present and the future.”
Roger Bong, 27 record-label owner & cinematographer
“Music is made to be shared and enjoyed by everyone. That’s the irony of record collecting—if you’re not doing anything with it, who’s benefiting?”
Back to Black Friday is on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Major and indie labels will put out exclusive indie-store-only vinyl new releases and issues.
Visit recordstoreday.com to get the list.
Hawai‘i Record Fair 2016 is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, July 31, 2016.
Visit hawaiirecordfair.com for updated information.
Friends of the Library of Hawai‘i’s seventh annual book and music sale will be held Jan. 16 to 18, 2016. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday.
Visit friendsofthelibraryofhawaii.org for location information.
Record Store Day, held on the third Saturday in April each year, will be on April 16 in 2016.
Find a list of participating stores for this worldwide event at recordstoreday.com.