As Paulele Alcon looked at the island entertainment scene in 2010, it seemed to him that Hawaii’s Jawaiian and reggae artists weren’t getting their due. Neither were their fans.
The music — pop and hapa-haole music played with reggae rhythms — was as popular as ever. Radio stations played “island music” pretty much 24/7, but the groups that made the music didn’t have many places where they could play it.
Alcon made a move to turn things around, starting the Revive the Live campaign. In 2014 he presented the first Revive the Live Music Festival.
This year, Alcon and his company, Hawaii’s Finest Clothing, are putting on a sixth annual Revive the Live Music Festival — a seven-hour showcase for some of Hawaii’s great Jawaiian and reggae music makers.
Revive the Live is an all ages event; there’ll be a keiki area with inflatable bounce castles, along with food and craft vendors, and a beer garden for adults.
Showcasing artists are:
>> Natural Vibrations aka “Natty Vibes” — one of the pioneers in Hawaii reggae circles since the mid 1990s, the band won the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts’ first Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Best Reggae Album in 1999. They won again in 2004 and 2008.
>> Three Plus — founding members Tanoa Kapana, Marcus Malepeai and Karl Zinsman Jr., won a reggae Hoku for their second album, “For You,” in 2003.
>> Ekolu — founding member Lukela Keala introduced the trio as recording artists with the release of “Down in the Valley,” produced by Troy Fernandez of the Ka‘au Creater Boys, in 1999. Ekolu won its first Hoku Award in 2005 and followed it with subsequent wins in 2006, 2010, 2012 and 2019
>> Ho‘onu‘a — Ho‘onu‘a began at the University of San Diego, where founding members Christian Yrizarry and Jared Keo met as freshmen in 1994. They recorded their first full-length album, “Feel Good Island Music,” in 1998.
>> Pati — fondly remembered for his Rukkus Entertainment Corp. album of 2000, “Nesian,” and its break-out song, “Island Girls,” in which he took a line from a hit by the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. and recycled it as “I love it when you call me big Pati.”
>> Norm — North Shore resident Norm “Just the Norm” Thompson made a great impression in 1998 with the release of his debut album, “Just the Norm,” and particularly with its lead-off song, the autobiographical anthem “Hawaiian Born.” The album was the first of three Thomson recorded for Bob St. John’s Neos Productions record label between 1998 and 2002. St. John released a “Best of Norm” collection in 2004.
>> Koa‘uka — originally a trio, Koa‘uka’s first album, “Tailgate Party,” came out in 1998. They expanded to four and then five members for three later albums. Several members of the group came out to retirement to play Revive The Live in 2016.
>> Nuff Sedd — aka Nuffsedd; the group members were born and raised on Maui and released their first recordings there in 2004.
>> Baba B — the Oahu musician blew up big in 1997 with autobiographical song, “Big Boy In Love,” also the title for his first album; another favorite was “Iz I Wanna Be Like You,” written as a tribute to Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole. Baba showed his romantic side on his second album, “Local Boy,” in 1999 with a pair of love songs, “Lehuanani” and “I Love You Means I Love You,” and also spoke for many Hawaii residents with a third song, “This Island’s Too Crowded.”
THE “BIG BOY” IS STILL IN LOVE
Twenty-two years after West Side born-and-raised Baba B hit statewide with “Big Boy In Love,” the Waianae High School grad is still “big” and still very much in love. He married Misty, a girlfriend he sang about on his second album, in 2005; they have three grandchildren.
Las Vegas is where they live. Baba still thinks of Hawaii as “home” even though Hawaii doesn’t see him often.
“I’ve been working (all these years), but I work more in Guam, Saipan, Japan (and) the mainland,” Baba said, calling from Waianae where he was rehearsing for a CD release party.
“I’ve been home for a while because I had a couple of graduation parties and the party in Waianae, and because Paulele (Alcon) was nice enough to have me back for Revive The Live. I’m grateful to be on that show as well.”
Wherever Baba plays, “Big Boy In Love” is the most-requested song of all his originals.
“That’s the Number One song that people ask me to sing,” he said. “A lot of people in Waianae where I stay know that song, and when the little kids see me they say, ‘There goes ‘West Side Pride.’”
Writing songs that people want to hear is something that Baba is very much proud of, he said. He’s had a satisfying career.
After deciding in third grade that he wanted to be an entertainer, Baba made the most of his time in school developing skills he’d need to make it happen. He sang in the chorus, joined the choir and played in the band. He also put in as much time as possible on the ukulele.
Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole — also big, also a talented ukulele player — was an inspiration. Baba shared his feelings about “Uncle Israel” with a song titled “Iz I Wanna Be Like You.”
“When I wrote the song Uncle Israel was still alive, and I got to sing it to him over the phone but never right in front of him,” Baba said. “He has definitely been a huge influence in my life and my career. He goes down as probably my favorite artist of all time.”
Kamakawiwo‘ole died of weight-related health problems in 1997 at the age of 38. Kamakawio‘ole had actually warned Baba “no be big like me,” and earlier this year Baba, 43, took the warning to heart.
“I‘d actually become a ‘huge boy in love,’” Baba said. “I went up to almost 700 pounds — 672 pounds at my heaviest — but a few months ago I took my life back. I wanted to lose this weight, and so in the last nine weeks I lost 78 pounds. It’s been helping me with the music as well because I can be a little bit more mobile.
“One of my goals is to be able to dance on stage some day.”
— John Berger, Star-Advertiser