Exclusive Interview|Jojo Walker – Director of E Komo Mai Festival Hawaii

E Komo Mai

How are you, how has your year been?

Busy – fun – expansive! The years really do just keep getting quicker and quicker don’t they! 

You run a club in San Fran but soon launch a festival – why make that move? 

It’s been part of the plan for a while. Gina Milano (Managing Partner of Halcyon & Co-Founder of E Komo Mai) and I have travelled across the globe together to many of the pre existing destination festivals and we know what we think works (and what doesn’t!) from the overall format. She has a long standing history with Hawaii and I have a lot of experience running events on remote island locations, plus we have combined current skillset in dance music events through us running Halcyon together, so the idea naturally developed and until the E Komo Mai concept was born! Tommy Speers has joined us to become a trio of partners too which is a great combined skillset between us. We’re activating 7+ pre-existing venues for multiple events across the weekend, rather the 1 space/1stage festival vibe in the same spot. It’s quite unique in that way.

Waikiki is the perfect location as most of the spaces are walkable from each other, and it’s right in the city, by the beach and gets an incredible sunset every day. There is a solid dance music scene locally, which has been seeking a production of this level for some time, plus it is accessible for USA, Australian and Japanese festival travelers – so in many ways it just feels like the perfect winter festival set up! 

E Komo Mai

Tell us about some of the eco-conscious initiatives you have at the festival?

E Komo Mai aims to be eco-minded, partnering with select Hawaiian charitable organizations and brands to encourage sustainable living and eco-friendly travel. Activations we are currently developing include a yoga and beach cleanup with Travel2Change, water stations using reusable cups through the Kokua Foundation, waste diversion through Sustainable Coastlines + Zero Waste Hawaii, an ocean friendly restaurant list through Surfrider Foundation and a plant a tree campaign with Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative.  

Tell us about the different venues you are using and why do it this way rather than building a traditional set of stages and tents?

We want people to really get a taste for Hawaii, to know they are there rather than just in a festival field – so this is a great way to do it! E Komo Mai means “All Are Welcome” and we really embedded this within our approach – using venues which already exist supports the local community and culture and also allows us to be creative with the event production and take the attendees on a journey through the weekend, rather than being in one location throughout. It will also keep the energy flow, which is important for us, and enable the weekend to feel Hawaiian, rather than a generic festival in a field which replicates all over the world and doesn’t identify with the geography.

Each venue has a different vibe and we will be adding to each one with the E Komo Mai production and vibe. The majority of the action is in Waikiki, which is great as there is so much to do there and it’s only 20 mins from the airport – keeping logistics simple for attendees is key at events like this! 

Do you involve the local community at all in terms of DJs and producers, or even suppliers and with the infrastructure side?

All of the above and more! We will have majority local suppliers, plus a lot of local promoters supporting the event and of course local DJs playing sets too. The Queen Kapiolani Hotel (our host hotel) pool deck will have music programming all day across the four days, where festival guests can relax and recharge, meet other festival goers and enjoy music – many of the Hawaiian artists and suppliers will be here hanging out too. 

Who do you want to attract and where are they from? And do you attract those people with a certain sound and line-up? What is that sound, what’s the vibe you’re aiming for?

Our team have spent a lot of time on the ground in Hawaii talking to tastemakers about what the islanders want, so we’re well informed in terms of that. I know the USA’s musical taste extremely well, and the Australian market. I’ve also factored in what I think will compliment the festivals concept, and which artists will really embrace what we are curating on a personal level. So it’s a combination of all those things. Phase 1 has DJ Dan and Doc Martin – both of which have long standing history in Oahu and are seasoned favorites of the USA and Burning Man – plus truly brilliant, highly experienced and fun DJ’s to experience. Mikey Lion will be joining them bringing the Desert Hearts vibes, and then we have Sacha Robotti and Kill Frenzy who both bring a slightly more Dirtybird vibe into the mix.

Overall my ambition was to bring solid artists who I know always perform, and each one of these does that and more, so I’m excited. The DJs will all be coming in for a few days and attend the different parties as well as their own. We have another round of acts being announced soon so eyes peeled! 

E Komo Mai

Which parts of Hawaii and local culture do you want to show off with the festival? Will there be cultural trips and activities away from the music itself?

Absolutely – we will have daily daytime programming which includes activities and experiences unique to Hawaii, immersing attendees in the customs, art and mana (spirit) of the islands. This will be traditional Hawaiian things such as a Hawaiian BBQ, Lei making, Hula classes, Tropical cocktail making, surf lessons, pop up shops with local Hawaiian clothes and products, and much more for people to get involved with should they wish. The full schedule of daytime programming will be announced in the website soon.  

What plans do you have to grow the festival?

We have so many ideas and tentative plans! That being said, all our focus in on the first event right now, then once year 1 is under our belt, we’ll truly be able to craft the best direction for growth. 

What else have you got coming up/are you looking forward to?

I manage Crackazat, a Jazz-house producer who performs an incredible live set up. He has some really cool things going on for 2020. He remixed one of the tracks on Moon Boots new album, which is coming out in early 2020 on Anjunabeats. Jimpster’s Freerange records are also releasing a Crackazat 3 track EP+remix from Patrice Scott, in February. Then there will be some touring, more remixes etc. I’ll be curating events at Elsewhere NYC in 2020 also, including the first ever NYC Defected label party, which I’m thrilled to have booked for them on March 27. Come find me and say hello if you’re in NYC on that date!

Tickets for E Komo Mai Festival can be found HERE!

Director of Communications, Azita Lotfi
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