In the Mix

Ho’onu’a not done performing yet

May 5th, 2011

Photos by Jason Genegabus / jason@staradvertiser.com

Christian Yrizarry performs on stage at the Waikiki Shell during last month's "Mayjah Rayjah" concert. It was the second time since Sept. 2006 that Ho'onu'a had performed together.

One of the big highlights of last month's "Mayjah Rayjah" concert at the Waikiki Shell was the return of Ho'onu'a to the stage for the first time in nearly five years.

The duo, comprised of Christian Yrizarry and Jared Keo, met as students at the University of San Diego back in the mid-1990's. The two were football players in college, yet had time to kick back with musical instruments and kanikapila just like generations of college kids from Hawaii did before (and after) them.

Christian Yrizarry, left, and Jared Keo are Ho'onu'a. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)

The difference between them and everyone else is that Yrizarry and Keo were able to parlay their hobby into an actual recording career. Ho'onu'a enjoyed a few years of success, releasing multiple albums and touring frequently up and down the west coast college luau circuit.

In 2006, however, the two decided to part ways, with Keo focusing more on his career as a financial consultant and Yrizarry opting to stick with music full-time. Yrizarry went on to form the group Beach 5, which he continues to front today.

Last month's "Mayjah Rayjah" concerts on the Big Island and Oahu was the first time the two had been back on stage in front of a crowd together in a while, but Keo said there wasn't too much to be worried about.

Keo and Yrizarry on stage together at the Waikiki Shell. They were joined at one point by members of Natural Vibrations. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)

"It felt just like riding a bike," he said backstage at the Waikiki Shell last month before Ho'onu'a performed. "The feeling (on the Big Island) was good, the vibe was good, the crowd was good."

Keo moved to Utah last summer with his wife, who gave birth three months ago to twins. Between his growing family and work obligations, there isn't much time for music these days.

"My music is a guitar and a ukulele in my music room at home, and I sing in my ward choir at church," Keo said. "My wife, she really wanted to move there for a while. And she went back to school.

"So it was kind of one of those things that happened, but it's all good."

When "Mayjah Rayjah" promoter Raymond Ho, Jr. got in touch to gauge their feelings on a reunion, it didn't take much for Yrizarry and Keo to get on board with his plans. But while the gig was billed as a "final set" for the duo, both guys weren't exactly interested in calling it quits just yet.

Ho'onu'a poses for a picture with members of Rebel Souljahz and Natural Vibrations backstage at the Waikiki Shell. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)

"Basically, what it boils down to is that nothing is finalized yet," said Yrizarry. "Whether there will be more shows or not, the door is open. As long as we have fun, it works out with everyone's schedule and there's a demand, we'll do it.

"It's for us to have fun and for our fans to get another taste. They've been so loyal for all these years."

Keo added that there is still a demand for their music on the mainland, and with his new home in Utah, opportunities may arise for Ho'onu'a to keep on playing shows outside of Hawaii in the months and years to come.

"Bottom line is, if you really think about it, we really did a lot of touring on the West Coast, the luau circuit. A lot of those people are in their late 20's now and are still on the mainland. It's such a huge market, not only for Hawaiians, but all Polynesians."

Added Yrizarry: "A lot of our fans have grown older, but there's also a whole new generation of kids who saw us for the first time.

"Should everything line up, then if can, can."

———

Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at jason@staradvertiser.com.

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