It's not often on Maui that we get to experience a genuine rising star who has captured national attention like Hawaii-born Bruno Mars.
The Roosevelt High School graduate just scored seven Grammy Award nominations, including best male pop vocal performance for his global hit "Just the Way You Are," best rap/sung collaboration, best rap song and record of the year for his work with B.o.B on "Nothin' on You" (which he and produced and performed on). Mars was also nominated as co-writer and producer of Cee-Lo Green's "**** You."
Bested only by hop-hop legend Eminem for total nominations, Mars' achievement was remarkable because it didn't even reflect his chart-topping solo debut album, "Doo-Wops & Hooligans," whose release date fell outside of the Grammy eligibility period by just one week.
Photos courtesy of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center
"It's just been an incredible year, and I can't believe this is happening to me," Mars said at a nomination party televised by CBS. "We've worked so hard trying to make a living doing music and the fact that we're here right now is incredible."
Proclaiming Mar's "Doo-Wops & Hooligans" album "the year's finest pop debut," Rolling Stone praised its "10 near-perfect songs that move from power ballads to bedroom anthems to pop-reggae."
With guest contributions by "Junior Gong" Marley and rappers Cee-Lo Green and B.o.B, "Doo-Wops & Hooligans" showcases a soulful artist blessed with an ability to play most of the instruments himself, and a honeyed voice matched to a gift for composing catchy, radio friendly songs.
Bruno Mars performs at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $35, $45, $55 (plus applicable fees), available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
"I have Damian Marley on a song called 'Liquor Store Blues,'" he told JustJared.com. "Being from Hawaii, a lot of people don't know that reggae is huge there and I used to be in a reggae band when I was in Hawaii."
Born Peter Hernandez Jr. in 1986 in Waikiki to parents of Puerto Rican and Filipino descent, he was nicknamed Bruno at the age of 2 years old by his father, a reference to an Italian wrestler Bruno Sammartino.
Growing up in a musical family - his father is a Latin percussionist and his mother a talented vocalist - from an early age he began impersonating musical icons like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson as part of his father's Vegas-style revue at the Sheraton Waikiki, which featured the entire family.
"I remember watching the show and being completely fascinated," he recalled in UK's Blues & Soul. "My uncle would be up there playing guitar, my dad would be conducting the whole show, my mom would be singing out, and I'd be like, 'wanna go up there, too.' From the moment my dad started allowing me onstage, I just started loving the attention. I remember being 4 years old and just loving the fact that people were getting a kick out of my Elvis impersonation. I may not have looked like Elvis, or sounded like Elvis, but the crowd was lapping it up, and in my mind I was doing something really big."
At age 6, his animated impersonation landed him the role of Little Elvis in the hit movie "Honeymoon in Vegas."
Mars attributes much of his innate musicality to his Hawaiian upbringing. "Music is in the air, it's just everywhere you go," he said in the same interview. "Growing up there did play a big part in helping me write songs with melodies that stick."
After graduating from high school he moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of a musical career. Teaming with friends Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine to form the production/songwriting team The Smeezingtons, the trio began crafting hits for Flo Rida ("Right Round"), K'NAAN ("Wavin' Flag"), B.o.B ("Nothin' On You") and Travie McCoy ("Billionaire"). And they produced Matisyahu's anthem "One Day." The chart success led in turn to his current solo recording deal and ultimately seven Grammy nominations.
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real return to Charley's for shows on Friday and Saturday evening. The band will release its first full-length album, "The Promise of the Real," next week.
"The album is a culmination of how we've been on the road for the past two years," says Lukas. "It shows how much we've grown. I'm really proud of it."
Lukas recently played with his dad and Neil Young at the 2010 Farm Aid fest, and got to jam with Young backstage at the annual Bridge School Benefit in San Francisco, which featured a historic Buffalo Springfield reunion.
"We jammed in the dressing room and I got to show them my new music," he says. "They'd seen us at Farm Aid and were blown away."
Lukas will open one of the Charley's shows as a duo with guitarist Tom Conway. "The other night some friends of (percussionist) Tato Melgar from Argentina will open," he says. "And it's possible my dad might join me. It's going to be fun."
* Tickets are $25.
Na Leo will celebrate Christmas with a special holiday concert at Castle Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. The popular trio won a Na Hoku in 2002 for its album "Christmas Gift 2." Their first Christmas album, "Christmas Gift," which won a Hoku in 1999, featured such seasonal favorites as "O Holy Night," "Unto Us Tonight" and "Jingle Bell Rock."
Lehua Kalima, Nalani Choy and Angela Morales have enjoyed consistent success over the years as skillful interpreters of Hawaiian standards, hapa haole songs and popular romantic ballads. Since 1982, they've released 19 CDs and won 22 Hoku Awards. In 2009, they marked their 25th anniversary with a double disc compilation of favorite Na Leo tunes.
* Tickets are $12, $30 and $40 (plus applicable fees), available as above.
Joyfully fusing reggae, ska alt-rock and a taste of hip-hop, Pepper recently released a new EP, "Stitches," which opens with the crowd-rousing, motivational anthem "Wake Up."
Originally hailing from Kailua-Kona, Pepper comprises guitarist/vocalist Kaleo Wassman, bassist/vocalist Bret Bollinger and drummer Yesod Williams. After moving to California, the popular trio opened concerts for reggae artists like Eek-a-Mouse and Burning Spear, and in 2001 impressed crowds playing the Warped Tour. Known for their high-energy shows, this summer they joined 311 and The Offspring on the 2010 Unity Tour.
"In front of a jam-packed house, the trio moved furiously through an 18-song set list," raved a review of a House of Blues show. "'Give It Up,' the band's biggest hit to date, literally had the place shaking."
Reggae musician Mishka will open the Pepper show at the MACC at 7 p.m. Friday. His latest album, "Talk About," includes a duet with Willie Nelson on the track "Homegrown." Mishka's debut album, "Above The Bones," topped Billboard's reggae chart. It included the song "Long Road," composed on Maui.
* Gates open at 5:30 p.m., show at 7. Tickets are $25 advance, $30 show day (plus applicable fees), available as above. Tickets are also available at Request Music in Wailuku, the Green Banana Internet Caf and the Old Lahaina Book Emporium.
A kind of one-man Hawaiian music industry, Grammy winner Daniel Ho performs at George Kahumoku Jr.'s Slack Key Masters Show at 7:30 tonight in the McCoy Studio Theater at the MACC.
Ho was just nominated for a Hawaiian Grammy for "Polani," a collection of solo ukulele instrumentals. He is also co-producer of Tia Carrere's Grammy-nominated album, "Huana Ke Aloha," which features his classical piano arrangements set to her vocals.
Releasing the albums on his own label, as a producer Ho has won five Grammys, including the 2010 Hawaiian award for "Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2."
An accomplished musician, producer, arranger, composer and record company owner, Ho has released 18 solo CDs, and recorded duets with George Kahumoku Jr. and Herb Ohta Jr. He has been featured with the Honolulu Symphony, toured as a keyboardist and guitarist with Peabo Bryson, and created a Hawaiian-language cover of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U" for the soundtrack of the hit movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."
* Tickets are $25 and $45 VIP, which includes artist talk-story session (plus applicable fees).
Other Christmas festivities this weekend include Uluwehi Guerrero and the community choir Na Leo Lani O Maui presenting "An Old Fashioned Christmas" on Saturday at the Historic Iao Theater.
The award-winning kumu hula will perform with the 80-voice choir, and guests include Halau Hula Kauluokala and Santa Claus himself.
* The concert starts at 7:30 p.m., with doors opening at 7 p.m. Assigned-seating tickets are $20, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Maui Food Bank. For ticket information, call 280-8557.
And reggae fans can enjoy a roots Christmas party with the "Reggae Vibrations Vol. 1" show at Mulligan's on the Blue from 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday with Jamaican vocalist Pam Hall and U.K.-based singer J.C. Lodge. The bill also includes Ekolu and Oahu's CitySide.
* Tickets are $25, available at Mulligans, West Side Vibes, 808 Deli, Wow Wee Maui Kava Bar, and Wailuku's Request Music.