‘Aotearoa’s Finest

Reflecting Maori traditions through melodies and lyrics

Maisey Rika and Rob Ruha (second photo), Seth Haapu and Horomona Horo bring Maori music to Maui at “Aotearoa’s Finest” concert tonight at 7:30 in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater in Kahului. Tickets are $40 (plus applicable fees). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469, or go online at www.mauiarts.org. Photos courtesy the artists

Acclaimed Maori musician Maisey Rika routinely wins awards in her homeland of New Zealand. Last September she dominated the 10th Annual Waiata Maori Music Awards winning Best Traditional Maori Album for her latest recording, “Tira,” along with Best Female Solo Artist, Best Song by a Maori Artist for “Taku Mana” and the Best Songwriter Award. 

“Tira” features her unique interpretation of some Christmas favorites in the Maori language woven around the themes of kotahitanga (unity), aroha (to love), whanau (family) and home.

“There aren’t any Maori Christmas albums, so it started with that, then I ended up with a few other songs,” Rika explains. “So it wasn’t just Christmas carols. I translated some of the carols and made them more ‘New Zealand’ for the climate we live in, to give it an Aotearoa (New Zealand) flavor.”

The album closes with her award-winning original song “Taku Mana,” which features graduates from Aotearoa’s Pao Pao Pao program that mentors emerging Maori musicians who chant in “te reo,” (the language) Maori:

“I am the land the land is me/

Rob Ruha

I am the sea the sea is me/

I am my mana my mana is me./

My mana comes from God/

From my ancestors/

From the land and sea/

Lukas Nelson (above) and his band, Promise of The Real, rock Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon in Paia Monday evening.

It is my motivation/

My fear my inspiration.”

“The song talks about where mana comes from– it comes from the gods, from the land and from the sea,” Rika says. “I wanted the next generation on it chant-ing these words, reaffirming it to themselves.”

Gifted with a beautiful voice, she sang from an early age — first at family gatherings and in choirs — and recorded her first album, “E Hine,” at the age of 15. A collection of traditional Maori songs recorded with her school choir, it won her Best Maori Language Album at the New Zealand Music Awards.

“I was standing there with the award, thinking maybe I should turn it down now and just stay at home with my mom,” she recalls. “I was thinking about the responsibility that comes with it. There’s work to be done. I’ll just go where the call comes, and now we’re here in Hawaii.”

With a captivating, soulful style that has been compared with India Arie, Rika’s outstanding follow-up, “Tohu,” featured an amalgam of neo-soul, jazz, folk and gospel influences marked by adventurous arrangements.

“It was my first album where I had composed all the songs, and I just tried everything,” she says. “I was developing my style over time.”

Addressing some of her nation’s social problems, “Nia” paid homage to a 3-year-old girl who was tortured and murdered by her family members. On the plaintive “Game of Life,” she sang about young Maori affected by addiction.

Then “Whitiora” in 2012 was another remarkable work. The album’s highlight, the ravishing “Tangaroa Whakamautai,” celebrated the god of the sea and whale guardian ancestors. And one of the most striking songs, “Te Ruatekau-ma-waru,” honored the 28th Maori Battalion that fought in the Second World War.

Returning to Hawaii, she sees many connections between Maori and Hawaiian culture.

“First nation and indigenous people have a feeling of rising up and standing up for our oceans and our land and language,” she says. “We’re all related throughout the Pacific. There are similarities in our dance and language and ceremonies.”

For her Maui show, Rika will be joined by fellow Maori musicians Rob Ruha, Seth Haapu and Horomona Horo.

“Seth Haapu is the ‘John Legend’ of New Zealand,” she says. “Horomona Horo plays all the traditional Maori instruments, all the beautiful elemental instruments. Rob Ruha is an amazing artist in his own right. We all sing about being Maori in this day and age. We sing about where we come from, who we are, our culture, our history, our tradition and our beliefs.”


Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real are back on Maui ready to rock Charley’s Restaurant &  Saloon in Paia at 8 p.m. Monday. The band was busy in 2017 releasing their own album and backing Neil Young on his latest, “The Visitor,” their second studio project with the rock legend following 2015’s “The Monsanto Years.”

Last August they released their most accomplished album to date. Guests on the self-titled record included Lady Gaga, who contributed backing vocals to a couple of songs, including the soulful “Find Yourself.” A tremendous amalgam of styles, it included funky blues-rock, Texas country twang, Southern boogie, honky tonk, a Glen Campbell-flavored ballad (with Willie Nelson on guitar), and the gorgeous “Forget About Georgia,” where Lukas shined on vocals.

“Lukas Nelson might be the most gifted progeny of a country music superstar the world has ever seen,” noted a Saving Country Music review.

In October, “Willie Nelson and the Boys” featured sons Micah and Lukas on a selection of American country music standards and classics, including seven composed by Hank Williams Sr.

Young will head out on the road again this year backed by Promise of The Real.

* Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real perform at 8 p.m. Monday at Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon in Paia, with special guests Pat Simmons Jr. and Micah Nelson. Tickets are $30 and are available at www.charleysmaui.com. For more information, call 579-8085.


Also at Charley’s, the Classic Rock Hulaginns perform tonight at 9, featuring Paul Peterson, Joe Caro, Danny M, Mark Johnstone and Jay Corkran.

Peterson is a multi-instrumentalist who has played with Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs, George Benson and Kenny Loggins.

Prince discovered Peterson at the age of 17 and enlisted him as a keyboard player in The Time for the movie “Purple Rain.” He was also the lead singer in Prince’s offshoot band, The Family, who first recorded the ballad “Nothing Compares 2 U.” 

In 2016, he toured with Peter Frampton playing bass (Frampton called him “one of the finest bassists ever”). He now leads the band St. Paul and the Minneapolis Funk All Stars.

* Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door and are available at www.charleysmaui.com. For more information, call 579-8085.


Guitar virtuoso Makana returns to Maui to present a tribute to slack-key legend Sonny Chillingworth at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the McCoy Studio Theater at the MACC. This tribute concert will take listeners back in time to the slopes of Mauna Kea, the birth of the paniolo, and the origins of Chillingworth’s slack-key style, which served as the foundation for Makana’s own dazzling technique.

Taught at an early age by Chillingworth, Makana developed an original voice early in his career. From his memorable debut album which incorporated Indian tabla, cello and didgeridoo, he went on to create recordings like the homage to the masters, “Ki ho’alu: Journey of Hawaiian Slack Key”; “Different Game,” which explored more rock- and pop-flavored territory; and the stellar solo guitar collection, “Venus and the Sky Turns to Clay: The Instrumental World of Makana.” He was one of the handful of musicians whose music was picked for the soundtrack of the award-winning movie “The Descendants.”

His latest release, “Music You Heard Tonight,” showcases his remarkable versatility with traditional songs (“Ku’ulei ‘Awapuhi”), covers of contemporary gems (James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain”) and original tunes (the Bernie Sanders’ anthem “Fire is Ours”).

Makana will be joined in concert by Yoza, Lopaka Colon and Lono Kaumeheiwa.

* Tickets are $30, $45 and $65 (plus applicable fees). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or go online at www.mauiarts.org.


Gina Sala returns to Maui for “Some enCHANTing Evening,” sacred music of India concert at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Makawao Union Church, joined by special guest Daniel Paul on tabla.

Chanting since her childhood ashram years, Sala’s repertoire spans 23 languages, and her credits include working as a principal singer with Cirque du Soleil and performing at the United Nations.

“Gina Sala is an innovative leader in the field of music, voice and wellness,” notes “The Mozart Effect” author Don Campbell.

She is featured on the “Voices of the World” compilation.

* Admission is $20 cash only. Advance tickets are available at Maui Kombucha in Haiku and at MacNet in Kahului.