To spur interest in their 35th anniversary tour, Cecilio and Kapono recorded their first new, original song in many years. Then Hawaii's most popular duo decided to offer the song "Back In The Day," free as a download from their Web site, www.cnk35.com.
So many fans took advantage of the offer that when C&K performed it live for the first time at their sold-out Waikiki Shell concert in August, the duo discovered their audience had already memorized the lyrics.
"We had it up for a couple of months before the Waikiki Shell concert and it was great because everyone was singing it," says Henry Kapono. "We hadn't recorded anything in a long time and we were celebrating 35 years. We wanted people to have something fresh, and it helped to get everybody in the mindset because it's all about back in the day. We were thinking about a theme for our concert and 'Back in the Day' was a perfect title. I sat down and started writing a song and my little daughter who's 2 was listening. I never really played the whole song and one day she was in the tub and she starts singing the song. So I knew it was good. We had fun when Cee and I did it. It's real catchy."
Celebrating 35 years playing together, C&K bring their "Back In The Day" show to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Saturday.
Initially captivating the islands back in the 1970s with their breezy, uplifting sound on such classics as "Highway in the Sun," "The Night Music," "Friends," "Lifetime Party" and "Sailin'," C&K still pack venues whenever they reteam.
"Our music can take you away, it's nostalgia, it takes people back," says Cecilio Rodriguez about their enduring popularity. "The fact that it's turned into a life of its own is wonderful. It's a huge surprise to both of us because we didn't anticipate this longevity; we both thought we'd be doing something entirely different by now. The fans want it, people love the old songs."
Back in 1973, Henry Kapono Ka'aihue and Cecilio David Rodriguez were introduced to each other by mutual friends.
"I knew of Cecilio when he was playing with the band Unicorn," Henry recalls. "I went off to the Far East and played Vietnam (with the band Pakalolo) for two years. Then I started playing Waikiki and a friend called me up. We sat down in a living room on the North Shore and the first song it sounded like we'd been playing together before, and by the second or third song we just kind of looked at each other, well, when are we getting together?"
Before arriving in Hawaii in 1969, Cecilio had played with a number of bands including Little Anthony and the Imperials.
"I had come and gone several times to go on the road with different groups," he notes. "I could swear it wasn't going to happen here. I knew I better get back to Los Angeles where the music scene was. Then I got a phone call while I was on the road saying, 'There's a guy here that makes music in the kind of style you do and he has long hair, you could be brothers.' When I met Kapono, I was in my 15th year of show business and it was in that 15th year when it suddenly took off.
"People in Hawaii really responded to my own original music, but I didn't really connect the dots, I didn't think a career would be launched here, and the next thing I knew we were getting ready to sign a deal with Columbia Records, one of the biggest companies of that time. We were very surprised they were looking at us."
C&K's realization that they had something special was confirmed when they were invited to open for Frank Zappa at the Civic Auditorium.
"We were happy to do the spot and sang our 20 minutes and the audience responded overwhelmingly," Cecilio recalls. "We got off stage and Frank Zappa stopped us and said, 'That's your audience out there, they want to hear some more.' We thought, what a gracious artist."
Once signed to Columbia Records, their star soared as they performed for a record-breaking crowd of 10,000 at the Shell and headlined at Aloha Stadium before 30,000 fans. Their early albums, "Cecilio & Kapono," "Elua" and "Night Music," all became top sellers. Backing the duo on their many memorable songs were the cream of top studio players including keyboardist David Paich of Toto, bassist Leland Sklar (Jackson Browne, James Taylor), saxophonist Jim Horn (Beach Boys, George Harrison) and drummer Russ Kunkel (Bob Dylan, CS&N).
First dissolving their partnership in 1981, the two musicians set off on solo careers while continuing to reteam for shows once a year. In 1989, their album "Good Times Together" swept the Na Hoku Awards, earning the duo group and album of the year. In 2003, C&K celebrated 30 years together with a commemorative CD and DVD "Lifetime Party: 30 Years of Friends," winning the Hoku for best contemporary album.
Last year the duo got together to record a new version of the Boz Scaggs' song "We're All Alone" (first recorded on "Night Music") for the CD "Back to Romance," by the Matt Catingub Orchestra of Hawaii. "He asked us to do a song, it's a little more jazzy flavored," says Henry.
This first new studio recording in years was followed by the duo including a cover of the Randy Newman song "You've Got a Friend in Need" for a recent Japanese compilation. Then came "Back In The Day."
So how about a new C&K album?
"A new CD is an obvious next step," says Cecilio. "I introduced the idea a number of years back, but I got a lukewarm response from my partner. So I said I won't bring it up again. I figure he'll bring it up when he's ready. It certainly seems like a no-brainer. The response to the new song has been good, and I thought that would be enough of an indication to warrant at least discussing a new product. I think that if Cecilio and Kapono went in to the studio tomorrow and released a CD next month it would sell as much if not more than the ones before."
"We've touched on the idea of possibly doing something, but it's something that's got to come and happen," Henry cautions.
As a solo artist, Kapono has enjoyed a consistently successful, creative career. His most recent groundbreaking CD, "The Wild Hawaiian," earned a Grammy nomination and won a Hoku in 2007 for Rock Album of the Year.
"I've been writing a lot and am very excited about next year," he continues. "I've been entertaining the idea of 'The Wild Hawaiian 2.' I've also been doing some remakes of C&K stuff I wrote; right now I'm calling it 'Reincarnation.' It's songs I've done with Cee, how I would do them now, updated arrangements. And possibly I'm going to do an acoustic album, and another 'Dukes On Sunday 2.' There's so much I want to do."
While the musicians may feel differently about the prospect of a recording reunion, and have weathered friction and disagreements over the years they both warmly embrace their current collaboration.
"There are not too many guys that can say they've been playing music for 35 years," notes Henry. "It's really about the music, not our personal stuff. We came to an understanding that we might as well celebrate ourselves."
"We are getting along the best we have ever gotten along in all these years," adds Cecilio. "I look forward to getting on stage with him. With every group, there's good times and not so good times. We have transcended a lot of stuff by virtue of growing up. We talk more than we have ever talked; our communication channels are wide open."
"Our music has been really good to us," Henry concludes. "We all need to remember the good times, not get caught up with what's going on now. I think everybody needs some spiritual uplift and music really does that. C&K music has done it for many years, and hopefully continues to do it."
* Cecilio and Kapono play Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $12, $28, and $37, plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
Acclaimed as and one of the towering figures of contemporary music, Danish composer Per Norgard will present the world premiere of his new work "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," performed by the Ebb & Flow Ensemble on Sunday in the McCoy Studio Theater.
Commissioned by Ebb & Flow to create the new work, Norgard has composed a dazzling array of more than 300 works across genres including seven symphonies, six operas (including "Siddharta," on Buddha's early life), two ballets, several concertos, many choral vocal works, chamber works, 10 string quartets, and several solo instrumental pieces including "I Ching," considered one of the most difficult solo percussive pieces in the world, which will be performed at an Ebb & Flow concert in Honolulu.
"He's a remarkable composer," says Ebb & Flow's founder Robert Pollack. "He's one of the big names in Europe and has been writing since the 1940s, and is still active at 76. The amount of music and range of compositions and intellectual depth of his work is quite remarkable. The fact that he accepted the commission from us to begin with is amazing."
Based on a Walt Whitman poem, "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" includes references to Hawaiian chant.
"I sent him some George Naope chants and in quite an original way they're brought into the piece," Pollock reports. "Stylistically the music is extremely complex. It's the most challenging we've done as an ensemble."
"About 10 years ago, I started studying some Huna philosophy and chanted as a morning meditation," Norgard explains. "When I heard these special chants from Hawaii I was very struck by this enormous physical expression. So I hint at this in the work, but I never intended to make any kind of Hawaiian music. I've always been attracted by the feeling of water and waves sinking in my music. This wave music penetrates the work."
Denmark's leading contemporary composer has explored many compositional techniques throughout his illustrious career. In the 1960s, he experimented with collage and interference techniques and electronic music. He eventually developed a unique serial compositional system based on the infinity mathematical series, that generates melodies fractally and endlessly in multilayered polyphony. Among his achievements, he composed music for several films, including the Oscar-winning "Babette's Feast," "The Red Cloak" and "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark."
Hailing him as "one of the most original thinkers in music alive today," a concert review in the U.K. Independent noted: "Norgard is neither traditionalist nor modernist, he's a fusion of both, with a deep admiration for the cohesion of Sibelius and a habit of pushing ever outwards the degree of expressive complexity that music can achieve."
Absorbing the astonishing breadth of his collective work, one senses Norgard has successfully portrayed the vast spectrum of life experience on this planet from mindless insanity to exquisite beauty, from chaos to harmony.
"I have different phases," he humbly notes. "There was a period of infinite hierarchic music. After a period in the '70s of sunlight and life as ecstasy, I fell down into the pit of the pain of (Adolf) Wolfli, the Swiss schizophrenic artist, and I made a symphony, which he wrote in 1941."
For Norgard, compositions are living organisms. A basic sense of wonder at his own existence, the miracle of the sheer existence of all things, and the mystical depths behind everyday life permeates his works.
Challenging and stimulating audiences, this master of all shades of musical expression has suggested that his music should become more mysterious the more one listens to it, and yet it should contain layers so simple to comprehend that even his aunty could understand them.
"If you look down into a lake you might see insects and flowers growing on the surface," he explains. "But if you look into the lake, you can see fishes swimming around, and you can look down to the bottom and see stones and animals. For me music is the same. There will always be a simple aspect in music. Music only being complex is not that interesting for me."
* The Ebb & Flow Ensemble performs at 5 p.m. Sunday in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's McCoy Studio Theater. Besides the Norgard premiere, the concert also includes works by George Walker, Carl Nielsen, Astor Piazzolla, and the world premiere of Robert Pollock's "Trio #7, "Vanishing Boundaries."
The Ebb & Flow Ensemble features Scott Anderson, clarinet/bass clarinet, Ignace Jang, violin, Mark Votapek, 'cello, and Pollock on piano. Special guests include Danish harpist Tine Rehling (the leading exponent of Norgard's harp music), Danish pianist Anne Marie Abildskov and Anders Beyer, director of Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen, who will moderate a pre-concert discussion with Per Norgard at 4 p.m.
Tickets are $25, $12 for students and seniors, plus applicable fees, available as above.