‘Artist 2 Artist’
Recording legends play music and talk story at MACC concert series
When flooding recently hit Kauai, triggering the escape of a buffalo herd, Malani Bilyeu of Kalapana fame spent a couple of weeks helping round them up.
Living on Kauai for around 27 years, Bilyeu has divided his time in recent years between music and ranching.
“I work at a ranch by the Hanalei River,” he explains. Out of a herd of 300, “we lost 20 that washed out to the ocean. We were chasing buffalo for about two weeks. I was playing too much, six nights a week and got burnt out, and the Lord gave me this job. “
Bilyeu will join Henry Kapono at 7:30 p.m. Friday for an “Artist 2 Artist” concert in the McCoy Studio Theater at Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului. He will play as a trio backed by two musician friends. The two legends will share music and stories from their extensive careers and answer audience questions.
“I’m looking forward to coming to Maui,” he says. “I will fly out with Kalapana to California the next day for a concert. We play a lot of private shows on Oahu. We do a couple of things every month.”
Acclaimed for memorable songs like “Naturally” and “Molokai Sweet Home,” Bilyeu began his career in 1973, co-founding Kalapana.
Defining a new style of contemporary local music, Kalapana was soon opening concerts for major headliners like the Moody Blues, Sly and the Family Stone and Earth, Wind & Fire. The release of their self-titled debut album cemented their reputation as a major island talent. Packed with bright, sunny songs, which would become audience favorites — from “Nightbird” and “Naturally,” to “Kona Daze “ — the album sold more than 125,000 copies without benefit of national distribution.
Within three years of their initial meeting, Kalapana headlined the Waikiki Shell, selling out three back-to-back evenings before a record attendance of 25,000. At the close of the same year, they joined Cecilio & Kapono to perform before a crowd estimated at around 30,000 at Aloha Stadium.
The band’s most recent album, “Many Classics, Kalapana Plays Their Best,” won the Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Rock Album in 2009.
Kalapana’s soulful lead vocalist has also enjoyed considerable success as a solo artist. His tribute to Hawaiian activist George Helm, “Molokai Sweet Home,” from his first solo album, “Islands,” became a local standard. His first Christian album, “Saved!,” won him a Hoku Award in 1995. In 2014 he released “Water Songs,” which featured originals and covers of “White Sandy Beach” and the Beamer’s “Only Good Times.”
“I’m working on music now either for Kalapana or solo,” he says.
Kapono has just announced the launch of the Henry Kapono Foundation, focusing on local arts, culture and music. In conjunction with the launch, he is releasing the new album “The Songs of C&K,” featuring collaborations with a number of Hawaii artists.
Musicians on board for the project include Kalani Pe’a, Paula Fuga, Josh Tatofi, Alx Kawakami, Blayne Asing, Kimie Miner, Landon McNamara, Mike Love, Starr Kalahiki and Tavana. Proceeds will benefit the foundation. It will be available at First Hawaiian Bank branches beginning in July.
While many Maui artists were represented this year across many categories at the annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards on Saturday, only a handful were winners.
Nominated in seven categories, kumu hula Kamaka Kukona won Male Vocalist of the Year for his exceptional ” ‘Ala Anuhea.” Kumu hula Pono Murray, performing as Leipono, was awarded Most Promising Artist for his impressive debut “Ku’u Pualei.” Halemanu won Island Music Album for “So the Story Goes.” Ekolu earned Single of the Year for their catchy anthem “We Are Hawai’i’s Finest.” Jeff Peterson, teaming with Greg Sardinha and Tsun-Hui Hung, won Instrumental Album for “Across the Sea,” while Wailani Artates won the Graphics Award for her work on Napua’s “Makawalu.”
A regular performer with Mick Fleetwood at Fleetwood’s on Front St. in Lahaina, Eric Gilliom will team with his sister Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom and The House Shakers for a show on Tuesday night.
Eric has played with Fleetwood Mac’s legendary drummer since the formative days of the Island Rumours Band.
“I still call it the Island Rumours Band because it’s the same show we’ve always done, with some of the same players,” he says.
With Gretchen Rhodes out on the road with Dave Mason, guest female singers filling in have included Kelly Covington and, now, Gilliom’s sister.
“Amy just sang with us. We did a lot of the classic Fleetwood Mac stuff like ‘Go Your Own Way,’ ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow’ and one of Amy’s songs ‘Haleiwa Hula,’ which was a lot of fun.
“I love singing with her because we’re brother and sister, and we have a special sound. It’s very soulful. I know what she’s going to do vocally and she knows what I’m going to do vocally.”
Grateful to be playing with Fleetwood, he adds: “The best part of playing with Mick is he literally plays every show like it’s his last. He keeps setting the bar higher and higher. These shows have been great because they’re a sort of prequel to what he’s aiming to do with the new configuration of Fleetwood Mac. He was telling me it’s going to be good for the band because there will be new material, some old stuff they don’t do anymore and everybody will be on their toes. It’s a fresh, new energy.”
These days, Gilliom is most excited about a new musical theater production he’s involved with called “Waikiki’s Rock’n Reception,” which had its premiere on May 12 at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani.
Describing it as “Grease” meets “Blue Hawaii,” the show is based on a wedding reception in Waikiki in the 1950s. Gilliom wrote all the music with Kauai-based musician Michael Ruff. A multiple Grammy-nominated artist, Ruff has composed songs for Natalie Cole, Bonny Raitt, India Arie and Kenny Loggins.
“By the second Mai Tai, you are at an actual wedding reception in 1955,” he says. “It’s totally interactive — they get a conga line and limbo going. We wrote 18 songs in six weeks for it. It opened to enormous fanfare. It’s an amazing show with a great cast, a great choreographer and a great band of top-notch Hawaii musicians. It’s the new hot show in Waikiki.”
Planned for four nights a week, Gilliom landed the gig after the original composer dropped out.
“They were committed to opening the show and needed 18 songs, so I called up Michael Ruff.”
* The Gillioms, Fleetwood and The House Shakers play Fleetwood’s on Front St. in Lahaina at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets begin at $95. Call 669-6425 or visit www.fleetwoodsonfrontst.com.
Besides presenting concerts on Maui, Ken K. Martinez Burgmaier also holds shows on Hawaii Island. Coming up May 31, he will launch the 7th annual Big Island Jazz & Blues Festival at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Waimea.
The lineup features guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque, Grammy-winning Cajun accordionist Jo-El Sonnier, blues musician Fillmore Slim, saxophonist Javon Jackson, acclaimed Cajun musician Michael Doucet and Grammy- and Hoku-winner John Keawe.
Proclaimed the “Greatest World Music Guitarist” by Guitar Magazine, over the years Haque has worked with many legends including Sting, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Zawinul and Ramsey Lewis.
Fiddle-player Doucet is an important figure in the revitalization of Cajun music. His band BeauSoleil, is acclaimed as the premiere traditional Cajun musical ensemble.
Grammy-winning accordionist Sonnier has been lauded in both the Cajun and country music worlds. In 2015, he won a Grammy for Best Regional Roots Music Album.
A former member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, saxophonist Jackson has performed with a number of leading jazz musicians including Freddie Hubbard and Elvin Jones.
Slim (born Clarence Sims 83 years ago in New Orleans) has made eight CDs over the past 14 years, and appeared at blues festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe. Rappers Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Ice T have all dropped his name in their songs.
An acclaimed guitarist and singer, Keawe was featured on the Grammy-winning collection “Slack Key Guitar Vol. 2,” and in 2009 he received the first Hoku Award for Slack Key Album of the Year for “Hawai’i Island . . . Is My Home.”
* The 7th annual Big Island Jazz & Blues Festival is presented May 31 through June 3 at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Waimea. The main concert will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. June 2. Tickets start at $60 (plus applicable fees) for general admission. For information and tickets, visit www.bigislandjazzandbluesfestival.com.