With so much hype this week on new bands from Hawaii, you’re probably thinking that Island music today is only coming from the young guns. Don’t get it twisted.
You can’t forget music artists who have been in the game and have successfully dominated Island music, album after album, year after year. Coincidentally, the week we chose to highlight this band just so happened to be the week before the release of their newest album entitled, Simply For Love. So without further ado, The WHATITDO presents award-winning, hit-making band, Ekolu We were lucky enough to interview front man and lead singer Lukela Keala for this article.
Starting the Band, Forming Ekolu
Keala recalls how the band started in 1995. “We entered a competition called “Brown Bags to Stardom,” he said, “Akoni [Dellomes], Makapu [Ho’opii] and myself decided to sing. Unfortunately we lost to ballerina dancers; however, we still strived on to form the band. We sat down one day and asked each other, ‘what should our name be?’ When I looked at us, I saw three of us. In the Hawaiian language, the word Ekolu means the number “three.” [And] that’s where it all started.”
Ekolu’s debut album, Down in the Valley, came out in 1999 and was a breath of fresh air for Hawaiian music. “[We were] unique from other bands back then because majority of the music was Traditional Hawaiian music or acoustic-style music,” explained Keala. “Back then, they called it ‘Jawaiian’ music which was Reggae music with a twist from the Hawaiian artist. [Our] uniqueness was that we brought originality and a harmonic style of vocals that caught the ear of many young islanders.”
“After making the first album, the biggest lesson I learned was to create and write original music. I was able to put some songs that I composed on the Down In the Valley album; however, in the making of the second album, I had the opportunity to have control of what songs I would like to include. I composed six original songs on the second album and Akoni and Makapu each contributed an original song. This, I believe, was the beginning of forming a whole new genre of music – Ekolu music.”
“I feel that my creativity is still there and music seems to just come to me at different times of my day or even while I’m sleeping. Marketing our music has become more difficult due to the economy crisis and how the music industry is going. Marketing and promoting, I believe, is the most work because I also am the owner of our record label (Waiehu Records). I find that it takes ten times more energy to push our music and convince people to buy our music. Performing for me is the most fun part of this music business. I enjoy performing for people and the best part to me is looking out to the crowds of thousands and seeing them sing-a-long to our original music.”
The Evolution of Ekolu’s Music and Sound
Keala: We’ve done so much to the band to make things grow. We’ve added a horn section to the band and added some choreography. The band is just a whole different animal now…and we’re much wiser than we were ten years ago. We have a recipe for the fans that work. In the earlier years we had to figure out what that was by tweaking little things, but now, over 10 years later, I think we got the recipe down to the “T”!
The New Guys
TWID: Since you guys came out to the Island music scene 10 years ago, we’ve seen a steady flow of new Island bands especially within the last few years (Kolohe Kai, The Green, Rebel Souljahz, etc). How do you feel about the direction in which Island music is going with these new bands?
Keala: I personally have shared the stage with those bands you have listed and I enjoy their music, most definitely. Their style of music has given the world a second look towards our Polynesian artists and I feel that with more of this type of genre of music, Hawaii may get [the] recognition [it] deserves. I feel that the direction these bands are going in music only helps our Island artists get the exposure to share our style of music to the WORLD.
Next week Tuesday (3/29/11), Ekolu will be releasing their seventh album entitled Simply For Love. Keala promises that this album contains “the answers to [fans] everyday relationships and life in general – it’s love!” He also assures fans that they have kept the “same Ekolu recipe” for their music and sound. “If the recipe works, we don’t want to change it.” Amen!
One of the songs from the new album already helped Keala reach a life-long goal of his. “One of my goals in life . . . was to have one of my original songs in a Hollywood movie. I was blessed with the opportunity to have my song “Dancefloor” in the Adam Sandler movie “Just Go with It” [starring Jennifer Aniston and came out February of this year]. It was truly an honor sitting in the movie theater and hearing my song play in the background of a scene! What a blessing.”
What more can we say about this band? Ekolu has over ten years of experience in the Island music scene. They know exactly who they are and what works for them and their fans. They continue to succeed with flying colors and are still producing that one-of-a-kind Ekolu music sound that we’ve all come to love.
Follow Ekolu on Facebook and get their new album Simply For Love on their official website. You can also find the rest of Ekolu’s music on iTunes. And don’t forget to click the video button for Ekolu’s track “She’s Music to Me”!
Article written by: Pesi Kava
***Photos of Ekolu courtesy of Ekolu, Waiehu Records, Amazon, and Mele.com
***Videos courtesy of UnderGroundMusicList
***Photo of Pesi Kava courtesy of Mapuana Photography