Devida Pi’ilani Lewis infused an upbeat vibe with a way of life ‒ almost by accident.
Now, East Valley residents are starting to notice.
The Ahwatukee Realtor co-hosts a show on iAloha Radio, an internet-based radio show that has brought fresh island sounds of Hawaiian and Reggae to the Sonoran Desert since 2013.
The station streams online 24/7 and currently gets about 5,000 downloads per month.
The AlohaZona Show is pre-recorded and airs 6-10 a.m. weekdays on ialoharadio.com or on the Tunein Radio app.
Lewis’ brother, Terrence "Big Teeze" Hallums, a well-known deejay for KCCN FM100 in Honolulu, flew to the mainland to help her build a Tempe studio and to show her how to run the equipment.
Hallums and Afro-Rican musician Derrick Rahming were played with Hi-Town DJ’s, a group that had hits in the late 1990s.
“My husband bought me radio equipment one Christmas,” Lewis said. “I didn’t know what to do with it.”
The station has gained traction over the last few years with topics that range from commercial real estate to Kanye West.
In fact, Reggae talent Pato Banton and Raging Fyah, a five-piece band from Kingston, Jamaica, have been in the iAloha Tempe studio for the live interviews.
iAloha is a 2017 sponsor of the Arizona Aloha Festival, an event held March 11-12 at Tempe Beach Park. The festival celebrates Hawaiian and South Pacific Island heritage and cultures.
Lewis moved to Arizona in 1994 and is a traditional Hula dancer as well as ukulele player.
On the show, Lewis goes by Aunty Pi’i, a title which she says everyone can relate.
“Whether we are related or not, you always respect your aunty,” Lewis said. “They can scold you, they can spank you, they can cook for you or they can love on you ‒ just like your parents.”
Lewis, who works in commercial real estate, started the station when the radio industry was in a downturn. Until recently, she also worked for the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce, helping to recruit new members to the organization.
She said the station was a way to make extra income, and used her business background to get new clients for it.
“When the market was really slow in 2011, we had two choices, right?” Lewis said. “Get creative or go work at Target. Both are great options. But I decided to get creative.”
Co-host Malachi Crawford said he believes the music has attracted all cultures and backgrounds.
Crawford, a former football player at Arizona State University, admits that the Hawaiian/Reggae blend is fairly new to him.
But he said he understands the magnitude of what the music embodies ‒ unity and a sense of community. He said the music “erodes borders” as people develop a natural fondness for the island sounds.
“All people of all cultures tend to like it and gravitate towards it,” Crawford said.
He added that the station gives him an outlet to teach a “self-care model” he said people can use to improve their daily lives. The model includes: health, love, awareness and wealth for people to gradually improve their well-being.
“As people start to work in all areas -all four of them- their life becomes better,” he said.
“We literally are the epitome of Aloha,” Lewis said. “It encapsulates so much. not just hello and goodbye. Aloha is truly a way of life. Aloha is an attitude. Aloha is how you treat people. It’s how we live.”
Mesa resident Laura Bush met Lewis through the Black Chamber of Arizona, an organization that promotes local entrepreneurs. She said she took notice of the culture after a trip to Hawaii in 2010.
“I fell in love with Hawaiian music and Hawaii's Aloha culture--very friendly, inviting, diverse, and community-oriented,” Bush said.
She said Lewis genuinely wants to help listeners and business owners alike.
“Devida is great at networking and making networking easy for other people,” Bush said.
“She is a leader with a generous heart for connecting people and helping them be successful. She is also a genius at marketing and sales. She freely gives away her advice to help other entrepreneurs, which is why I'm really inspired by what she's doing with her radio station for listeners, business owners, and more.”
In the future, Lewis said that music and culture could come in the form of their own application via the iPhone App Store or through Google Play Store. The station is currently working on getting a television component where viewers can see the show in real-time.
Lewis said residents should give the station a listen for her personal connection to the audience.
“It’s always just you and me having a conversation,” Lewis said. “People are just eavesdropping in.”