Italian dub alchemist Gaudi occupies a unique niche in the world of dance-club culture. A classically trained pianist infused with a passion for reggae and electronica, Gaudi concocts inspired sonic potions to uplift spirits, employing all manner of keyboards, percussion, tape echoes and even an ephemeral sounding theremin (invented by a Russian physicist in 1920).
Acclaimed around the globe, he's performed before an international audience of around 350,000 in Rome's ancient Coliseum, and at a festival in Brazil that kept the dance floor jammed for nine hours.
And as an ace remixer, he's had the honor of reinterpreting the music of two masters of their genres - Jamaican reggae's Bob Marley and Pakistani Qawwali legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
From a crowd of 350,000 in Rome’s Colosseum and a nine-hour festival in Brazil to Saturday night at Casanova
Ready to ignite Casanova on Saturday evening, Gaudi indicates that stylistically he's "a bit of a wild horse."
Calling from his London home he explains, "My love for music started with reggae dub, experimental electronica and influences from around the globe. That's my trademark. It's music for the world.
"I'm not a DJ at all; I don't know how to mix," he continues. "In my live performances I use CD players with things that I recorded in the studio like a drum, and I'll play a bass line live on top and do all my live dubbing and manipulation and vocals through effects. Every time it's completely different. I have a wide canvas where I know more or less what kind of journey I'll create, but I don't know what tracks and their order."
Gaudi's professional career began in 1981 in Italy as a keyboard player in the new-wave band Wild Planet. Two years later he joined the electronica outfit Red Light, and later branched into reggae with Bamboo Company.
After moving to London, he began touring alongside reggae artists like The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, Third World and Ziggy Marley.
In 1999, Gaudi released the album "Earthbound," featuring a mix of influences ranging from Indian ragas to African chanting and Italian traditional melodies, unified by a reggae/dub foundation. The 39 musicians collaborating on the record included Jamaica's General Levy and Indian singers Kiren Sambhi and Sonal Varsani.
A few years later, his album "Bass, Sweat & Tears" was hailed as "a strong contender for best global/electronica fusion album of 2004." It included a track featuring the Fire Organ, a massive, one-of-a-kind instrument that transforms the heat of flames into sound energy.
It was a collaboration with the unique instrument's French inventor, Michel Moglia, which led to Gaudi's performance at The Coliseum in Rome debuting the mind-blowing "Elemental," an "opera of electricity" for Fire Organ and Theramin. (www.myspace.com/video/gaudimu sic/gaudi-michel-moglia-present-elemental/28950764).
A crowning achievement in his career arrived with an invitation to remix Bob Marley's classic "Soul Shake Down Party."
"I had a goal to work on some Bob Marley tracks and that first happened in 2003," he explains. "And then in 2008 I worked with reggae legend Lee Scratch Perry on three tracks that he wrote for Bob Marley, 'Kaya,' 'Funky Reggae Party' and 'Sun is Shining.' It was a big thing for me to work on original Bob Marley tracks with the person that had been in the studio with him."
The next honor for him involved working with the amazing vocals of Pakistan's premier ambassador of sacred Qawwali music, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who has been dubbed "the Bob Marley of Pakistan."
Khan's previous Western collaborators have included Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and Peter Gabriel. Gaudi's album project "Dub Qawwali" earned him a nomination for the BBC's World Music Award in 2008.
"I had the honor of being selected by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's record company and his wife," he reports. "They gave me full access to his back catalogue, and I picked my favorite 10 tracks. Each track was about 35 minutes long and I had to reduce them to four or five minutes. I tried not to produce a disaster and keep the integrity of the original source."
So did he have any reservations about mixing dub and devotional Qawwali?
"I think the two styles are born to be together," he says. "Reggae has an offbeat, and some types of music from India and Pakistan work pretty much the same using the tabla as reference. No one had matched the two elements before. I was worried. I knew it was not going to be as good as the original because we're talking masterpiece. I was paying tribute, and I had very good feedback."
A calabashmusic review of the Khan project praised: "Gaudi has sensitively created a set of completely new tracks, crafted around Nusrat's uniquely beautiful melodies and universal themes of spirituality, peace and love, creating a sound that is uplifting, haunting, and moving."
You can hear/see the beautiful Gaudi/Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan track "Bethe Bethe Kese Kese" at www.youtube. com/watch?v=PWJHZSjSFD4.
Gaudi's remixing talents have been utilized by a variety of artists from Scottish rockers Simple Minds and Indian virtuoso percussionist Trilok Gurtu to U.K. trip-hop duo Lamb and American hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa.
Recently he worked on music by the chart-topping project Metallic Spheres, which teamed Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour with The Orb. And there's an ongoing collaboration, remixing classic '60s tunes from Jamaica's Trojan Records, including tracks by Desmond Dekker, The Upsetters and Bob & Marcia.
"I was approached by Trojan to remix part of the back catalogue, working with the electronic team The Orb," he notes. "The album is called 'Screen' and it will be out in September."
Visiting our shores in January, he found a kindred spirit in Marty Dread. The two musicians have just collaborated on a couple of tracks, including a reggae updating of Edie Brickell's hit "What I Am."
"We clicked immediately and I had in mind the track 'What I Am,'" says Gaudi. "He got very excited and I got excited. We flew to Honolulu and recorded with a bass player and guitarist, and for the brass melody he contacted the (Jamaican ska band legends) Skatalites in New York and I finished it in London, and now the Mad Professor will do a remix."
An EP will see release shortly with the addition of a prophetic track called "Nuclear Ting," prompted by the unfolding tragedy at Fukushima.
"I felt it was something I should touch on after the nuclear crisis started getting out of hand," said Marty before heading off to a festival in Brazil with the Mad Professor. "Q103 has 'What I Am,' in high rotation and they're getting a lot of requests for it." Marty will join Gaudi as a guest on Saturday.
A regular at the Glastonbury Festival, Gaudi has thrilled audiences around the world including at Denmark's Roskilde, the Reggae Sunsplash, Australia's Earthcore and Brazil's Universo Paralello.
"I was at a festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and it was the longest gig of my life, nine hours on stage," he recalls. "I closed the festival and they wouldn't let me go. The Brazilians know how to party."
An acoustic show with Five For Fighting featuring singer/songwriter John Ondrasik will be held under the stars at the Royal Lahaina Resort on Saturday. Ondrasik's debut album, the critically acclaimed "Message for Albert," was released in 1997. Five For Fighting's breakthrough came in 2001 with the Grammy-nominated song "Superman" from the platinum certified album "America Town."
* Tickets are $65 general admission, and $85 for VIP table seating (includes two drinks).
George Kahumoku Jr. welcomes Herb Ohta Jr. and Jon Yamasato to the Slack Key Masters series at the McCoy Studio Theater at 7:30 tonight.
The duo first collaborated on the album "Take One" that included a lovely cover of Olomans classic "Ku'u Home o Kahalu'u."
The son of ukulele legend Ohta-San, Herb Ohta Jr. began teaching at his father's music school at the age of 11. His first solo album, "Ka Hanauna Hou," earned a Hoku nomination for Best Instrumental of the Year. He has also recorded albums with Keoki Kahumoku, and was included on the Grammy-nominated collection "The Spirit of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar."
A former lead singer with the popular Na Hoku-winning trio Pure Heart, Jon Yamasato has performed and recorded with some of the biggest names in Hawaiian music including Dennis Kamakahi and Keali'i Reichel. And he's featured on Ohta Jr.'s latest CD, "Ukulele Nahenahe."
* Tickets are $25 and $45 for VIP with artist talk-story session (plus applicable fees).
It's no surprise that two of last years most exceptional albums - Raiatea Helm and Keola Beamer's "Keola Beamer & Raiatea" and Amy Hanaiali'i's collaborative CD "Amy Hanaiali'i and Slack Key Masters of Hawai'i" --have captured multiple nominations for the 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.
Both albums are up for Album of the Year, Group of the Year, Island Music Album of the Year, and Favorite Entertainer, plus Song of the Year for Jeff Peterson's "Kahealani" and Keola's "You Somebody." And Amy is one of the singers featured on the nominated Anthology of the Year collection "Island Love."
Among other Maui nominees, Willie K is a finalist in three categories for "Willie Wonderland," including Male Vocalist of the Year. Napua Makua was nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year and Hawaiian Album of the Year for "Mohalu." And Hana's Pekelo was nominated for Anthology of the Year "Pekelo Classics."
In the Compilation of the Year category Cindy Paulos and Fulton Tashombe are nominated for "Practicing Aloha;" Maui's Ululoa Productions was nominated as producer for "Wahine;" and Kumu Hula Cody Pueo Pata is one of the composers included in the nominated "Na Haku Mele: The Hawaiian Songwriters."
The husband and wife duo Phil & Angela Benoit are up for Jazz Album of the Year for "Golden Sun." Maui's Maoli is nominated for Reggae Album of the Year for "Rock Easy."
The Religious Album of the Year category includes Ata Damasco for "Somewhwere Up Ahead: Gospel Hymns of Hawaii, Vol. II."
And conspicuous by its absence with no nominations, Tia Carrrerea's Hawaiian Grammy-winning "Huana Ke Aloha."
The winners will be announced at the 34th annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards on May 29 at the Hawaii Convention Center.