Archive for February, 2011

Review: Damian Marley and Nas at Kakaako Waterfront

February 27th, 2011

Photos by FL Morris /

Nas, left, and Damian Marley were in Honolulu on Saturday for the second of three Hawaii stops on their "Distant Relatives" tour. The two performed earlier this month on the Big Island; they will also perform on Maui on Sunday.


"This feel good. This look good. This is the most beautiful thing!"

Thousands of hip-hop and reggae fans at Kakaako Waterfront Park couldn't have agreed more with hip-hop heavyweight Nas, who performed with reggae superstar Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley on Saturday in support of their 2010 collaboration album, "Distant Relatives."

While both have played here as solo artists in recent years, Saturday was the first time they shared an Oahu stage. Nearly a year after first going on tour in support of "Distant Relatives," the pair turned in a nearly perfectly executed set that clocked in at almost two hours in length. And even though it's only February, I'm pretty confident this show will continue to be talked about as one of the best concerts of 2011.

One of the nice things promoter BAMP Project does at its shows is to hire local talent as much as possible. This time around, DJ Westafa was enlisted to spin tunes before local openers The Green (pictured at right) played, and then again before the main event got underway. He did a fantastic job — especially during the full hour the crowd had to wait before Marley and Nas made their appearance.

The Green didn't disappoint either, as the owners of 2010's iTunes Best Reggae Album played one of their final gigs before embarking on a national tour of their own. With a mix of new songs, hits off their debut album and a sprinkling of covers, they kept the handful of early arrivals at Kakaako Waterfront Park entertained for nearly an hour.

Maybe it was the sizable beer garden set up atop the hill overlooking the park's amphitheatre, or maybe it was the constant cloud of pakalolo smoke that wafted over the crowd, but nobody seemed to mind they had been waiting for more than 60 minutes in a slight drizzle by the time DJ Green Lantern started hyping them up with snippets of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, DMX and Notorious B.I.G. songs.

Then, as the iconic Luniz jam "I Got 5 On It" played over the speakers, a giant reproduction of the "Distant Relatives" album cover arose behind the stage. A few minutes later, it fell to reveal the artists themselves, with Nas charging full-speed into "As We Enter" to start the night.

Even though it was kind of strange to hear the two perform such socially conscious music amidst a bunch of drunk stoners, the opportunity to see songs like "Tribal War" and "Nah Mean" performed live under the stars just a few feet from the Pacific Ocean was a lot more fun than watching the same performances on YouTube. Both Marley and Nas seemed genuinely excited to be back in front of their Honolulu fans — neither stopped running from one end of the stage to the other until Marley departed to make way for a Nas solo spotlight.

The willingness to yield the stage was nice touch for fans of both artists who may not be as familiar with the "Distant Relatives" material. After a quick hit with their new stuff, Nas went to the vault to perform hits like "Hip-Hop is Dead," "Street Dreams," "If I Ruled the World" and "Nas is Like." Marley then returned to help with a few more songs before making his fans freak out with renditions of "Me Name Junior Gong" and "One Cup of Coffee."

Some casual fans had enjoyed enough of the night and were starting to make their way out of the park around 10 p.m., but the vast majority hadn't gone anywhere when Nas took control of the vibe once again with "Hate Me Now," "Made You Look" and "Who Shot Ya?"

And of course, a Damian Marley show wouldn't be complete without "Welcome to Jamrock," and the son of the late, great Bob Marley gladly obliged before asking the Kakaako Waterfront Park crowd to raise their lighters into the sky for his performance of "Road to Zion."

It may have been slightly predictable, but Hawaii hip-hop and reggae fans had to be incredibly satisfied with Saturday's show. With so many artists making the stop in Hawaii while on their way to Asia and/or Australia and New Zealand, it's nice to see such popular acts not write off this market as someplace they can "mail it in," so to speak.

From the incredible energy levels of Marley and Nas the entire night to the sweet sounds coming from the duo's backing Empire Band, this concert had the feeling of a stadium show, just in a much more cozy space. It was a nearly perfect example of how shows at Kakaako Waterfront Park should be.

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PICS: Damian 'Jr. Gong' Marley and Nas in concert

Makana debuts new music

February 25th, 2011

Photo by Jason Genegabus /

Yes, Makana was on stage with a guitar in Chinatown on Wednesday night — but the original songs he performed were like nothing he's ever played in public before.


People like routines. They get set in their ways and settle into repeating the same behaviors again and again. It's comfortable, and usually nobody else is ever really paying attention.

Some musicians like routines, too. But Makana Cameron isn't one of them.

In order to maintain a full reservoir of creative inspiration, the slack key guitar virtuoso often veers off on different creative paths with his original compositions.

"It's very simple — my music works on opposites," Makana said Wednesday, a few hours before he was set to perform at NextDoor in Chinatown. "One thing I've observed, and my whole philosphy of music is based on this, is that opposites create each other.

"In order to build the passion and the tension, to create music that will move people, at some point I need to refill. The best way to refill is to move completely away from it to something else … and as I'm doing that, I'll get stuck at one point and take a break. This is how I maintain my passion. I don't burn out doing one thing all the time."

Instead of focusing on the image he portrays to fans, Makana said he rather concentrate on keeping his life interesting enough so he's inspired to keep creating new music. Being a self-managed artist also allows him to maintain total control over his career.

"If you look at a lot of artists, they're not artists, they're just reinforcing their brand," he said. "That's not my philosophy. My approach is to constantly expand.

"At some point with the whole Makana thing, there's a whole responsibility with perpetuating the cultural tradition. In a sense, my art gives back to the community, so there's a lot of heaviness and a lot of structure. This is a natural repsonse of me wanting total freedom.

'It's like a banyan tree. The more I innovate, the more I build my roots."


New music from Mailani Makainai

February 23rd, 2011

Star-Advertiser File

Mailani Makainai performs during the 2010 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.

It looks like Mailani Makainai is on a two-year plan with her recording career these days.

Once known for her role in the island contemporary duo Keahiwai, the local musician teamed with Jenn "JRoQ" Wright and Tiki Suan in 2007 to release an album as Mighty J before striking out on her own in 2009 with her self-titled solo debut. Next month, she'll stick to the new-material-every-two-years script when "Aina" goes on sale to the public.

"It's going to be more of the same (style), just stronger musically and and vocally," Makainai said in an interview last week. "There are traditional (Hawaiian) favorites that people will be familiar with, and I have English songs, too."

Like "Mailani" two years ago, "Aina" will be released by The Mountain Apple Company, who are definitely ahead of the curve when it comes to building an online presence for their artists. In addition to documentary-style video planned for the weeks ahead, the label will stream selected tracks off the new album — starting with "He'eia" (see below).

Makainai is especially proud of "Kanani o Ka'ena," a collaboration with Keola Donaghy that tells of the beauty she recently discovered on the leeward side of Oahu.

"That song is about the beauty of Ka'ena and the time I spent out there," she said. "The song captures a lot of different things. It actually talks about the beauty of that place and the fact that Oahu still has a lot of beauty left to it, even though we're the most populated island in the chain.

"It was actually my first time out there this past summer. I never knew that (Yokohama Bay) was out there and how beautiful it was. And this is in my backyard!"


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AUDIO: Donnis – ‘Me & My Boo’

February 18th, 2011


To help you get ready for Saturday's "Pow Wow" afterparty at NextDoor, here's a quick audio/visual introduction to rapper Donnis, who is flying into Honolulu to perform.

"Me & My Boo" is the name of his latest single, which was produced by Free School. Take a listen via the link below.

"Pow Wow" goes down at Fresh Cafe's Loft in Space from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday; doors open at NextDoor for the afterparty at 10 p.m.

MP3: Donnis - "Me & My Boo" (WARNING: Explicit Lyrics)

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Maisey Rika to make U.S. debut next month

February 17th, 2011

New Zealand-based Maisey Rika is ready to take America by storm — and she'll begin her assault on U.S. music fans with two shows in Hawaii next month.

The four-time Maori Music Award winner has enlisted the help of four-time Grammy Award winner George Kahumoku, who will join her on stage at Hawaii Public Radio's Atherton Theater on March 3, followed by a March 12 concert at theVenue in Chinatown where she'll also be joined by Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole. Additional tour dates on Maui and the Big Island are also planned.

Described as "one of Aotearoa's (New Zealand's) most impressive voices," Rika is also a songwriter who creates songs that "(fuse) cultural roots, memorable tunes, and honest, sometimes haunting lyrics." She's been described as having a sound "similar to Tracey Chapman or Sade, with a splash of India Arie."

Tickets for both Oahu concerts are available now. Call HPR at 955-8821 to purchase for the March 3 show; visit to buy tickets for the March 12 show online.

Maisey Rika

Presented by Tim Bostock Productions and Hawaii Public Radio

» Where: Atherton Theater, 738 Kaheka St. (March 3) and theVenue, 1146 Bethel St. (March 12)

» When: 7:30 p.m. March 3 and March 12

» Cost: $25 general admission, $20 for HPR members, $15 for full-time students (March 3); $15 presale, $20 at the door (March 12)

» Info: 955-8821 or

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‘Hawaiian Grammy’ controversy

February 16th, 2011

After being dominated the last few years by Los Angeles-based recording artist/producer Daniel Ho, the Best Hawaiian Music Album category in the annual Grammy Awards has become quite the controversial topic once again this week, after Hawaii-born artist Tia Carrere (pictured at right with Ho) won her second trophy for "Huana ke Aloha" on Sunday.

If you haven't been paying attention, go check out this story by my Honolulu Star-Advertiser colleague John Berger, who did a good job of speaking to a lot of the parties involved.

Basically, it comes down to this: Hawaii-based recording artists have started to realize that the Grammy playing field isn't exactly level, and there are different opinions as to what needs to be done. While some believe there needs to be more sub-categories in the Best Hawaiian Album category, others are starting to think the right move would be to petition the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to kill off the category altogether.

If Hawaii-based artists want to take the ball and go home, so to speak, they can try. But it's not likely that NARAS will listen to non-members with a bone to pick, and the thought of complaining because the "right" record didn't win a Grammy is ridiculous.

At the same time, local artists do have the right to voice their opinions. Dennis Kamakahi, who was nominated for his work on Amy Hanaiali'i's "Amy Hanaiali'i and Slack Key Masters of Hawaii," posted on Twitter what a number of other people were thinking last Sunday night.

"We've been robbed," he wrote.

Robbed? Probably. Was it preventable? Definitely.


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‘Faith’ remastered is a winner

February 11th, 2011


No matter what you think of his sexuality or the path his career has taken over the past 20 years, the fact remains — George Michael created a masterpiece when he released “Faith” in November 1987.

The accolades don’t lie:

» More than 10 million (yes, MILLION) copies sold in 1988

» More than 85 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart (including 12 weeks at the top in ’88)

» Four number one Billboard singles

» A Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1988

» 137 sold-out concerts worldwide in support of the album

So when Epic Records, Legacy Recordings and the artists own website,, decided to release a trio of commemorative re-release packages, the bar was set pretty high. How do you capture the lightning in a bottle, so to speak, of the original in what has become an increasingly cluttered music landscape?

The answer, apparently, was to allow Michael’s fans to decide just how fanatical they wanted to be. Along with the “Faith: Deluxe Edition” package available exclusively at his website, a “Faith: Special Edition” double-disc/DVD package and “Faith: 2CD Remastered Edition” are also available for purchase online. All three are worth the price of admission for ‘80s babies and anyone else who wants to relive Michael’s foray into the solo world after his departure from Wham! in 1986.

Let’s start with the music. All the hits you remember from “Faith” — the title track, “Father Figure,” “One More Try,” “Monkey,” “Kissing a Fool” (my personal favorite) and, of course, “I Want Your Sex” — are there in their remastered glory. I can remember listening to (and still have in my CD collection!) this album on my treasured Sony Discman, and I don’t know if it’s just me, but I can hear instruments on the remastered version much clearer than I remember on the original.

A second disc in the re-release contains instrumental versions of “Faith” and “Kissing a Fool,” plus three versions of “Monkey,” a live version of “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” a remix of “Hard Day” and the songs “Fantasy” and “I Believe When I Fall in Love.” The DVD included with the “Special Edition” and “Deluxe Edition” provides fans with music videos of Michael’s hits, plus a 1987 interview with the artist and “Music Money Love Faith,” which was originally released in 1988.

The interview, filmed in London in 1987 and billed as Jonathan Ross “having words” with Michael, is a fantastic counterpoint to the 2010 interview included in the book that’s included with the “Special” and “Deluxe” editions. You get a glimpse of what he was like during the period of time when his career was skyrocketing, plus a more introspective look back via the print interview with Mark Goodier. A companion piece in the book by Robbie Elson also provides important perspective on Michael’s place on the pop music landscape and his influence on both the music industry and mainstream society.

Go all out and buy the “Deluxe Edition,” and the goodies you’ll receive should be a pretty big deal for any hardcore George Michael fan. Along with the CDs, DVD and book, you get a vinyl replica LP of the album and a “memorabilia envelope” (includes five art prints, poster, tickets and “Faith” tour pass) in a numbered box that’s presented in a black and gold foil slipcase. The “Deluxe Edition” is available now, and the first 2,000 orders will also receive a specially-designed, numbered art print that’s exclusive to the set.

Would I personally go that far? Probably not. But the bonus CD and accompanying DVD are definitely worth it, and if you’re going to go as far as buying the “Special Edition,” be sure to actually take the time and read the book that comes with the music. You may just realize you have a new level of respect for the greatness that “Faith” is — and continues to be — nearly 25 years after the album was first released.

George Michael - 'Faith: Special Edition'

Three stars

» Info:

» Buy online: "Faith: Special Edition" or "Faith: 2CD Remastered Edition"

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Jed Roa moves from Pipeline to Showbox

February 4th, 2011

Life is pretty hectic for Jed Roa (pictured) these days, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

The former part-owner of Pipeline Cafe served as general manager under new owner Greg Azus until the Kakaako nightclub’s final night of business on Monday, when everything at the bar was $3 and an all-star lineup of Clubland veterans showed up to pay their respects.

“It was pretty good all night long,” Roa said earlier this week. “A lot of old employees came though, so that was cool.”

The very last moves in the Pipeline endgame come this weekend, when a public auction will be held to sell off all furnishings, kitchen equipment, glassware, lighting, electronics, memorabilia and more. Preview viewings are scheduled from noon to 3 p.m. today and 8 to 10 a.m. tomorrow; the first item will go up for bid shortly after 10 a.m.

Once the auction is finished, Roa will be able to finally close the book on his Pipeline days and look ahead to the future — one that may very well include him working at multiple venues in Honolulu.

He’ll start that journey next weekend with the grand opening of Showbox Honolulu (pictured at right), a 7,400-square-foot space on Dillingham Boulevard formerly known as Coyote Nights. And while he wouldn’t comment on the record, Roa hinted that a number of other venue owners also wanted him to apply the same type of makeover to their businesses.

“The way I look at it, there are many people who have multiple locations as owners and I can do the same thing,” said Roa. “I don’t have to own it, but I can still do all the work.

And obviously, they wouldn’t be calling me if they didn’t need help.”

COYOTE NIGHTS originally opened in 2006 to much fanfare and buzz over its custom sound system that reportedly cost more than $100,000 to buy and install in the split-level space. Having a liquor license to serve drinks until 4 a.m. didn't hurt, either.

As I wrote back then:

First impression: This spot will be great for concerts. It's not as big as Pipeline, but definitely has more space than venues like the Wave and Anna Bannanas. The room has a high ceiling, with a second floor lounge that would be perfect for VIP seating.

I was also blown away by the sound and lighting rig, installed by Creative Sound's Jeff Kang. DJ Mike D took the night off from Pipeline to come and spin on Saturday, and marveled at the power and sound quality. More than $100,000 went into the system, which includes a 10-foot video screen and eight double 18-inch subwoofer cabinets.

But the owner of the club, a Korean woman known only by the name Su, couldn’t get the operation off the ground and things fizzled out pretty quick. In recent years, the local Micronesian and Marshallese communities have served as the main sources of customers, causing Coyote Nights to all but disappear off the radars of mainstream club kids.

Fast forward to 2011, and Su has enlisted Roa to give her place a facelift. The new club will seem familiar to Pipeline customers from its early days (1999-2002) who remember how the entertainment lineup would vary pretty drastically from night to night and week to week.

“Right now, we’re looking at live rock on Fridays, while Saturdays will be more hip-hop with a DJ,” said Roa. “Some salsa people want to come in, and Dancing Dave Productions wants to do some jazz. Micah G wants to do some reggae, too.

“And I’ve already called Rex Navarette. Being that close to Kalihi, it’s a guaranteed sell-out.”

With a listed capacity of just over 400 people, Showbox hopes to fill a void for some of the medium-sized concerts that would be too small for Blaisdell Arena. Some 70 parking stalls will be repurposed as a valet lot on the weekends, and Roa said he’ll stand firm in keeping all events 21-and-over.

“It’s just easier to deal with,” he said. “I’m just happy to have a venue where we can do big events.”

OF PIPELINE'S 60 former employees, about 15 were being considered for positions at Showbox. Along with keeping Honolulu’s concert scene alive, Roa hopes success at his new club will be a way to keep more people employed.

“The people I’ve worked with, I know how they work, so it’s going to be easier with them around,” he said. “The thing is, I still have to determine the staffing, because it all depends on how many nights we’re going to be open.”

Showbox’s soft opening will be next Friday, Feb. 11, when “Beats Antique” takes place at 9 p.m. DJs Azia, TKO and Atma will be joined by Shakti Dance Movement, Giinko Marischino and Hawaii Fire Artists. A grand opening party is scheduled for next Saturday, Feb. 12; a private, VIP event will take place starting at 6 p.m. before the doors are opened to the general public around 10 p.m.

AUDIO: Family Dinner – ‘Soul Surfer Shakedown’

February 3rd, 2011

Get ready for "a sporkful of funk" this weekend, as hip-hop/funk/jazz band Family Dinner takes to the stage at NextDoor on Saturday with opening act Takeout Special.

The band describes its sound like this: "Sly and the Family Stone invites the Red Hot Chili Peppers over for tea and cookies, then Biz Markie gets back from a guru retreat and starts playing the ukulele!" After bursting onto the Chinatown music scene a few years ago, they hope to make strides in 2011 to increase their fanbase and get some actual product into the marketplace. Family Dinner's full-length debut is scheduled to be released in March.

According to founding member Joel Speier, the band was formed after he, Reggie Padilla and Alfredo Rivera met at a weekly family dinner hosted by one of Padilla's friends. That night, the three discovered their common musical interests, and it was decided on the spot that the three would form a band.

In 2008, Family Dinner released their first EP, "Come and Get It," which got them a deal with local label Pass Out Records, who will help them to put out the full-length album.

These days, Speier, Padilla and Rivera are joined during performances by bass player Aaron Friedman, guitarist Gilbert Batangan and backup dancers the Dinner Rolls.

Here's a sample of Family Dinner's music, courtesy the band:

AUDIO: Family Dinner - "Soul Surfer Shakedown"

Family Dinner album fundraiser

» Where: NextDoor, 43 N. Hotel St.

» When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5

» Cost: $7

» Info:

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Tropics Cafe adds warehouse space

February 3rd, 2011

Photo illustration by Jason Genegabus /

A panoramic view of Tropics the Warehouse, taken from the second floor of the venue with an iPhone.


After a false start last summer, Tropics Cafe Bar & Lounge owner Pat Kashani is almost ready to open his new venue — which just happens to be located steps from his current home.

Tropics the Warehouse was supposed to open last June, with Kashani going as far as booking an opening night party before realizing he wasn't going to be able to make it happen. For the last six months, a variety of financial, construction and personal issues have kept the former Tropic Fish & Vegetable storage space from opening as a nightclub, but things were complete enough to host Kumuola's second annual Roots & Culture Festival last Saturday.

This reporter got a quick glimpse of the room just hours before the party was scheduled to start, and I found Kashani hard at work with a small crew putting finishing touches on the split level space that features multiple bars (Tropics the Warehouse is still in the process of securing a liquor license, however, so no alcohol is being served at the moment) and some pretty sweet areas to lounge in, along with a main stage and dance floor.

After failing to open on time last year as promised, Kashani didn't want to talk on the record about his new club until he had a liquor license and was ready for a true grand opening celebration. He said it might be weeks, or even months, before everything was finalized.

Until then, Tropics the Warehouse will continue to host parties without serving alcohol on a limited basis.

But stop by Tropics Cafe for the latest info, and you never know — Kashani himself just might take you back to Tropics the Warehouse for a quick tour. He's akamai like that.

One of the upstairs seating areas at Tropics the Warehouse.

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