Kera Whewell wants to change the face of the Solomon Islands’ music industry

Byron Bay

15 Sep 2019

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15

Sep

Kera Whewell wants to change the face of the Solomon Islands’ music industry

15 Sep 2019

Kerabangara (Kera) Whewell is one of only a few people from the Solomon Islands to ever study a formal education in audio. Currently studying at SAE Creative Media Institute in Byron Bay, Kera has a unique vision to change the landscape of the music industry in the Solomon Islands. 

Kera’s journey to musician, record producer and engineer, label owner, artist manager and current Bachelor of Audio student began in the Solomon Islands where he was raised by his Solomon Islander mother. While Kera grew up in the Solomon Islands, his Dad is Australian and Kera is an Australian Citizen also serving in the Australian military as an ASLAV (Australian light armoured vehicle) driver in the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, C squadron.

Open and honest about the PTSD that he was left with after his tour of Afghanistan, Kera says that music and poetry was an escape while he was in the military and a way to heal when he returned to the Solomon Islands. With an interest in music since he was young, Kera became more serious about rapping and producing music after being discharged from active service and officially started his label Warrior Rekordz four years ago at his home in Honiara. 

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“It started with me being a one man show, as simple as uploading my videos on Youtube and creating a Facebook page. I made an EP in the Solomon Islands and toured it to great success. The opening acts were my mates and cousins, I kept it in the family and continue to do so, we are currently operating as a network of friends. We started as a collective, it started to get big so we are transforming it into a viable business that is getting a following across the Pacific.” 

Initially representing himself, Kera quickly signed his friend and neighbour Bibao, who he says has got massive star potential with over a million views on Youtube. 

Kera now represents four artists through Warrior Rekordz, with a diversity of genres from hip hop, island reggae and pacific music and as the label expanded, so has the operation with a small external site set up on a property near their house in Honiara as well as another studio in Gizo.  

While entrusting Bibao to look after the Honiara studio, Kera’s cousins are taking care of the Gizo site while Kera oversees all aspects of the business from Byron Bay. 

“I have taught Bibao how to do the production and mix the vocals and taught the other artists how to record themselves, they also collaborate with local producers so they can be fairly self sufficient while I am in Australia.”

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And while Kera has some downtime between trimesters, he corresponds back and forth via email with the artists producing songs while working in the small studio he has in his home in Byron. 

“When this started to become a viable idea, I asked my brother Aniri to be involved. He has just completed a Diploma of Film, so he can film and edit video clips and content for marketing. He is also currently doing a Diploma of Audio which he will finish before I finish my bachelor so he will go back earlier while I’m still studying and take over the running of one of the studios. Once we are both back we will have one of us stationed at both the Honiara and Gizo studios.” 

Kera’s story caught the attention of Marc Eiden, a founding member of record label Elefant Traks and filmmaker with the ABC. Finding Kera on Youtube, Marc reached out to him to feature in an episode of the documentary series titled Solomon Islands Change Makers (supported by PACMAS and implemented by the International Development team at ABC). Filmed in both Honiara and Byron Bay, the documentary episode explores what led Kera to create Warrior Rekordz. 

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ABC Filmmaker Marc Eidan with Kera Whewell in the SSL 900K studio at SAE Byron Bay

“Music is embedded in our culture in the Solomon Islands but there is no music industry. It is hard for artists to be recognised and make money. I just want to help the artists get the recognition they deserve.” 

“There is currently a mini music revolution happening in the Solomon Islands, the live music scene is starting to take off and people are starting to take it more seriously, so we want to get it to a place where other artists can hire the studio and have the capacity to record large Solomon Island bands with the whole crew in there!”

“But trying to polish it up and take it to the next level, it’s hard when you're among the first to set up formal recording studios and a professional industry. I’m buying little bits of equipment here and there to fit out our studio back home. It's a slow process but it will be worth it.”

In order to make his dream a reality, Kera has had to make hard sacrifices in order to fulfil his vision. Leaving behind his partner and 2 year old son in the Solomon Islands, Kera has brought his five year old daughter over with him. 

“I have my partner and my son back home in Solomon Islands and my daughter is here in Australia with me so she can go to school here. It's so tough being apart, it's been two years since I’ve left the Solomon Islands but I try and get back as often as I can, I've been twice this year and before I go back permanently I want to bring them here for a holiday, so they can experience Byron with me.”

“My partner and my family, everyone gets involved, everyone puts up with my dream so I’m determined to make it work for all of us.”


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