Accepting the Grammy for Best Hawaiian Music Album in February at the pretelecast awards ceremony, Tia Carrere announced: "Everybody thinks I'm an actress, but I'm a singer and a musician first and foremost and that's where my heart lies."
Best known for her movie and TV performances, Carrere has long nurtured a love for music that has blossomed in the last few years, leading to two Grammy wins for her albums "Huana Ke Aloha" and "Ikena," and Grammy nominations for "Hawaiiana" and "He Nani."
On all four recordings, the Kalihi, Oahu-born singer was accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Daniel Ho, who will perform with Carrere tonight at George Kahumoku Jr.'s Slack Key Masters series. Both Ho and Kahumoku just received new nominations for the 54th annual Grammy Awards.
Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho
An accomplished musician, arranger, composer and record company owner, Ho has won four Grammys as a producer.
All the Grammy attention was a big surprise for Carrere.
"Absolutely," says the popular actress. "Daniel was an amazing, multiple winning artist, but I didn't think that I would get one."
* Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho perform at George Kahumoku Jr.'s Slack Key Masters Show at 7:30 tonight in McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $25 and $45 VIP with includes artist talk-story session, plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
With the elimination of the Hawaiian music Grammy category, she has the distinction of being the last winner.
"Unfortunately it's a rather dubious distinction," she notes. "We got a lot of flak because it was the last one. But what can you do, you have to respect the Recording Academy. They've been exploring how to cut down the categories for a number of years. I presented at the pretelecast for two years, so I know they had a lot of awards to give out every year."
Carrere's lovely 2011 Grammy-winning, Hawaiian-language album "Huana Ke Aloha," featured a collection of soothing lullabies set primarily to piano arrangements by Ho of classical works by Puccini, Schumann, Beethoven, Brahms and Satie, with lyrics by Amy Ku'uleialoha Stillman.
The project was Carrere's idea.
"I called Daniel because we were saying, 'Should we put out another record this year, because he had been getting so much heat from people, and thinking maybe I should sit it out for a year, but I had this idea for a lullaby in Hawaiian," she explains. "Something that would transcend between adults and children, that was calming and relaxing. And he came up with the classical idea. I'm so proud of it. It's such a beautiful record."
Traveling the country, Carrere discovered the recording has inspired some fans to explore more Hawaiian music.
"When I make personal appearances, a lot of fans don't know that I sing," she reports. "They don't even know what Hawaiian music is. Because they appreciate me as an actress, it introduces them to Hawaiian music. They listen and go, 'What a beautiful language.' Then they go and find other artists."
Growing up on Oahu, she especially loved Gabby Pahinui's music and was a fan of Loyal Garner. As a student at Sacred Hearts Academy, she met Daniel Ho when she was asked to be the lead vocalist for the St. Louis High School Jazz Orchestra. They developed a friendship that eventually led to their Grammy-winning projects.
"We were playing together when we were 14 years old," she explains. "He went to the all-boys Catholic school down the street and I went to the all-girls Catholic school up the street and we met in the middle with music."
As a young girl, Carrere had dreamt of being a famous singer, but it was movie acting that brought her into the limelight. Discovered shopping at Waikiki's Safeway Supermarket, she was cast in her first film "Aloha Summer."
Moving to Los Angeles, she was offered roles in popular TV shows like "The A-Team," "MacGyver" and "General Hospital," and in movies like "Friday the 13th," "Tour of Duty" and "Quantum Leap."
And then came the hit comedy "Wayne's World" in 1992, and her life changed.
As Wayne's (Mike Myers) "shwing" dream girl, Cassandra, Carrere got to play a major role as a female rock star, belting out songs like Hendrix's "Fire" and Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz."
But some folks assumed she was miming.
"I loved blowing people's minds," she says. "Being both an actress and a singer is too much for one person."
Still today she's often referred to as "Wayne's World's" Tia Carrere.
"It's an iconic film; it made my career," she says. "It's the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' of our time. I wear the mantle with pride."
A sequel followed, along with roles with Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes in "Rising Sun," and then as Arnold Schwarzenegger's villain in "True Lies." Her more recent TV appearances include the shows "Combat Hospital" and "True Justice."
She was especially pleased to gain a part in the Disney movie "Lilo & Stitch."
"Disney had wanted me to be in 'Mulan,' but I was working on a movie in Eastern Europe," she says. "Then a couple of years later they did this movie based in Hawaii and it was perfect. I was able to imprint my pidgin English and my knowledge of Hawaii. And I suggested putting 'Aloha 'Oe' in the movie."
Before releasing a string of pop hits like "Oh Carol," "Breaking Up is Hard to Do," "Happy Birthday Sweet 16" and "Calendar Girl," Neil Sedaka had dreamt of a career in classical music.
So it's no surprise this veteran entertainer, who studied classical piano at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, premiered a new piano concerto, "Manhattan Intermezzo," in Kentucky in September.
"I wanted to write something that was clearly American, in style and feel, but still keeping it distinctively Neil Sedaka," he reported. "Writing pop songs is one thing, but composing a serious piece gave me more creative freedom."
Some years back Sedaka achieved another one of his dreams, recording "Classically Sedaka," featuring original lyrics to some of his favorite classical melodies composed by Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Beethoven.
The composer of around 1,000 songs, who sung dozens of hits, still delights audiences today.
"His voice hasn't aged since he was teenage pop star in the '50s and '60s," praised a Las Vegas Sun review. "The voice is as smooth, clear and strong as ever."
Sedaka earned his first hit, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," as a teenager, in 1958 singing with the group the Tokens. The same year Connie Francis recorded his song "Stupid Cupid," with Sedaka playing piano. A stream of hits followed in the early 1960s.
During the late '60s and early '70s, he focused on songwriting for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Johnny Mathis. Then a move to England led to a collaboration with one of his fans, rock star Elton John. The single "Laughter in the Rain" ended up selling more than a million copies in 1975 and Sedaka was back. A few months later he earned his biggest-selling song ever, teaming with John on the uptempo "Bad Blood."
In 2006, while performing at London's Royal Albert Hall, Sedaka was presented with a Guinness World Record for composing "(Is This The Way to) Amerillo?," the most successful U.K. single of the 21st century.
* Neil Sedaka performs at 7:30 tonight at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater. Tickets are $29.50, $39.50, $49.50 and a limited number of premium seats at $65 (plus applicable fees), available from the MACC as above.
Bob Marley fans will probably not want to miss the new doc "Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend" screening at 8 p.m. Friday in Castle Theater as part of Maui Film Festival's FirstLight.
Heralded as the "Lost Tapes" documentary, it features previously unseen archival footage of the reggae icon shot by one of his former girlfriends, Esther Anderson.
It was Anderson who shot the legendary "spliff" shot of Marley that graces the cover of the album "Catch a Fire."
A co-founder of Island Records with Chris Blackwell, and manager of Bob Marley & the Wailers during the 1970s, Anderson was a co-producer of "The Harder They Come," responsible for hiring Jimmy Cliff as the film's star.
She has reported that "Rebel Music" was inspired by her and Marley encountering a police roadblock, and that "I Shot the Sheriff" was actually a critique of her using birth control.
Film from 1973 is mixed with updated scenes and interviews shot in 2000. We see Marley rehearsing with the Wailers' Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston, and we gain insights into the inspiration behind the "Burnin' " album and legendary songs like "Get Up, Stand Up."
* Tickets are $12, or $10 with a four-show FastPass, available at the MACC box office.
Looking for some new music for Christmas? Check out . Seal and his terrific new "Soul 2," covers of classic '70 Motown tunes by the likes of Al Green, Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers Remarkable singer Adele and "Live At The Royal Albert Hall" DVD/CD set, featuring all the hits and some covers including Bonnie Raitt's "If I Can't Make You Love Me". Kate Bush's sublime "50 Words for Snow" (which includes a duet with Elton John), for a more minimalist, wintery feel..And Coldplay/Arcade Fire fans may enjoy Celtic rockers Snow Patrol and their epic "Fallen Empires" (import), packed with catchy hooks, anthemic choruses and mighty beats.