"I really love the songs and the space I'm in," says Henry Kapono Ka'aihue talking about his new album set for release the beginning of July.
After blowing us away with his landmark "Wild Hawaiian" project, Henry returns to the solo spotlight with a recording that stands as one of his best ever. From his earliest days collaborating with Cecilio Rodriguez, Henry has consistently released memorable music. And close to 40 years later, "HENRY" finds this veteran, multi-Hoku Award-winning entertainer crafting more beguiling gems, a trove of new classics.
As the album unfolds it's fun to imagine what songs might fit other artists: the soulful "Sunny Sky Serenade" could easily grace a Willie Nelson recording; Ziggy Marley would be quite at home singing the joyful, instant island classic "Is That Peace I See"; and with its light reggae rhythm, strummed ukulele and hummable melody, the wonderful, opening "Across the Sea" would shine on a Jack Johnson release.
Cover art from Henry Kapono’s new CD.
Pianist Peter Kater (left) and flutist Nawang Khechog perform Saturday at Makawao Union Church. The concert was rescheduled after Khechog suffered a medical emergency after arriving on Maui last month.
Collectively the songs address the heart and soul. They inspire and encourage, and celebrate love and life.
"I really wanted to make people feel good, make something that people would love and enjoy, not get too wild," Henry says. "Love and peace is a big part of it."
One of the most moving songs, "Love Shine," was composed to help uplift a friend in need.
"His family got wiped out in the tsunami in the Philippines," Henry explains. "I consoled him as much as I could and I wrote it for him."
"Love shine on all my bothers and sisters, love shine on all the children," Henry sings. "Love shine your light."
Another track, the poignant ballad "I'm Coming Home," was written with military families in mind, and released in May as a free download during Military Appreciation Month.
"A friend was stationed in Iraq, and he kept telling me about his girlfriend and how much he loved her," Henry says. "It just inspired me."
Drawing on various musical genres, Henry artfully shapes the songs with subtle shadings, ranging from the cool, blues/funk flavor of "Mr. Sun" (a reworking of an old C&K song "Ever Had That Feeling") and the alt-rocking spirit of "4ever & 4all," to the reggaeish lilt of "Is That Peace I See," and the soaring power ballad "I'm Coming Home."
"I try to use different elements, different genres, but keep my identity," he notes. "I love all kinds of music and try to incorporate everything in my own way."
Playing both acoustic and electric guitar the album highlights his exemplary playing, nothing fancy or overblown, just the perfect tone with tasty flourishes. "Throughout the years I've come to appreciate more playing my instrument," he says. "I just keep learning more and it gets more exciting."
And for the first time he plays ukulele as a lead instrument on the opening track "Across the Sea." "I like to surprise people and that was a good way to do it," he says. "It was fun."
Henry closes the album with the most rocking track, "Heart of a Warrior," dedicated to U.H.'s Rainbow Warriors. With its opening Maori haka, rousing lyrics, blazing guitar crescendo, power percussion and rap by slam poet Kealoha (from the Wild Hawaiian Band), it's an epic finale to such a great work.
"I wrote an acoustic version when they went to the Sugar Bowl," he explains. "This version of 'Heart of a Warrior,' I thought about Led Zeppelin and when you wondered what Jimmy Page was doing, he'd come out with something amazing. I played it for Coach Mack and he was blown away; he wants to use it for this year's theme."
* Henry Kapono and his band will debut songs from his new CD at a special pau hana party at Duke's Beach House Maui in the Honua Kai Resort & Spa at 5 p.m. on Friday. There is no cover charge. Call 662-2900 for more information.
Back in mid-May Tibetan flutist Nawang Khechog flew to Maui to perform in concert with pianist Peter Kater. A day after he arrived, Khechog collapsed, was rushed to Maui Memorial and underwent five hours of surgery to remove a large blood clot from his brain.
Now feeling fully recovered, after convalescing for a month on Maui, Khechog will perform in concert with his musician friend on Saturday at Makawao Union Church.
He doesn't remember much about the day he was hospitalized. And post-operation he struggled with memory loss.
"I was at Peter Kater's house and it just happened I had some kind of brain injury," Khechog explains. "I lost my memory for a while and then it started slowly coming back. And now I'm feeling much better. I'm really happy to play with Peter again, and so happy to play in this beautiful island."
A former Tibetan Buddhist monk, Khechog employed a powerful meditation technique called Tonglen during the weeks of recovery. It involves visualizing taking on the suffering of others as you breathe in, and breathing out happiness and success to all beings. The state of mind created by Tonglen can alleviate pain.
"That's all I did for a month," he notes. "You take the suffering of all sentient beings and you try to give out happiness and good karma. That's all you practice when you go through this kind of suffering. This is my second time having such a brain injury."
A few years ago Khechog employed the same meditation practice in India after the car he was traveling in was hit by a truck. Two of his relatives were killed in the accident, and he suffered a serious brain injury. Because of the nature of his injury he was unable to receive any pain medication in the hospital. He says Tonglen practice allowed him to transcend the pain.
"I was going through so much pain with many cuts and bone fractures. So I sat up and started meditating and Tonglen became a pain killer. Even today meditation helps uplift my spirit going through a difficult time."
The latest brain trauma has opened up creativity, he reports. "A week ago I went to Peter's home and we recorded some new music. I found new music coming. There's a new feeling in the music. So I will play a bunch of new songs at the concert."
Since the late 1980s, this esteemed Tibetan artist has mesmerized audiences with his serene flute playing.
"The heart and soul of my music lie in the Tibetan spiritual tradition, which has served to inspire humanity to become compassionate, peaceful and wise," he says.
"As a former Tibetan Buddhist monk, my aspiration is to try and create contemporary Tibetan meditation and spiritual music."
Over the years he's collaborated with a range of leading artists from new age star Kitaro and classical composer Philip Glass, to Laurie Anderson, Phish's Trey Anastasio and Maui-based, Grammy-nominated pianist Peter Kater.
The musicians have recorded a sublime album together, "Dance of Innocence," and performed several concerts, including one at Carnegie Hall and before 50,000 at a Tibetan Freedom show at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
A multiplatinum-selling musician, Kater has won a number of New Age Grammy nominations, and scored TV programs and films, including the documentary "10 Questions for the Dalai Lama," which also featured Khechog's tranquil flute playing.
"We've been collaborating for a long time," says Khechog. "He's a great musician, one of the best I've played with."
Born to a nomadic family in Eastern Tibet, as a young boy Khechog escaped the Chinese invasion of his homeland by fleeing across the mountains to India in 1959.
And at the age of 13, he decided to become a Tibetan Buddhist monk, and then, sponsored by the Dalai Lama, he lived as a hermit in the mountains for four years.
"It was the most important thing I've done in my life," he says. "It gave me a good spiritual foundation. Without that I don't think I would be who I am today, trying to do good for Tibet and the world, and able to play spiritual music that people enjoy."
Drawing on his years as a monk and hermit, Khechog creates hauntingly beautiful compositions that mix sacred Tibetan chants with ethereal horns.
In concert he utilizes a variety of instruments besides the flute, including the doongchen (Tibetan long horn), Aboriginal didgeridoo, African kalimba and the Mayan ocarina. He has also invented his own instrument, the Universal Horn, which is a combination of Tibetan long horn, Aboriginal didgeridoo and American trombone.
"Most Tibetans play traditional music, but I play my own feeling," he says. "I love playing what I feel, and in the West you call it improvisation. To me, if you improvise, you have to feel the music. It's relaxing, spiritual music, very peaceful and calming. Over the years people tell me when they hear my flute music it makes them feel like they've been taken into the high mountains of Tibet."
* Nawang Khechog and Peter Kater perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Makawao Union Church. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 day of show.
Grammy-nominated reggae musician Ky-Mani Marley returns to Maui to play Kihei's Ocean's Beach Bar & Grill at 9 p.m. on Tuesday.
Sounding eerily like his iconic father, Ky-Mani dropped his famous family name from the cover of his debut recording, "The Journey," a riveting hybrid of reggae and hip-hop flavored with a wealth of influences.
Since then he's grown in power and talent, with albums like "Many More Roads" and the more soulful/hip-hop-orientated "Radio." He was most recently featured on the collection "A Song for My Father" (singing "Soul Shake Down Party"), by the children of such legendary artists as Bob Marley, James Taylor, Santana and Brian Wilson.
Last year, he released a memoir, "Dear Dad," the story of an outcast son, born out of wedlock, who was abandoned financially for many years by the Marley family after his father's death.
* Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 at the door, available from Ocean's Beach Bar & Grill, Bounty Music and the Aston Hotel Maui Lu. A limited-edition autographed Ky-Mani Marley surfboard will be auctioned off for charity at intermission.