A Review by Robin Hebert
IZ KICKS ELEMU IN THE BAY AREA!
October 19, 1996, Marin Civic Center
Dateline: October 20, 1996, Cogitations and memoirs
from West Contra Costa County, California
Before I say anything specific about the wonderful
show put on by Bruddah Iz and a showcase lineup of Bay Area Hawaiian musicians
this past Saturday, I must say this:
Bambucha mahalos to PICA (aka the Pacific Islandersâ
Cultural Association) for bringing Iz to us fo real kine-and putting all
those naysayers to shame. As Iz said when the curtains opened up, "To
those who said I wasn't coming: I'm here!" (And a gleeful, little voice
in the back of my mind said, "Whop yowah jaws!")
Disclaimer: Iâm leaving out the jokes and
the raffle interludes. You had to be there ...
The show opened with Patrick Landeza, a Bay Area
ki ho`alu player, singer and funny guy. Patrick could be called a "local
once-removed": he admits to being from Berkeley, but his roots (through
his parents) are firmly in the Islands, specifically Moloka`i and O`ahu.
Patrick is often at Hawaiian events in the Bay Area, both as a performer
and as the emcee of choice. I first saw Patrick at Na Mele Hula `Ohana's
ho`ike with Keali`i Reichel earlier this year. Since then, he has emceed
and played his way through other Bay Area events, as well as completed a
summer tour of the Philippines and Hawai`i. From what I heard last night,
Patrick is just getting better. He and his bassist (whose name I didn't
catch through the applause - sorry, ah!) warmed the audience with some nahenahe
ki ho`alu favorites, such as "Nanea Ko Maka I Ka Le`ale`a" and
"Wai Hu`i Hu`i O Ke Aniani". Patrick also offered an original
piece, "Malele" (to share), a ki ho`alu form for his experiences
over the summer while touring in the Philippines and Hawai`i.
Patrick then took up his role as emcee and introduced
the next Bay Area act, Mo`opuna. And they are, in alphabetical order: Keoki
Dacoscos ("from the island of Daly City"), Jose Dangtayan (Moloka`i)
and Kris Kanoho (O`ahu). While Iâve been in possession of a tape of
Mo`opuna for quite a while (a lovely version of "Kaleohano"),
and brushed hands with them at other events, I'd never seen them actually
perform before. (Some of you back home may have had a chance to see them
at Ka Hula Piko this past July.) Ho, da nice! Keoki has a - how you say
- suave style, and Kris and Jose play and sing behind Keoki very ably. Their
set started with the beautiful "Maui Waltz" which segued into
"Pupu Hinuhinu." This was followed by "Pua Hone" and
Palani Vaughn's "He Pua Na Iwa" (I think this is the title.) Mo`opuna
ended their set with a rocking "Moloka`i Woman."
Then we were treated to a hula interlude by Kumu
Hula Patrick Makuakane and five dancers from Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu. They
performed a series of three chants (e kala mai, I'm going to guess at spelling
here): the first was the story of Hainako who, fleeing an abusive husband
in Tahiti, made her way to Hawai`i to the Waipio Valley. There, she stumbled
into the wrong berry patch and ate of the ulei(?) fruit. Unbeknownst to
her, ulei required a specific offering before being consumed. Consequently,
she was driven mad and eventually found by her husband and taken back to
Tahiti. The four wahine dancers were awesome in their intensity and emoting
of Hainako's fierce hunger and madness. This was followed by a kane dancer
doing a chant about Kamehameha (I think), and his performance was underscored
by the wahine dancing noho on the stage around him. They ended with a joint
performance of the haunting chant, "`Au a `Ia."
To round out the kind of Island-style entertainment
available in the Bay Area, the last act before Iz was the fun favorite,
Ka Ehu Kai. And they are: Pat Apiag (ukulele, vocals), Nate Defiesta (bass,
vocals), Rick Delgado (percussion, vocals), Tennyson Lum (ukulele, lead
vocals) and Aldon Sanders (guitar, lead vocals). These guys are from the
East Bay and South Bay vicinities. I've seen this group before, but not
in the kind of venue provided by the Marin Civic Center. And while I don't
believe Frank Lloyd Wright would have conceived of Ka Ehu Kai in his building,
he probably would have laughed his elemu off, too. The audience knew something
was up when, along with their instruments, a huge beach ball, a couple of
smaller blow-up balls, a big, plastic toy dump truck, a chair, a beach umbrella
and boom box were placed strategically on the stage.
Ka Ehu Kai started innocently enough with the old-time
hula favorite, "Papalina Lahilahi," which was followed by a hilarious
medley of "The Theme from the Beverly Hillbillies" and "Act
Naturally." I can't remember exactly when they started punting the
beach balls into the audience, but that activity kept folks involved for
quite awhile. It was amazing how the guys took us from one extreme to the
other, since the next song they performed was an updated version of the
chant (e kala mai, again) "`Ano `ai". Three kaikamahine danced
this number, and I believe they were all `ohana (daughter, nieces liâdat).
Tennyson played the hano (nose flute), and Pat provided the necessary pa`i
on the ipu heke. It was a *very* nice performance which I enjoyed immensely
(and I got a chance to tell the girls that after the show, too). Then we
were led to the beach for a little show-and-laugh Ka Ehu Kai-style: while
the rest of the guys sang "Under the Boardwalk/Margaritaville",
Pat strutted his quite formidable stuff (he's a multiple X shirt-size) and
acted out his version of the songs (so that's what the boom box, chair,
umbrella and binoculars were for!). This was followed by an instrumental
version (with Tennyson's quick pickin' on the uke) of Iz's "Maui Hawaiian
Suppa Man". Pat stripped down to his "HS" shirt, and gave
us his impression of , well, Suppa Man. I thought he did a great job of
lifting that big, heavy, plastic toy dump truck over his head, though it
looked like a close thing for a second. That was supposed to be the end
of their set, but the audience hana hou'd them, and they did a jumping version
of "Reggae People" before clearing the stage for Iz.
The audience had been told the "rules"
regarding Iz: it would take some time for him to get set up since he's walking
on stage, no flash cameras because of the flashing bothered him. Well, this
audience had waited a long time for Iz - years already - and I don't believe
anyone would have minded waiting another few minutes.
When Iz was announced, the audience went nuts.
Iz got a standing ovation *before* the curtains ever opened. I have never
experienced anything like it - pure, unadulterated joy that he was here
for us. No one had to tell us how much of an effort it was not only for
Iz, but for those around him, to bring him to California and keep him going.
(Dr. Hovey Lambert, president of PICA, had warned us earlier that Iz was
on oxygen and that when was excited, it often took longer to get him someplace
because he would hyperventilate and take more oxygen, thereby limiting his
supply!) But the cyber-`ohana knows from personal cyber-experience with
Iz, that when he's up, he's *totally* up there 150%, and Iz really wanted
to be in California performing last night.
We were still on our feet, clapping, hollering
and whistling as Iz strummed the opening chords of "E Ala E."
There were no real surprises for the audience because it was quite obvious
that most of them knew the words to all the songs. (I was guilty only of
lip-synching.) In quick succession, Iz sang "Living in a Sovreign Land,"
"Panini Pua Kea," "Sea of Love," and the beautiful "Kamalani".
(He did the "duck" joke, which was definitely not p.c. I went
laugh anyway, but. You can tell when Iz is getting ready to do one, he thinks
about it and starts giggling a little before he tells it.) He did "Henehene
Ko Aka," and "Hokule`a," prefacing this latter song with
explaining that PICA (pronounced "pee-ka," and which he admitted
he thought was a salsa at first) is in the process of building a canoe which
will sail from the West Coast to Hawai`i. He sang his version of John Denver's
"Take Me Home, Country Road" for all the West Makaha ex-patriates.
Then followed the title cut from his next release (due November 1996!),
which I believe is titled, "In this life (I was loved by you)".
At this point, Iz did back up while his cousin and guitarist, Mel Amina
(Three Scoops of Aloha) and bassist Analu Aina, did "Na Ka Pueo"
(in Iz-ology, the song about Naka looking for owls) and (e kala mai again)
"Kau Ohu Mai." And then Iz told the story behind one of my favorite
songs, "Kaleohano" written by his brother-in-law, Moon Kauakahi.
Iz credits Pi`i Kaleohano for awakening him to what it meant to be a Hawaiian,
through learning and loving the `aina. I closed my eyes and let Iz's voice
wash over me. Iz then finished up with "Maui Hawaiian Suppa Man"
and, of course, "Hawai`i '78."
The curtains started to close around Iz and the
audience was on its feet, screaming, "Hana hou! Hana hou!" And
Iz hana hou'd for us, singing a Tahitian song whose title escapes me, but
which I want to call "Iorana" (which about 50% of Tahitian songs
Iâve heard could also be called). And we finished holding hands and
swaying, with "Hawai`i Aloha".
It was probably 11 p.m. by the time Iz finished
up and the autograph session started. I looked at the line as it wound from
the stage, down the stairs and up past the first 30 or so rows of the Civic
Center (seats nearly 2,000) and had no guts to get in. I did stick around
to talk with Auntie Maria (who was Iz's Auntie and tour guide for this trip),
resplendent in her black and yellow mu`umu`u, and Ungko Bob, who was wired
for sound like all the PICA hands, looking a bit like My Favorite Martian
with one bent antenna. We were just saying good-bye Hawaiian-style that,
with all the wala`au that takes place, takes anywhere from 1-3 hours.
It was past midnight before we made it back to
the car. We'd been at the Civic Center for nearly 7 hours, a small and ungrudgingly
given piece of our lives for what Iz gave to us last night. If, given all
the difficulties and discomfitures, big and small (Iz hates to fly) Iz can
come to us and spread his love and music, then anything should be possible.
Mahalo e Iz! And mahalo also to his band: Gaylord Holomalia, Mel Amina,
Analu Aina and Mike Muldoon.
Thanks again to PICA, who managed to put this together
and bring it off in a mere six weeks, through changes of venues, misadventures
with the authorities, tons of paperwork, and reams of faxes. It truly is
the time of the Hawaiian, not only in Hawai`i, but everywhere the aloha
`aina lives. Through PICA, as well as other groups locally, there will be
more and more visible manifestations of the Hawaiian heart and soul around