Ohta Celebrates 20 Years Of Music

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - September 22, 2010
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Twenty years in any career is quite an accomplishment; 20 years in the music business is huge!

Congrats to Herb Ohta Jr. Although he looks not a day older than 20, I believe him when he says he celebrates two decades as a professional musician.

“I asked fans what I should do for my 20-year anniversary, and because I started off doing Hawaiian, they suggested that I go back to what I truly love,” says Ohta. “The funny thing is I’ve been wanting to do an all-Hawaiian album for the past six years, but I always end up throwing in contemporary songs and it didn’t turn out that way.”

His newly released album, Ukulele Nahenahe, is a collection of songs requested by fans that honor Ohta’s roots in traditional Hawaiian music.

“My process of choosing material was to gather all the songs and listen to them,” he says. “I listen to the songs, and whatever grabs me melodically, that’s the one I choose. And the way I arranged it and played it is a true representation of me right now.”

A few of the tunes are Pane Mai by Robert Cazimero, Lei Manoa by Barry Flanagan and Ka Pilina by Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, who also just released an album (more on Hewett next week).


Another anniversary gift comes in the form of another album - another tag team effort by Ohta and longtime friend Jon Yamasato. The two joined talents to create Take 1.

“Jon and I met many years ago, well before his days with Pure Heart,” says Ohta. “His style of guitar playing is a groove that I really enjoy playing to, and we have a cool friendship.”

The album took just a week-and-a-half to record, and features songs such as Nani Iapana, Hanalei Moon, Star of Gladness and Paniolo Country.

“Everything just clicked,” adds Ohta.

Next month the duo will head to Japan for a few performances. For more on Ohta’s upcoming performances or the albums, visit lelemusicproductions.com.

A lot can change in 20 years. For Ohta, he believes his most significant change isn’t in his playing, but rather his goals.

“When I first started I was young, and it was all about getting ahead in the music business,” he says. “As time evolved, my goals

have changed. Now I’d much rather have the ukulele remembered than myself.

“I’ve also grown to realize something that my father has always told me, which is when you play instrumental music, that the song is the most important thing. Now, for me, it’s all about the song ...

What kind of Hilo girl would I be if I let an album rooted in my hometown release without a mention?

But really, this new album from The Malama Music Company, a label owned by Hilo High alumnus Ace Loughmiller, doesn’t need a Hilo tie to receive press. Represent released last month and has already hit No. 1 spots on radio stations throughout the state. And it’s continuing to hold strong.

The album features Big Island talents Sudden Rush, Ho’okoa, Kekai Boyz, Inik, Dynomite, Jace Saplan, Redd, Jamie McDonald and Positive Motion, along with a sprinkling of Oahu talent such as Kaipo Kapua and DJ Audissey.

“It’s almost all Big Island artists and the art on the album is all Big Island landmarks,” says Loughmiller. “But the album represents us - a generation, as a culture, each artist and also me as a producer and musician.”


The album hopes to bridge the gap between old and new Island music with a collection of original songs, all written by the artists performing them.

“I want to put out music that inspires the next generation,” adds Loughmiller. “When I create albums, the most important thing is what feels good. I want songs that will have an impact and are lasting.”

Nearly half of the album’s songs have found their way to radio top-hits charts, such as Genuine by Loughmiller, Sudden Rush and Ho’okoa; Ups And Downs by Ho’okoa; Put It On You by Dynomite; I Wanna by Kaipo Kapua; and Perfect World by Kekai Boyz.

“The album has really taken off and the response has been amazing,” says Loughmiller.

The album, currently available at malamamusic.com and iTunes, will be available in stores statewide by the end of the month. A portion of the proceeds from each CD sold will go to help Samantha Channels, a 34-year-old mother of four who is a melanoma survivor and continues to battle the illness with treatments and by spreading awareness.

“I found Samantha through her blogs,” says Loughmiller. “She’s from Keaukaha and now lives in Waimea. Her story and her fight are amazing, and I wanted to help.”

That’s what Malama is all about.

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