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Songwriter, producer and publisher BOBBY PILEGGI is helping to bring modern Hawaiian Island music to the world
Usually, when someone wants to make it in the music business, they head to one of the world's foremost music hubs, like New York City or Los Angeles, to throw their hat in the ring. Bobby Pileggi, a former disc jockey and a budding songwriter, headed 6,000 miles away from Manhattan to the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i to make his mark. After falling in love with the climate and the culture, he met a kindred soul in Brad Thayne, a journeyman guitarist and recording engineer who was building a studio there. The two decided to collaborate on a music project inspired by the traditional chants of the island's residents, and it set Pileggi's life on a unexpected new path that currently finds him as one of Hawaii's major music publishers (Robert Sterling Music) and one of its greatest champions for its modern music.
In 1997, Pileggi found himself on Moloka'i collaborating with Brad Thayne on a compilation of music created by the island's musical artists. "When word got out that we were doing the project, I would go to the supermarket and people would come up to me in the vegetable aisle singing songs. Everybody wanted to get into the act, as Jimmy Durante would say."
When the album, Moloka'i Now, came out, it was a success, winning some high-
"He was a nine year-
Labrado's first solo album, Shaka the Moon, came out in Hawaii, and was a significant success. It not only created a star in Labrado but it showcased Pileggi's songs.
"The only reason I did it was to get my songs out there," says Pileggi. "I realized the only way to make this work is that you have to be a promoter, a producer, a manager, and you have to find an artist."
Another tragedy struck when Thayne was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Then Pileggi moved full-
Says Pileggi, "The people on Moloka'i really urged me to stay. So we decided to do Darrell's second album, Someday. On that record we covered Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster (Jammin')." The sales of the CD charted Darrell on the Billboard Top 10 Dance chart at #8 and was reviewed in Billboard's "New and Noteworthy." The phones were ringing off the hook."
They then released another Labrado track, "I Want My Island Girl," written by Bobby Pileggi and Chris Pati which did even better, charting on Billboard's Top Dance Singles at #6. Labrado appeared on MTV. For Pileggi, it established him as a successful songwriter and publisher.
"Before Brad died he and Lanai Tabura, a former Clear Channel P.D. and current Robert Sterling Music publishing partner, had encouraged me to get involved with ASCAP," says Pileggi. "So I signed up. A year later I got my first check. Then I got another. At that point I decided to start helping local people out in the business of music. In the five years that I've been doing this, I've helped sign over 50 songwriters and publishers to ASCAP. They are almost all from Hawaii and they are island, reggae, hip hop and R&B artists."
Pileggi believes that the time is right for original Hawaiian music to become a major player on the world stage. "There's a hidden culture here that is being unearthed," he says. "The majority of the music that is played here is what is called Hawaiian Island Contemporary or Jawaiian. It is like tropical reggae, or island pop. What I want to do is help get the #1 song from Hawaii be an original song in a movie...and I could have the guy already... He could be Kip Lukela Keala from Ekolu or any other fine writer from our catalogue. They have the music, they have the voice and they already have acclaim here in Hawaii."
Pileggi, who says that his "island pop" is really breaking through in a big way in Japan (thanks to his Japan connection, former Hawaiian Sumo legend and ASCAP songwriter Konishiki) hopes the greater U.S. market will discover his music's pleasures. If it does, he, his writers and his ASCAP publishing catalog can help take credit for it.
"We have 45% of the market share of original Hawaiian island music," says Pileggi. Most of it is set up through ASCAP and I'm very loyal to ASCAP. I call ASCAP the A-
— Erik Philbrook
Videographer, Web Advisor-
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