Courtesy Aloha Got Soul

Lundy’s ‘Rhythm of Life’ goes live

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Place
Text Gary Chun

“You gotta go with the flow.”

Mike Lundy's abiding philosophy of life is reflected in the title of an album he did more than a quarter century ago, called The Rhythm of Life. A working musician since his teens, the man has kept his ear tuned to the beat of his own life. His friendly and welcoming demeanor has kept him on an even keel, always appreciative of the good things that come his way.

The R&B/funk gem of a record was the culmination of his life's work early on. It represented what he was grooving to and it was good. And it went nowhere, practically unheard.

It certainly wasn't the fault of the product—it boasts solid songwriting and musicianship, well-mixed and mastered in Los Angeles. But the project's budget didn't allow for promotion, and Lundy and his creative partners certainly didn't have the scratch to influence local radio program directors to get the songs played over the airwaves.

With boxes of The Rhythm of Life still languishing in some unknown location on the island, hidden like some long-lost treasure (literally—the international collectors' market has an asking price of a couple of thousand dollars per rare copy) and the album's masters destroyed in a fire early on, it would be understandable if Lundy were bitter about what could've been ruefully remembered as a total fiasco.

But he's gone with the flow, and that flow led to a fortuitous meeting in 2013 with local collector Roger Bong, who has a rare groove project called Aloha Got Soul, aimed at discovering and celebrating the music that Lundy and his contemporaries were making in the island state in the late 1970s to mid-1980s. While Lundy may not be a fan of sampling, it was Bong's interest in it and beat-making that led him to Lundy's music, which he first heard on a mixtape by DJ Muro of Japan. Hearing those tracks helped spur Bong to do Aloha Got Soul.

Now Bong has returned the favor in kind. Two years later, The Rhythm of Life was being reissued through a careful rollout campaign. First, a 7-inch vinyl single. Bong chose the album's title track backed with “Tropic Lightning”—the exact same songs Lundy had in mind years ago for the leadoff single that never materialized. (Another fact that makes Lundy believe that meeting and receiving help from Bong was Kismet, the two share a Nov. 28 birthday.)

Using Lundy's copy of his album, The Rhythm of Life was remastered on the mainland and is available on digital, vinyl and CD formats. (To listen to and purchase The Rhythm of Life album, click here.)

It has renewed interest in Lundy's music here and the world over. “This was a shot in the dark,” says Lundy. “I didn't expect any of this.”

And come Saturday, the waking dream continues for him. As part of Aloha Got Soul’s two-year celebration of monthly party Soul Time, Lundy will finally be able to share his music in a live band setting again (the last time he performed the record live with a full band was in the Philippines in 1989) with a crack backup trio made up of bassist Alika Lyman, drummer Scott Shafer and keyboard player Jeanette Trevias, the latter of whom Lundy spent time playing gigs with on the Star of Honolulu cruise ship.

“I told them I don't want this to be a history project,” Lundy says emphatically of the upcoming show. “I want us to play what was a reflection of that time, not a note-by-note copy of it. I want us to have a good time and be creative with my tunes.”

When he's not doing music, Lundy's day job for the past 16 years has been with Lanikai Meals on Wheels as a staff driver and helping with what he calls “office triage” for the non-profit.

“Other than playing, I like this job. It helps bring redemption to seniors' lives by providing them with food,” he says.

Lundy's steady work ethic came at early age when, while attending McKinley High School, he worked nights as part of a teenaged band called the Deltones. They pumped out covers of Earth Wind & Fire and James Brown songs and the like on the service club circuit on O‘ahu. When he turned 18, during the height of the Vietnam War, he was able to get a draft deferment by proving to the draft board that, without him in the band, it would be a financial hardship to his partners, namely his bandmates and their parents.

After the Deltones' disbandment, Lundy did gigs for a decade during the heyday of the Waikiki showrooms. As a member of the band Power and Light, Lundy would go on to perform alongside his bandmates in opening slots for visiting acts like the 5th Dimension, the Byrds, the Rascals and O.C. Smith (he of “Little Green Apples” fame).

Lundy tells a special story he rarely relates that happened during that time. He and another band he was working with called Pegasus had just got back from the road and were doing a Waikiki gig at the Foxy Lady lounge in the Don the Beachcomber restaurant. He got word from an industry friend that Rufus' Chaka Khan and a backup singer, who were in town for a concert, were going to come by to relax after their show.

Lundy didn't believe it until the two did, in fact, show up. “She wanted to jam with the band, so she played some drums. Somehow, talk of doing Rufus' hit 'Sweet Thing' came up, and I was the only one who knew how to play the song. So Chaka Khan decides, OK then, it'll be just me and her. So as we're doing the song, she's holding my arm while I'm doing backup.

“Afterwards, she told me in confidence that 'you got an incredible sense of rhythm,' and that has stayed with me ever since.” Lundy reflects on this with a disbelieving shake of the head. He was fortunate then and that good fortune remains to this day. Go with the flow.


Mike Lundy and band performing songs from The Rhythm of Life
Part of Aloha Got Soul's two-year celebration of Soul Time In Hawaii
Bevy, 661 Auahi St., Honolulu
Sat., March 26, 4pm–2am
Free, 21+
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