One of America's leading contemporary soul singers, Brian McKnight will regale a Maui audience on Friday in a one-man show.
A multitalented musician, composer and producer who plays nine instruments, McKnight is touring in support of his latest album, "Just Me," which captures this artist doing what he does best - romancing audiences with his smooth ballads.
A specially priced double disc (two for one), it features an album of new studio tracks and an unplugged live recording, where he performs solo playing both piano and acoustic guitar.
"I've always wanted to do a live album," says McKnight, calling from Indonesia. "I consider myself a songwriter more than anything and I wanted to go back to the basics, playing songs the way I wrote them. And I love to tell stories in a one-man show. People have been conditioned now to believe that there are few people that can entertain an entire audience for two hours without explosions and light shows and a band. So I wanted to bring it down and say, 'I can do this.' "
Not too many artists can command solo, but the new album's live collection, taken from a concert in L.A., amply demonstrates his ability to effortlessly captivate.
Including some of his greatest hits from "Back at One" and "One Last Cry" to "Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda," it also features some covers from artists he admires such as Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. And on the studio disc you hear echoes of soul greats like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
Brian McKnight performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $45, $55, $65 (plus applicable fees), available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or mauiarts.org.
"I could point out all the people I've ripped off," he says laughing. "My shows include the influences where I came from musically."
Born into a musical family, he sang in his church choir and was a bandleader in high school. Obviously gifted from an early age, he learned how to play a variety of instruments including piano, guitar, drums and trumpet.
Releasing his debut album in 1992, he scored his first hit a year later with "Love Is," a duet with Vanessa Williams, from "Beverly Hills 90210." His star kept ascending and his third album, "Anytime," sold more than 2 million copies.
Over the years he's recorded duets with many leading artists from Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and Mary J. Blige to Stevie Wonder and Justin Timberlake.
And while he's known as a beloved balladeer, he can apply his artistic gifts to a wide variety of musical genres. He led a jazz fusion band early on, and the rocking title track of his "Superhero" album could have been recorded by Journey.
"Music has become too compartmentalized," he notes. "When I was a kid you'd listen to Willie Nelson, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Bruce Springsteen. I love so many different types of music. I've had hits on country, jazz, pop and R&B charts. I've never wanted to be pigeonholed."
In concert McKnight's emotive vocals are known to make women swoon.
"I'm finding that men are figuring out if you're looking for a woman, chances are you should come and see me," he says. "I don't write songs for women, I write songs for us (men), because we're the ones who don't know what to say at the right time, or show our feelings. So I tell them to plagiarize me as much as they can."
So does he often hear expressions of gratitude from guys?
"All the time," he says.
The third annual Hana Limu Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Hana Bay. This free event will honor the memory of Hana-born musician Pekelo Cosma, who died in August.
Inspired by Hawaiian greats like Gabby Pahinui, Pekelo was a master of slack key guitar, gifted with a beautiful falsetto voice, who played with the Sons of Hawaii for many years.
At the Na Hoku awards ceremony in May, he was presented with a Ki Ho'alu Foundation Legacy Award for his contributions to Hawaiian music. He previously was honored with a Haku Mele award (with Ileialoha Beniamina) in 2007 for composing "Ni'ihau" on the album "Hana by the Sea," his last album of original songs. Pekelo released a compilation of songs from his first two albums last year.
Entertainment will include CJ Helekahi, Leokane Pryor and Marty Dread. The festival will also feature talk-story sessions with kupuna who will share their traditional knowledge, limu identification and sampling, planting, cooking demos, keiki games, interactive science activities, a silent auction and food and craft booths.
Funds raised will benefit the Na Mamo O Mu'olea Isabella Aiona Abbott memorial scholarship fund.
Classical Indian musician Kala Ramnath has been hailed as one of the greatest violinists in the world. The Times of India proclaimed her "The Sultana of Strings," and a Jazzwise review of one of her CDs lauded: "Ramnath is a musician of giantlike qualities. If Mozart had been transported to the South Asian subcontinent and improvised Western classical music, this is what he might have sounded like."
A stunning virtuoso, Ramnath has revolutionized the technique of playing the violin developing a unique "singing" style, which imitates the human voice.
Devoting her life to her art, she began playing the violin at the age of 3 and performed her first concert at 7.
"To become a great musician, one needs the almighty's blessings, which comes with talent and luck and we need to add discipline, dedication and extreme hard work," she says. "I have done an average of six to eight hours a day for 20 years."
Few women attain the highest ranks of Indian classical music, and fewer still can claim mastery of the violin.
Ramnath's exquisite playing can be heard on albums like "Nectar" and "Kala." She has recorded and performed with a diverse array of musicians from tabla legend Zakir Hussain to Ray Manzarek of The Doors. Her latest CD, "Samay Chakra" - eight classical ragas reflecting the shifting moods of the day and night - features Ty Burhoe on tabla.
"My wish is that the audience experiences the joy of listening to music and forgets everything around them and reaches a different zone of calm and peace within themselves," she says.
* Kala Ramnath will perform with Ty Burhoe in "An Evening of the Classical Music of India" at Makawao Union Church at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door.
Winner of 2011 Na Hoku awards for Haku Mele and Hawaiian Language Performance, Kainani Kahaunaele returns to the MACC to perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in the McCoy Studio Theater.
Honored with the most nominations this year, eight for her second album, "Ohai Ula," this Kauai musician has continued a winning streak since her debut CD, "Na'u 'Oe," which earned Hokus for Female Vocalist of the Year, Most Promising Artist and Hawaiian Language Performance in 2004.
Growing up surrounded by four generations of musical talent, she started singing professionally and composing traditional songs as part of Aha Punana Leo's pioneering Hawaiian language revitalization program. A number of halau have danced to her music, including kumu hula Keali'i Reichel's Halau Ke'alaokamaile at Merrie Monarch in 2009.
Strikingly talented with a lovely voice, she crafts memorable contemporary Hawaiian music with subtle touches of jazz and pop.
* Tickets are $30 plus applicable fees, available as above.
Returning to Maui to ignite Charley's on Saturday evening, Italian dub alchemist Gaudi concocts inspired sonic potions to uplift spirits, employing all manner of keyboards, percussion, tape echoes and even an ephemeral sounding theremin.
A self-styled "bit of a wild horse," he's a classically trained pianist infused with a passion for reggae and electronica who has performed before an international audience of around 350,000 in Rome's ancient Coliseum, and at a festival in Brazil where he kept the dance floor jammed for nine hours.
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.
As an ace remixer, he's had the honor of reinterpreting the music of two masters of their genres - Jamaica's Bob Marley and Pakistani Qawwali legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Gaudi's remixing talents have also 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.