Pounding music and flashing multicolored lights greeted patrons of the BYU–Hawaii Seasider Grill at their “DJ on the Beat” Event featuring Laie local DJ Sena on Thursday, Jan. 17. Students danced through the Seasider as they waited in line to order food and treat themselves with ice cream and various snacks.
With his cap on backward, Kurt Kosena Fonoimoana-“DJ Sena,” wore baggy red sweatpants, bright white shoes, and the form fitting black jacket he wore on the night of the event as he bobbed and weaved to the beats of the music. He said he loved the Seasider because it’s a safe place for students to meet, have fun, and maybe even fall in love.
“This is my old hang out,” said DJ Sena. He mingled with the crowd, asking for requests because he said he wanted to play the songs students wanted to hear as long as they were in line with BYUH standards.
When asked why that was important to him, DJ Sena said his priority was to play music his clients like. “A lot of DJs don’t understand the Church culture or factor it into their selection of music. I do a lot of parties outside of the Church where my clients … request songs that might not be morally right for our church. That’s my job, it’s what they hire me for … but when you do something [at BYUH] you have a selection of songs that is acceptable for the university and the demographic here. It’s important to me because these are my clients and I’m a member [of the Church] as well.”
DJ Sena said he’s been entertaining people for most of his life but he didn’t start to DJ professionally until about two years ago. “I was called into a bishopric here on campus, and our bishop bought a sound system and had me learn how to run it so we could do our own ward and stake dances. That’s where I started… and then I started to branch off, and now I actually charge some good money to do weddings at prestigious hotels like Turtle Bay Resort. It’s been a huge blessing.”
Sena was quick to say he doesn’t do it for the money. “I started off doing it for many years for free. I still don’t charge as much as as other DJs. I grew up dancing at the Polynesian Cultural Center around music. I love music, I love dancing. So I enjoy creating an environment and an opportunity, especially for the students here, to be able to mingle and meet and hopefully date and get married one day.”
He said he enjoys the ambiance of weddings because it’s fun to take his wife along so they can reminisce about their own. Sena went on to express his appreciation for the Seasider and its manager. “My good friend, my cousin Pres, he runs the Seasider. I’m really excited and proud of what he’s been doing here.
“He’s generating excitement with the menu and the morale and environment he’s creating gives students the opportunity to come and hang out here verses going elsewhere. They could be going all these different places where there’s alcohol and opportunities to get into trouble … so he’s trying to create an environment that’s safe for our young single adults.”
As a member of the bishopric in a ward full of young single adults, Sena said he is more aware than ever of the challenges the young adults face. He talked about how different it was for young single adults today than it was for him growing. “For my generation, we had to leave the house … but for your generation, you don’t even have to leave your bedroom to get into trouble.
“I think Pres is providing an opportunity for different clubs and different people on campus to come and show their talents in different ways whether it’s stand-up comedy, karaoke, live music, or even … bingo. “They can come and win prizes, free food, and just hang out and mingle. He’s here trying to create an atmosphere to keep our young singles safe. There’s so much in your world that’s distracting you from staying on the path. There’s a lot of things out there that Satan has his hand in.
“I love this venue and I fully support it. I came out here for free on behalf of Pres, as well as BYUH. Like I mentioned before, I grew up here. We called it the snack bar and the game room. Everyone used to hang out here before. This was the spot. Pres wants to bring that back.”
President “Pres” Galea’i, manager of the Seasider, said he organizes these events because, like DJ Sena said, he wants to make the Seasider a place where students can come hang out and kick back. “We try to do [events] regularly. Usually every Thursday night, or every other Thursday night. I’m trying to raise awareness that we’re open late at night. It’s usually slow this time at night, so it’s good to bring more people in. The more people who come in, the more business we get.”
On his relationship with DJ Sena, Galea’i said he and the two of them go way back. “We all grew up in the community… He came in, he wanted to join in on the whole movement that we’re trying to do here in the Seasider… This is our hang out spot. To be able to give back… that’s pretty cool. It’s a huge blessing for me.” Galei said he also wants to give up-and-coming artists a chance to showcase their talents, which is another reason he likes to host live music events like “DJ on the Beat.”
Bree Dunn, a freshman from Colorado studying marine biology, was one of the first students to arrive at the Seasider on the night of the event.
“I had no idea they were doing this,” she said, admitting she and her friends had just come to get ice cream.
Breanne Barrett, a freshman from Colorado majoring in art, danced from the moment she walked through the door to the moment she walked out again. Barrett was accompanied by her friend, fellow freshman and communications major, Ashley Walker from Washington.
Barrett said she was excited when she heard the music because it was very bumpin. The two girls started to laugh. “It kind of drew us in,” Barrett explained.
“We just came for the ice cream,” said Walker as “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” by Carl Carlton started to play in the background.
“Yeah. We came for the ice cream, stayed for the music,” Barrett said.
When asked what songs they were requesting, Barrett said they wanted to hear “Yeah” by Usher and “Swalla” by Jason Derulo. Walker said they wanted to hear those two songs because you can dance to them.
BYUH students like Barrett and Walker weren’t the only ones to enjoy the event. One couple took their two small daughters onto the dance floor as a remix of “Step In The Name Of Love” by R. Kelly came out of the speakers. The music was loud and some students had to shout to be heard, but it only added to the atmosphere in the room.
Seasider employee Rilee Clark, a freshman from Utah majoring in biology, said events like “DJ on the Beat” happen pretty frequently. “Typically it’s a pretty good turnout. It depends on what the event is. I love it when we have live music, especially a DJ. I think it brings the vibe up a lot more and makes more people want to come.”