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Every Hawaii vacation has its own soundtrack. You won’t hear it anywhere else. You can’t take the immediate intimacy of the sounds of the surf or the birdsong of the forest home with you, except in your heart and mind (or a low-fi social media clip, perhaps). That internal soundtrack should include live music in Hawaii.
The HAT Blog was out to see live music in recent days, and we’re reminded that in the interest of buying local in Hawaii, you can listen local, too. You can find Hawaii’s local music anywhere in the world with online access. You can take Hawaii with you wherever you go and support Hawaii’s local musicians while you’re at it.
I’ll not make any pretense of objectivity here. The musician I went to see is the son of a bar industry friend who is embarked on a brave and surely fraught quest to become a career musician. I’ve been a professional musician here in Honolulu for just about all of my adult life. I have a vested interest in the prospering of musicians in Hawaii.
(And I know enough to not name anyone in particular here, because there are simply too many and I’ll leave far more artists out than I can possibly include. Honolulu Magazine recently published a useful but not nearly complete guide to live music on Oahu.)
I don’t “gig” much anymore, although my band performed about a week back, in front a thronging and frothing crowd of revelers seething for the kinetic energy of live music. It was glorious. It was also a cruel, 3-hour sprint of a reminder that I’m not as young as I used to be. Talk about a weak back! (Sorry.)
Working musicians in Hawaii were and remain among those most adversely affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic. Venues stopped booking. Many shuttered permanently. Music fans on the other side of the stage were deprived of the joys and healthy abandon of surrendering to the sounds of a solo act or band “playing their ass off” (if I may be permitted to be indelicate about it). Yes, yes…there are countless others who suffered worse. But I’ve already forsaken objectivity on the matter because Hawaii’s music matters, too.
If you are vacationing in Hawaii, you’d have to plan to avoid live music. From the aunties and uncles in maile lei and muumuus warbling at the airport arrival gate to the local braddah belting out pop hits at the bar in Waikiki or Lahaina or wherever visitors visit, music is an inextricable part of the Hawaii experience. It’s a living art and it’s blue-collar work at the same time.
After seemingly endless months of enforced silence, Hawaii’s performers have returned to the stage with a vanguard of young indie acts leading the charge at a growing number of venues on every island, in every genre. Deejays, singer/songwriters, and bands are finding their feet again. Hawaii’s visitors are vital to their success.
That person with the guitar and microphone at the coffee shop has a social media account. Send them a “cash” tip via the internet. That duo playing Hawaiian music classics by the resort pool cocktail bar have their own original music. Stream it on whatever platform you prefer, buy a single for a buck. Buy their album. That group of youthful misfits banging away amidst the red bricks of Honolulu’s Chinatown Arts District has to go to class in the morning. Or work. Pay the cover, if there is one, and thank them for their commitment.
You can support local music in Hawaii from any place in the world with an internet connection. I’ve bobbed along on a ferry in the Mediterranean Sea listening to the latest release from a musical colleague I went to high school with. I’ve bought a Hawaii band’s punk rock album online for a new friend I made in Ireland. “We have the technology!”
Supporting Hawaii’s local music is not a whole lot different than visiting a Hawaii artist’s gallery or dining at a mom-and-pop restaurant or plate lunch joint. It transcends the “vacation” experience and puts you in the heart of Hawaii’s artistic and cultural community. And it’s easier to do now than it ever has been. Buy local in Hawaii. Listen local anywhere.
Posted by: Jamie Winpenny on Mar 29, 2023