A series of three unique concerts will be held this weekend by the Mana Maoli Collective, featuring an amazing lineup of local talent. Performing an innovative mix of Hawaiian, reggae, funk, soul, and island contemporary music the all-star Collective includes Paula Fuga, Pearl Jam keyboardist Boom Gaspar, Anuhea (Friday only), Wayne Enos of Natural Vibrations, Shane Veincent of Sudden Rush, Lahaina Grown's Kapali Keahi, percussionist Lopaka Colon of the Henry Kapono Band, brothers Kiliona and drummer Kalei Young of the Hilo-based hip-hop/reggae band Moemoea, vocalist Leimaile Quitevis, Kawai Hoe, bassist "Sole" Sioloa, who has played with Ho'aikane and Pati, and keyboardist CJ Kama of the reggae group Hi-Town.
Founded in 1999, Mana Maoli is a collective of educators, artists, musicians, cultural practitioners, and community organizers. This nonprofit group has promoted three programs - the Halau Ku Mana Charter School, the Kanehunamoku sailing canoe program and Maoli Music. They also support Na Lei Na'au'ao, (the Native Hawaiian New Century Public Charter School Alliance) whose mission is to establish models of education throughout the Hawaiian islands, which are community designed and controlled, and reflect, respect and embrace Hawaiian cultural values, philosophies and ideologies.
Musicians such as John Cruz, Jack Johnson, Paula Fuga and O-shen have combined energies to contribute tracks to Mana Maoli benefit CDs.
Paula Fuga is just one of the amazing artists sharing their talents to accomplish great things in three Maui gigs.
The Maui shows will also help raise funds to send Mana Maoli Collective members to the annual Pasifika Festival in New Zealand in March. Now in its 18th year, the festival is the largest gathering of Pacific peoples in the world. Last year more than 200,000 folks attended this celebration of traditional and modern art, culture, music and dance. The collective musicians are the first representatives from Hawaii to participate in the festival.
"It's an opportunity to share our music and dance with our native cousins," says Boom Gaspar, who has played keyboards with Pearl Jam since 2002. "Being a part of this big festival is a great honor for the Maolis that will be representing Hawaii."
Besides musicians, the Hawaii troupe will include two kumu hula and a dozen hula dancers. And they are also planning a four-city tour of performances, cultural workshops and cultural exchange.
Excited about playing the Maui shows Boom says: "With a 12-piece band it will be a Big Jam. I've been enjoying jamming with them all, it's been great. I'm always open to helping out on fundraisers here at home."
Raised in Waimanalo, over the years Boom played with the Mackey Feary Band, Henry Kapono, Bruddah Waltah, and Simplisity. He first met Pearl Jam's lead singer Eddie Vedder while surfing. "He was Eddie my friend, until the House of Blues in Chicago; then I saw Eddie Vedder," he recalls.
Invited to join the legendary rock band, Boom played on the albums "Riot Act," "Pearl Jam" and the latest "Backspacer," and has toured the world.
"I feel blessed and very thankful," he says about the opportunity to play with Pearl Jam. "I'm going back on the road with Pearl Jam playing at the Jazz Festival in New Orleans on May 1, and then heading to Europe in June. And 'Backspacer' is doing really well on the charts, so we're talking about adding some more shows this spring."
He fondly remembers playing with his band mates opening for U2 on the final date of their Vertigo tour, at an amazing concert at Aloha Stadium before more than 40,000 fans. The crowd went crazy when Eddie and the group launched into Iz's "Hawaii 78."
"Coming home to play was awesome," Boom enthuses. "Playing Iz's 'Hawaii 78' was all Ed's doing. He loves Hawaii."
* The Mana Maoli Collective first performs at 6 p.m. Friday at Wailuku's Historic Iao Theater. $10 minimum donation requested. They then travel to the west side to play Lulu's Lahaina Surf Club & Grill at 9 p.m. with Mele Pono, Lahaina Grown and Anuhea opening.
At 8 p.m. Saturday, they perform at Mulligan's on the Blue. The evening will include a silent auction (ukuleles signed by Jack Johnson and Eddie Vedder), a beginning traditional Hawaiian music set by the collective, and a number of Bob Marley songs in tribute to Marley's birthday. $10 minimum donation presale, $15 at door. Advance tickets available from Wings, Mulligan's, Requests Music, Native Intelligence, and 808 Deli.
What a blast to see Amy Hanaiali'i and brother Eric Gilliom live on stage briefly opening Jaime Foxx's performance at the 52nd annual Grammy Awards Sunday night, singing "opera."
Seamlessly blending sounds from around the globe, Jai Uttal is acclaimed as one of the most original and emotionally expressive world fusion artists performing today. On his latest, brilliant recording, "Thunder Love," this world music pioneer is probably the first artist to effectively mix Brazilian instrumentation and rhythms with Indian devotional music.
His first major release since his Grammy-nominated CD, "Mondo Rama," "Thunder Love" has been compared with such landmark albums as David Byrne and Brian Eno's "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" and Paul Simon's "Graceland."
Married to a Brazilian dancer, Uttal explains: "I've been exposed to Brazilian music for the last several years and it's an amazing, varied musical culture. About six years ago I was in Brazil doing some shows with (tabla player) Daniel Paul, and we hooked up with a young Brazilian percussionist and the synergy between his rhythmic feel and Daniel was off the charts. I could see how the two forms really mixed together. 'Thunder Love' opened the door and I want to experiment more with it."
Playing guitars, banjo, bass, dotar, harmonium, keyboards and harmonica, among other instruments on "Thunder Love," this gifted multi-instrumentalist fuses elements of Americana, Brazilian, classical Indian, Hindu chant, jazz, and electronic music to create a unique, intoxicating brew. As one reviewer noted: "The result is an album that will wind up your waist while it touches your heart and soul."
"I try to create music that is healing and nurturing and nourishing for my own self, and I hope it has the same effect on others," he continues. "I want to bring light and life and spirit to people."
As a young musician Uttal loved playing banjo and was especially attracted to Appalachian music. His banjo playing is prominently featured on "Thunder Love." One of the songs, "Down on My Knees," blends an old-timey banjo tune with Brazilian rhythms and Tibetan chanting, and he really lets rip on "Thunder Love Blues." "Banjo is my first love," he reports. "It creeps in as a flavor on a lot of my albums, but it has never been featured before."
Embracing a rich variety of cultures and traditions, over the years Uttal has crafted a string of exceptional recordings including "Monkey," "Beggars and Saints," and "Mondo Rama," which earned a Grammy nomination for Best New Age Album.
"Jai Uttal is the foremost artist merging traditional Indian music and jazz, a master who is synthesizing some important and exciting music," praised the Los Angeles Reader.
Uttal's global music path was set early on, encountering a recording of classical Indian music by sarod virtuoso Ali Alkbar Khan.
"My deepest studies have been Indian classical music, though I still feel like sort of a beginner," he says. "What really attracted me the most was singing, and singing in Sanskrit. It basically saved my life."
Traveling around the world, Uttal leads workshops in devotional kirtan chanting. Jack Kornfield, founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center, has praised him as, "one of the most extraordinary spiritual chanters and ecstatic singers of our time. His music transforms the hearts of all who listen."
"I learned kirtan as a teenager," he notes. "But I never thought it was something I could do on albums or in public. Then I started getting calls to lead kirtan, and I love it. It became totally my focus."
* Jai Uttal and tabla drummer Daniel Paul will present two nights of kirtan at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, and at 7 p.m. Sunday at The Studio Maui. They will also host an afternoon workshop, "Art of Devotional Singing," on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Kirtan tickets are $25 in advance, $30 day of performance. Workshop registration is $60 (pre-registration is $50 until Friday). Workshop and one night of kirtan costs $70, $90 for workshop and two nights of kirtan. For tickets, registration and information, call 575-9390.
Some hot jazz heading to Cafe Marc Aurel on Saturday evening. Ace New York session guitarist (and Maui resident) Joe Caro will be joined by some visiting musician friends, acclaimed drummer Buddy Williams (one of the 10 most recorded drummers of all time), bassist Conrad Korsch (currently playing with Rod Stewart), and keyboardist Chris Palmaro (S.N.L. band). Their astonishing combined credits include working with Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Jeff Beck, George Benson, Michael Jackson, The Eagles, Dr. John, Jimmy Buffett and James Taylor.
Two extraordinary musicians, Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald will team on March 12 for guaranteed one of the shows of the year. These legendary former members of the Steve Miler Band and the Doobie Brothers have produced numerous hit songs and a number of landmark albums. Tickets go on sale to MACC members on Saturday, general public on Feb. 13. For details, visit www.mauiarts.org.