New documentary "Keola Beamer: Malama Ko Aloha (Keep Your Love)" premieres tonight at 9 on PBS Hawaii.
Filmed on location on Maui and Hawaii Island, it features the legendary, multi-Na Hoku Award winning musician sharing the Beamer family philosophy - passed down through the generations - about the many facets of aloha and showcases his collaborations with a range of artists, including wife Moanalani Beamer, Raiatea Helm, Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai, jazz pianist Geoffrey Keezer and an ensemble of musicians playing multicultural instruments.
"It came out excellently," Keola says. "The people at PBS (Hawaii) are really visionary leaders able to take creative leaps and go outside the box."
Raiatea Helm and Keola Beamer are among artists collaborating on new made-in-Hawaii documentary “Keola Beamer: Malama Ko Aloha (Keep Your Love),” premiering tonight at 9 on PBS Hawaii.
JON WOODHOUSE photo
The song and hula performances in the doc include his Hawaiian version of John Lennon's epic "Imagine" and Moanalani performing "Hula Mu'umu'u (Dance of the Maimed)" as a quadriplegic woman who magically regains her limbs.
This rare hula originates from an incident narrated in the story of Hi'iaka's journey to bring Prince Lohiau to the court of Pele. Above the beach at Kahakuloa, Hi'ika saw a maimed woman with no hands and feet singing as she danced by the ocean.
"The PBS crew flew to Kahakuloa valley to film 'Mu'umu'u,' this Dance of the Maimed, the whole crew for one minute of footage," Keola reports. "It's the actual place where this dance had occurred historically."
Keola's beautiful version of "Imagine," featured in the doc, opened his wonderful, collaborative album "Keola Beamer & Raiatea." On the CD, it included chant by Charles Ka'upu and backing from the Spring Wind Quintet. For the film, besides Raiatea on vocals and a wind section, he added an array of cross-cultural instrumentation.
"I arranged it for Pacific Rim instruments so we have a Chinese erhu, a didgeridoo, nose flute and koto," he notes. "There were 15 people in the (take out room) studio; it's the biggest, most complex arrangement I have done."
The new doc will air on public television stations across the country later this year, as part of the Pacific Heartbeat series that promotes Pacific Island-themed programs.
After the release of their album "Fashion Nugget Cake" in 1997, Cake hit the big time, selling out shows across the United States and proving that an alt-rock band that performed quirky songs mixed with funk, folk, country and a little mariachi could succeed in the music industry.
Formed in Sacramento, Calif., in 1991, Cake released their debut album, "Motorcade of Generosity," independently, then signed with a major and began scoring hits such as "The Distance," "Never There," "Sheep Go to Heaven," "No Phone" and a unique remake of Gloria Gaynor's disco classic "I Will Survive."
Some of their songs have been featured in popular TV shows and films, such as "Friends," "The Sopranos," "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" and "Waitress."
Cake comprises lead singer John McCrea, trumpet player Vince DiFiore, guitarist Xan McCurdy, bassist Gabe Nelson and drummer Paulo Baldi.
The band's combo of intriguing instrumentation and often sardonic lyrics by chief songwriter John McCrea has elevated them beyond most of their peers. Among the interesting elements they utilize is a vibraslap - a percussive instrument that sounds like a rattlesnake heard on tunes including "Never There" and the funky "Short Skirt/Long Jacket."
After releasing their "Pressure Chief" album, Cake created their own Upbeat Records, subsequently releasing "B-sides and Rarities" in 2007, which included covers of Kenny Rogers and Buck Owens' tunes, plus Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" and Barry White's "Never, Never Gonna Give You Up."
Cake's most recent album, "Showroom of Compassion," was recorded in the band's own solar-powered studio in Sacramento over a period of two years. It debuted at No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 200 and received rave reviews.
"We heard this hip, little fuzzed-out tune on the radio, and we were, like, who's this cool new band? Maybe something called Bear Antler? Then we realized it was Cake," noted Rolling Stone. And The New Yorker hailed Cake's "deadpan brilliance."
Among the most intriguing tracks, they included a cool cover of Frank Sinatra's hit "What's Now Is Now," the instrumental "Teenage Pregnancy" and the country waltz "Bound Away."
John McCrea reported the musicians were inspired to build a solar-powered studio after touring Germany. "Germany is the number one producer in the world of solar electricity and it's not because it's so sunny there," he told The Aquarian. "It's because laws were passed that monetarily incentivized their public to make the transition. So this fairly gloomy, cloudy country is producing more solar than anyone else in the world. It shamed us into taking action here in California where there's sun everywhere."
Appreciating the ability to record and release music on their own terms, McCrea is skeptical about the future of music as a vocation.
"I see music as a really great hobby for most people in five or 10 years," he told NPR. "I see everybody I know, some of them really important artists, studying how to do other jobs."
Since 2002, Cake has headlined the occasional Unlimited Sunshine Tour, a festival designed to attract audiences who enjoy an eclectic mix of bands from multiple musical genres.
"Cake puts on a great live show," praised PopMatters last year. "A ballad/rock/rock/ ballad format kept the crowd singing and dancing throughout the night. Obvious high-points came with their most popular anthems ("Sheep Go to Heaven," "Love You Madly," "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and "The Distance)," and older songs, like "Frank Sinatra" and a Cake-flavored cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" were also big hits with the crowd."
* Cake plays the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $39, $49 and $89, plus applicable fees. For tickets, call the MACC box office at 242-7469.
Veteran Southern California hardcore band Ill Repute plays Stella Blues Cafe on Saturday. The Maui show will also feature another veteran punk band, M.D.C.
Formed in the early 1980s, Ill Repute was part of the "Nardcore" punk scene. They've performed at shows with Rancid, Social Distortion, NOFX, The Dead Kennedys and Bad Religion.
* Ill Repute's double-bill concert with M.D.C. kicks off at 8 p.m. Saturday at Stella Blues Cafe in Kihei. Order of the White Rose, Campfire and Breakaway Demon Sex will open. Presale tickets are $18. For details, underworldevents.blogspot.com.
Sunday's Hawaii Unite Music Festival included performances by John Cruz, Paula Fuga, Anuhea, InnaVision and Kapali Keahi, who are all featured on an upcoming Mana Maoli CD project.
Hitting stores next month, the double CD - "This is Maoli Music" (Volume IV) and "Hui Na Moku" (Volume V) - compiles 37 tracks of previously unreleased original or traditional music.
All the artists have donated their time to Mana Maoli, a nonprofit program created to support public charter schools in Hawaii. Maui musicians involved in the new recording include Napua Makua collaborating with Pi'ilani Arias, Anuhea teaming with King Kekai, InnaVision playing with Paula Fuga, and Lahaina Grown's Kapali Keahi contributing some roots reggae with Ernie Cruz Jr.
A bunch of great shows are coming to the MACC in March. Jimmy Buffett brings his Coral Reefer Band to Maui on March 16, part of his Welcome to Fin Land Tour 2012. Reggae legend Ziggy Marley lands on March 25. Olomana founder Jerry Santos makes a rare visit playing the MACC's Solo Sessions series on March 23.
And a very cool a cappella group from South Africa, Overtone, make their island debut at Castle Theater on March 9. This six-member male group was discovered by Dina Eastwood and Clint Eastwood in 2009 (playing a Queen tribute show) and brought to America to record the soundtrack to Clint's movie "Invictus," about Nelson Mandela. They sing in English, Afrikaans and Zulu.