Kalapana Live at the Hoku’s: “Naturally”

I’m sorry for saying this, but if you weren’t at the Hawaii Convention Center Ballroom to see Kalapana perform live at the 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, you’ll never know the feeling of hearing the band play “Naturally” that night.

In front of an audience who lauded (they were awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award) yet mourned for the band and its loss of an irreplaceable lead singer and composer, Mackey Feary, Kalapana was fullly spirited in laughter and love. 
Kenji Sato and Malani Bilyeu
Kenji Sato and Malani Bilyeu at the 2011 Na Hoku awairds,

‘Mourn’ isn’t the right word. Rejoiced, these people were celebrating in the music of Mackey. Huge smiles filled the room, a warming aura swept us as we watched the band members — Kenji Sato, Malani Bilyeu, DJ Pratt, Gaylord Holomalia and guests.

Emotion and energy was so great at that performance… Even now, days after as I’m browsing through the photos and recalling the memories, I’m brought to near tears of joy.

DJ Pratt & Saxophonist Todd Yukumoto
Saxophonist Todd Yukumoto and DJ Pratt jamming.

I feel so, so lucky to have seen them perform “Naturally” live as a tribute to Mackey. I mean, they had tons of gigs in the 1970s all the way through the 90s, but I had no idea back then.

Check out the rest of my Na Hoku photos on Flickr.

By the way, someone recorded part of Kalapana’s live performance and posted it to YouTube!

2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards: Quick Wrap-up

Here’s a quick overview of what I took away from the 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano awards festival.

2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards

These are some of the ideas floating around in my head after spending the past two days experience the Hokus and its new Mele Mei month of music (in its second year now). Stay tuned to Aloha Got Soul—a different kind of Hawaiian music blog!

What is the Na Hoku Awards Festival?

A few words from disc jockey Krash Kealoha:

Read all posts about the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.

The FINAL 70s Nightclub Reunion!

Honolulu’s 70s Nightclub Reunion is having one last celebration before bowing gracefully off stage! Don’t miss this show! It’s the final reunion, and it’s gonna be a blast!

But get this: Phase VII and Aura will be performing that night! Never mind me being the youngest guy there—even if everyone will be twice my age*—this is my first and last chance to ever see these bands play live. (*Local baby boomers are lucky they lived through Hawaii’s nightclub era! I really missed out. Thanks to Robin Kimura for being the mastermind behind these reunions!)

Hawaii 70s Night Club Reunion IX poster

Grand Ballroom tickets are already sold out, but tickets for the Garden Lanai are still available. After that it’s standing room only. Call 808-944-4330 to order!

Lonely nights aren’t always lonely

I’ve been craving this culture for so long, it’s a shock to be submersed in it again. Yup, I’m back in Hawaii and it’s sun, sun, sun! And Hawaiian music, all kines. True, much of Hawaii’s culture is wide out in the open: hula dancing, surfing, ukuleles, the shaka. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find people willing to share a part of paradise that so many miss out on.

I recently walked through the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center to take photos of people wearing Aloha Shirts. I came across were two men casually performing music outside of an ukulele shop, one wearing a red Aloha Shirt, the other a plain polo. From a distance I took a few images and listened as they played “Stairway to Heaven.”

The man wearing the Aloha Shirt asked me where I was from (he thought I was a mainlander). His extensive knowledge of Hawaii fashion proved the Aloha Shirt has a long history to explore. Since they were also playing music I told them I’m also interested in contemporary Hawaiian music like Mackey Feary. The baritone player’s face lit up:

Him: “You ever watch his videos on Youtube?”
Me (thinking he meant music videos, not slideshows with music): “I’ve seen ‘Nightbird'”.
Him: “He’s got plenty more than that, brah. Like this one—”

He started strumming the beginning chords of “Lullaby” and the music washed over me like my first swim in the Pacific after 5 long years. We looked at each other as we sung the opening lyrics in unison,

“Oh, those lonely nights // Is it still so warm? // Does the city lights hide a raging storm?”

I couldn’t believe I was hearing this live! Nobody could ever replicate Mackey in voice or spirit, but this guy played “Lullaby” with the same unrelenting conviction. When he finished the song, I told him I loved that album start to finish. Mackey’s songwriting was outstanding, we agreed, and the artist left a irreplaceable stamp on Hawaiian music. He was just about to play “Catherine“, one of my all-time favorites, but I didn’t have the time to stick around.

Music is a powerful force. And Hawaiian music carries a unique spirit through its people and songs. I’m grateful there are others out there who love this culture just like I do, it makes a lonely night in Honolulu not so lonely after all.

On with the Show: Vic Malo Live

Just as it did 30 years ago, Hawaii’s economy thrives largely on tourism, so it’s no surprise that many of the musicians I’ve mentioned were/are also entertainers. It’s hard work entertaining people 7 nights a week (see: Phase 7), because for vacationers in paradise every night’s a Friday night, right?

Vic Malo is no exception here. His handsome voice filled the now-closed Golden Dragon Lounge at the Hilton Hawaiian Village almost every night of the week (I’m guessing) for several years—during the mid/late 1970s through the mid 1980s. Those lucky enough to hear him in person were no doubt captivated by his performances. For those like me who weren’t around (or alive) back then, we have a live performance captured on cassette, circa 1985 (as evidenced by his cover of Lionel Richie’s “Hello”).

This cassette was probably distributed by Vic himself to the fans and friends he made at the Golden Dragon. I don’t think this was for sale in stores, though I could be wrong. Unlike his studio album, which was professionally recorded, this minimally designed, 25 year old cassette suffers from poor audio quality. But despite the setbacks, Vic’s gorgeous voice still shines with each song.

“Turtle Bay”

Beyond the standard fare targeted at visitors (“To You Sweetheart, Aloha”, “Little Grass Shack”, “Red Sails in the Sunset”) Vic’s humorous wit (“The Tourist”) and love for the islands (“Turtle Bay”) are his best. “The Tourist” is my favorite, with its clever lyrics that match the political sensibility of “Ode to Waiaihole & Waikane Valley“. I can’t verify whether these two are originals, although I know that “I Don’t Want to Leave the Islands”, a farewell for an unhappy departure, was his own.

“The Tourist”

“I Don’t Want to Leave the Islands”

You can hear glasses clinking during several songs, stirring images of a low-key night for lovers absorbed in Vic’s seductive voice. Without a doubt, he stole every woman’s attention away from her date and toward the stage. Below is an account by someone who knew Vic and had seen him perform many times.

Each night we would go out and do some tourist type thing and when we came back as we walked through the hotel we could hear this voice. My mom and her friend would stop and listen, looking through the slotted wall from the hallway. I can remember them saying, “Boy, I wish I could take him home in my suitcase”…

Vic’s singing drew folks to the door to listen and a lot would then come in…especially the women…

Vic was a very personable, nice guy and, as you can tell from his voice and picture, pretty sexy. Women of all ages were drawn to him and I think guys liked him too because of his charm. He would always talk to the people in the lounge, the typical “Where are you from?” He would tell stories about himself (one of 51 children, I believe), joke around, etc.

He used some kind of synthesizer/drum machine to accompany him during these performances, probably because he wanted to minimize distractions of live instruments and other musicians on set (plus it was more cost effective). Some songs feature the same drum beat, although I wonder whether he played a guitar live… I’m guessing he pre-recorded everything so that just he and his voice were the show.

This is just what I hoped for with the inception of Aloha Got Soul—the discovery of a rare recording which documents a time now past in Hawaii’s contemporary music history. This cassette offers a unique look into a world I know so little about. So consider this a relic rather than an must-have for audiophiles. I did my best to preserve optimal audio quality while removing as much noise as possible. I also created a CD/LP version of the cassette artwork for visuals’ sake. Looks pretty good, yeah?

Mahalo to those who helped bring this music to a wider audience. I don’t know all the exact details about Vic’s story at the Golden Dragon, so please send any corrections/additions via email or by leaving a comment here.

The Lei-Over @ thirtyninehotel, Jan. 16 2011

The Do-Over is coming to Honolulu in 2011!

What’s that? Hosted by Aloe Blacc & friends, the infamous LA-bred Do-Over parties feature world-class DJs throwing down seriously good tunes. To name a few appearances: Kon & Amir, J. Rocc, Osunlade, Prince Paul, Flying Lotus…and many more. Quantic, aka William Holland, even did a cumbia mash-up set

Which makes me wonder what’ll happen when Lei-Over’s mystery DJs spin that Hawaiian heat.

Quantic at the Do-Over, September 2010: (mp3 & video)

Here’s the poster:

Rockin’ the sunny jams and the classic tunes you grew up with, plus any other madness that comes out of the speakers

Lei-Over (Do-Over Hawaii edition)
Sunday, January 16, 2011
2pm-10pm FREE
39 N. Hotel St., Honolulu 96817

By the way…can somebody please video this event!? (I doubt I can be there.)
Good things will come to you in exchange, I promise!

Phase 7 (VII) – Windjammer

While surfing a few weeks ago, I came across another Phase VII album I hadn’t heard of, Windjammer. At first, I thought it read “Phase VIII”. Maybe it was a spin-off/new lineup of the original Phase 7? Hmm. The cover art wasn’t as intriguing Playtime either, so I gave it little attention and passed on.

Last night, I looked again and realized it really was Phase 7, not 8! (I must need glasses). Windjammer was their 2nd album, apparently. But what’s a “Windjammer”? Google hadn’t helped me a few weeks back… but as luck would have it, just last week YouTube user miken2av uploaded nearly 2+ hours of Phase VII performing in 1986 at where else? Aboard the Rella Mae cruiseship, operated by Windjammer Cruises Inc.! (The cruiseship operated up until the late 90s and I think is now out of service.)

(Video automatically jumps to 11min 40sec for the good stuff)

Phase VII playing on Windjammer Cruises Rella Mae. Sept 1986. Rella Mae was a 1000 passenger dinner cruise ship that used to leave from pier 7 Alaoha Tower. There was a sunset cruise and a moonlight cruise. I had the awesome experience of working there during my senior year in high school. –video description

I emailed Mike, asking for more info about Phase VII and Windjammer:

The band is the same one who released the album [Playtime]. They also had a record they sold on the ship. It had the picture of the ship on it. [Windjammer]

Obviously all those dinner cruise ships were targeted at tourists. Locals did go also but I would say mostly to either bring visiting relatives or to celebrate something special. Seems like it cost 40-50 dollars each if I remember right. They had an all you can eat buffet and all you can drink bar.

While I worked there they actually went out two times a night. Sunset cruise that featured the show “Ports of Paradise”. Then there was the moonlight cruise with “That’s Dancin”. The sunset cruise was most popular and during busy times would fill up regularly – 1000 people. The moonlight cruise was more of a Vegas scene. That one was more popular with locals looking to celebrate something special.

As expensive as it was I would say it wasn’t something that some locals went to over and over like going to a bar. The show was the same every night. The music for the dance set was pretty much the same.

The ship experimented with having a sit down dinner choice also that cost more money and had better food and a private bar.

The above music probably won’t impress you like Playtime does. After all, the Windjammer wasn’t a nightclub, but purely showbiz entertainment. The Phase 7 guys were great entertainers, so it doesn’t surprise me that they’d be doing a gig like this (Playtime is scattered with skits from the Kauai Resort Hotel). Regardless, these videos transport me to a time I never would’ve experienced!

Below is a 2-song telethon performance with “Show Me Your Magic” and “Angels Around Us”. I don’t think these songs are on Windjammer, but I could be wrong. There’s an introduction to the band members at 3min 35sec. Take a closer look, I think last guy they introduce was the shirtless braddah dance-fighting in the first video.

Thank you miken2av for showing us the magic!!

Beatroot Bodega: September 11th

Google “Tony Tam Sing” and you’ll come across the blog Asita Recordings. I did, at least. Didn’t find any info on the elusive TONY psych-folk LP, but I did learn that Lightsleepers recently started one of Hawaii’s only record sale/swaps. There’s been a few other big record shows in Hawaii, but BRB is the only one giving “Hawaii’s diggers, vinyl junkies and collectors” a chance to meet in one place.

The first BRB went down in early 2010. The next BRB? Coming up real soon.

September 11th, 2010
831 Queen St. @ Fresh Café
9am – 3pm :: FREE

What’s Fresh Café? Sounds like an underground hip-hop club where DJs and emcees rock local crowds every weekend. But it’s really a café that serves 100% Kona coffee! It also has the “latest cafe hours in town” (2:30am on weekends).

BRB doesn’t squeeze 20+ vendors into the café, though. The coffee shop has warehouse space in back where they host live music, art and poetry.

Much aloha and respect to Lightsleepers and Fresh Café for the Beatroot Bodega! I only hope I can be at the next one!

UPDATE: BRB has been moved from Sept. 18th to Sept. 11th. email beatrootbodega@gmail.com with any questions.

Greenwood + 70s Night Club Reunion

The Hawaiian version of Tatsuro Yamashita’s “Sparkle” was recorded by disco-soul group Greenwood in 1985. Greenwood started in 1972 as a group of 9th graders at Kaimuki High School. The guys are alive and performing today in Hawaii. Their main gig? Probably the 70s Night Club Reunion, a popular concert series that reunites well-known bands from Oahu’s disco days. The next reunion is August 14, 2010. And there’s definitely more in the future. (Check out the flyer and see who’s performing).

The 70s Night Club Reunion website is full of history on local bands, plus a jukebox with “Sparkle”, tracks by Natural High, and a single track by Aura. OK, I don’t know many of these artists (aside from Nohelani Cypriano of Golden Throat), but reading their bios brings a rush of excitement—nightclubs named off in long lists, uniformed bands posing for promo photos, musicians’ full names and affiliations, even where-are-they-now kine stuffs.

“This is bigger than one band, it’s a reunion of an entire era”

…This is a goldmine for me, but I can only imagine what else is out there. What was it really like in the 70s? The website is only a sliver of gold, but a great place to start.

By the way, Greenwood’s “Sparkle” is used for a YouTube video of Japanese baseball players, via Cool Tropical Jazz.