Kalama Brothers

Hapa-haole siblings from California dig into their Hawaiian roots with ‘Keau’

By Jon Woodhouse for Maui News

In the liner notes of their new CD, “Keau,” the Kalama Brothers explain the inspiration behind their exceptional recording project.

” ‘Keau’ is the result of two hapa-haole brothers from Southern California, trying to find out who we are and what our music could sound like,” Ryan and Kai Kalama write.

“With the masterful help of Uncle Willie K, we are finally able to create the dream we had long ago with our dad.”

Raised by a family of talented musicians including father, Ron Kalama, and uncle, Baldwind Nainoa Kalama Jr., (who comprised the original Kalama Brothers on Oahu), they learned how to sing from their mother, a choir teacher, and they learned the fundamentals of performing from watching their father and uncle and as well as joining in with them through the years.

After years of playing rock ‘n roll, soul and R&B, Ryan and Kai decided it was time to explore their Hawaiian roots.

“After our dad passed away, we decided to concentrate on Hawaiian music, to get back in touch with our roots,” explains Ryan. “We found a recording of his song, ‘O’ahu,’ which he never released. It’s such a great song, we thought we should do something with it and that started the whole ball rolling.”

Gifted musicians, vocalists and composers they sing primarily in English, shining on a collection of songs culturally rooted in the islands. Among the many gems, the beautiful title track encapsulates their love for Hawaii, while the jubilant “Pali Wind” stresses the importance of ancestor guidance. Other themes include yearning for connection with “Come Back To Hawaii,” extolling our natural wonders with “O’ahu,” paying tribute to family (“I Ka Pono” and “Mama”), and praising our relaxed lifestyle with the standout “Cruise.”

“We wanted to have the Hawaiian feel and message, but also be in touch with the music we’ve been playing on the Mainland,” says Kai of the trans-Pacific vibe. “We used to play Hawaiian music with our dad and we took hula classes. Even though we’re from Southern California, we still had a lot of culture.”

An obvious labor of love, the songs cast by the talented brothers are in a beguiling soft-rock format that echoes the work of some Hawaii’s esteemed duos, and even classic groups such as The Everly Brothers and Loggins and Messina (e.g. the sublime, “Come and Go”). There’s not one song that couldn’t comfortably fit any local-style radio format. And, it’s an added bonus having the masterful Willie K as a guiding light on the project, both producing and adding some guitar on the closing, rocking track, “Soul Into the Sea.”

“They’re a power duo that people have waited for,” enthuses Willie K. “You had Brothers Caz, Olomana, C&K, Keola and Kapono Beamer, Willie and Amy, and the Barefoot Natives, and now you’ve got the Kalama Brothers. It’s the same thing, a power duo.”

“It’s a huge honor to be under his wing,” says Raymond. “It’s really special for us.”

Rightfully proud of “Keau,” the Kalama Brothers are looking forward to debuting their new music at the MACC on Saturday.

“We hope it touches people in the islands and on the Mainland in many different ways,” says Kai. “We’ve heard from friends and family how it’s kind of inspired them to get back in touch with their Hawaiian roots.”

* The Kalama Brothers and friends perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the McCoy Studio Theater. Also on the bill are Willie K & the Warehouse Blues Band, and guitarists Indio and Avi Ronen. Tickets are $20 (applicable fees extra). Call 242-7469.

How popular is DJ Cut Chemist? Well, his video for “What’s the Attitude,” featuring Hymnal, has so far racked up more than 93-million views.

For the past 20 years, Cut Chemist, who plays Charley’s on Saturday, has been at the forefront of hip-hop, electronic music production and live DJ performance. His impressive resume includes playing for 15,000 at the Hollywood Bowl, co-founding the alternative hip-hop group Jurassic 5, opening for Shakira on her Oral Fixation tour and performing as a member of Ozomatli.

This one-man band creates every beat, image and effect on the spot with nothing pre-programmed. For his gig on Saturday at Charley’s, he’ll employ a bunch of turntables including two CDJ’s (for spinning compact discs), two DVJ’s (for composing/mixing videos), and a mixer along with loop pedals and other gadgetry. “You don’t have to be into DJs to enjoy this show,” he says. “It’s like walking a sonic tight rope and the audience gets to see me fall if something goes wrong. The interesting parts are when I mess up and fix it. The audience goes crazy and appreciates what a difficult balancing act this actually is.”

This show is the first of a series of performances celebrating T-Rx Entertainment’s 10th year of producing concerts on Maui. Past shows include The New Mastersounds, Diplo, 7 Walkers, Gaudi, Mad Professor, DJ Logic, Greensky Bluegrass and Sabo.

“I couldn’t think of a better artist to kick off our anniversary celebrations,” says T-Rx’s Mark Tarone. “Cut Chemist is as good as it gets.”

* Cut Chemist performs at Charley’s Saloon in Paia Saturday. Doors open at 9 p.m. Advance tickets are $20, $25 and $30, available at Charley’s, Wings Hawaii and Requests Music. Call 579-8085.

Ebb & Flow Arts concludes its North South East West Festival 2012 with the free “Multimedia Originals” concert at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Seabury Hall Performing Arts Studio. Comprising music, dance, video, puppetry, colored stage lighting, shadows and narration, the concert features the premieres of original stage compositions commissioned by Ebb & Flow Arts. Peter Swanzy’s “Hulehulei (mau loa)”-“Seesawing/back-and-forth (endlessly)” is in 3-D. Tony Walholm’s “Hina Nui Ke Po-A Hero’s Journey” tells the story of demigod Maui’s last adventure, his seeking of immortality for humanity.

Composer Robert Wehrman and Michael Takemoto collaborated on a screening of “A Beautiful Day for Bombing,” which will occur during the production. And hula ki’i (Hawaiian puppets), operated by former Muppets member Francis Kane, will navigate the audience through several works on the program. The E&FA multimedia group features Maui-based musicians, performance artists, and painters, including musicians Paul Marchetti, John Zangrando, Danny M., and Robert Pollock; and performance artists Lisa Buell, Amy Chang, Palemo Roberts and Todd van Amburgh. Refreshments will be served after the concert.

* Ebb & Flow Arts concludes its North South East West fest 2012 with a free grand finale “Multimedia Originals” concert at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Seabury Hall. Call 876-1854.

Tickets are now on sale for the 2nd annual Maui Jazz & Blues Festival. Among the musicians headlining, when it comes to legendary jazz drummers few can match Jimmy Cobb, who played with the greats from Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Billie Holiday to Dizzy Gillespie and Cannonball Adderly.

Cobb is probably best known for his years with Miles Davis, playing on the seminal “Kind of Blue,” the most popular jazz recording in history. He is the last surviving player from the “Blue” session. Cobb also played on “Sketches of Spain,” “Someday My Prince will Come,” “Live at Carnegie Hall,” “Porgy and Bess,” and many other watermark Miles Davis recordings. In recent years, he formed the Jimmy Cobb “So What” Band, a tribute to 50 years of “Kind of Blue” and the music of Miles Davis.

Other artists performing include blues guitar legend Joe Louis Walker, who played with John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Otis Rush in his early years, saxophonist Eric Marinethal, former Kool & the Gang singer/trumpeter Skip Martin, saxophonist Javon Jackson, New Orleans’ musician Camile Baudoin (lead guitarist with the Radiators) and zydecko musician Cory Ladet.

* The festival will be Sept. 15 at Grand Wailea. Other events will be Sept. 13-16. Get tickets at mauijazzandbluesfestival.com.

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