“Play music…have fun!”
Kimo Bell was raised with music and hula. His dad played and mom danced. The family would often gather at potluck dinners with their neighbors, and eventually, the instruments would always come out. Kimo looked forward to those nights. He says, “The old timers called out keys like ‘G and Second G, C and Second C’, and the young bucks would get lost at first, but by listening, they eventually figured it out.”
In Intermediate school, he joined the orchestra so he could learn to play the upright bass. He now had a spot at the potluck Kanikapila! His dad learned by listening to records, slowing it down and figuring it out, so Kimo did the same. He’d turn on the radio and just play along. He recalls, “It wasn’t always right, but I kept trying and adjusting.” That evolved into playing with friends in Kimo’a first gig in the 9th grade and getting to record on the first two “Brown Bags to Stardom” albums.
In 1987, Kimo Bell played at Sparky’s on Kapiolani Boulevard (Nordstrom’s location now) where musicians hung out and many were discovered. Everyone knew of it as, kind of a “dive” that Hawaiians loved. Stopping by after work on a nightly basis, policemen, who sat on the left, and firemen on the right, would come to watch them entertain.
Weymouth Kamakana, one of the original founders of Na Mea Ho‘okani, began playing with Kimo after being away for years. He says that he believed, “Kimo’s unique quality that enabled him to perform with many of Hawai‘i’s great entertainers, was evident in his ability to play the fluid bassline and sing along with any style that was being played.”
Weymouth continues: “Working with a wide variety of artists calls for many fine skills such as understanding musical styles, variations, nuances and other performers, demonstrating his natural capacity to make all of it effortless and fluid. I believe that Kimo has an understanding, the skills, insight and desire to bring all of these gifts to Na Mea Ho‘okani.
Kimo felt fortunate to have performed with many great groups and had the honor of recording with Chucky Boy Chock, Brother Noland and Tony Conjugacion, Na Leo Pilimehana, Hapa, Herb Ohta Jr., Del Beazley, Sistah Robi Kahakalau, Keli‘i Kaneali‘i and Pilikia.
Kimo Bell’s philosophy reflects his joy in music, “I believe playing music is just that…playing. Have fun, listen to what’s going on, observe your surroundings, take it all in, enjoy yourself. This is why I am a part of Na Mea Hookani, to help others learn so they can enjoy music.”