Brothers Cazimero in Japan

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The Sound of Hawai'i '99

The Cazimeros in Japan sing about "fashion jewels made of fire"

by Philbert Ono

This article was originally written for a Japan-published magazine in summer 1999.

Brothers Cazimero
Brothers Cazimero in Tiara Koto posing for me.
Brothers Cazimero
Long line of fans

"Island in Your Eyes"

Every summer, it has become customary for Hawaiian groups to come to Japan and give concerts. It was extra special on July 9, 1999 to see one of Hawai'i's most famous and enduring contemporary Hawaiian singers, The Brothers Cazimero. They headlined their first Japan concert tour in four years.

The timing was right because Japan is experiencing another unprecedented Hawai'i boom. From the early 1970s, it was Hawaiian honeymoons. In the 1980s, it was Hawaiian real estate. And now, it's Japanese high school girls wearing flowers in their hair, lei bracelets, and Hawaiian jewelry. It's Hawaiian T-shirts worn even in Ginza. And it's hula lessons (taken by elderly ladies mainly for exercise) and ukulele classes.

Those of us from Hawaii living in Japan are absolutely tickled by this current boom. It's great to see more Japanese appreciating Hawai'i's culture and music instead of just chocolate-covered macadamia nuts.

"Destination Paradise"

Titled "The Sound of Hawaii '99," the concert tour started in Kamakura on July 6 and went on to Kofu, Yamanashi on July 7, Tokyo on July 9 and 12, and Osaka on July 14. Kamakura is most famous for the huge statue of the Great Buddha (Daibutsu). However, it also has summer beaches, surfers, ukulele classes, and hula dance instructors and students. It is indeed a very fitting place to hold a Hawaiian concert. Going to their concerts was like going to a Hawaiian Paradise as they brought a piece of Hawai'i with them.

I attended the concert on July 9 held at Tiara Koto, a beautiful concert hall in Koto Ward, Tokyo. Beautiful because a lot of wood is used inside the building. Koto Ward is famous for lumber making (in Shin-Kiba). Koto Ward's community centers also offer regular hula classes. I happen to live in Koto Ward so it was a double thrill to see people from Hawai'i right in my backyard.

I remember when The Brothers Cazimero came to Japan to perform at dinner shows in first-class hotels. Of course I wanted to go, but you know how much hotel dinner shows cost in Japan. So it's great to see them perform at normal concert halls with relatively affordable ticket prices (ranging from 6,000 to 4,000 yen in Tokyo). I finally saw them perform in Japan.

"Rainbow Connection"

The Brothers Cazimero consists of Robert Cazimero (b. 1949) and his younger brother Roland Cazimero (b. 1950). They are ethnic Hawaiians who have been a standard fixture in contemporary Hawaiian music since the early 1970s. They first started out in a group called the Sunday Manoa led by Peter Moon. When the group broke up after three years and three albums, The Brothers Cazimero was formed in 1975 just when many other popular local singers and groups like Cecilio and Kapono, Kalapana, Melveen Leed, and Loyal Garner headlined the local music scene.

The Brothers Caz have proven to be one of the most enduring of all and their songs are timeless. They sing about Hawai'i, in English and in Hawaiian. The songs are mainly about the places, people, beauty, and legends of Hawai'i. Love songs are also common, and they do a lot of hula dance numbers. (Robert is a Kumu Hula or hula teacher.) Their albums offer a nice mix of traditional Hawaiian songs and modern ones. They have deep, haunting voices which blend together extremely well along with the guitar, bass, and piano they play.

The Brothers Cazimero did not come to Japan alone on this concert tour. Besides several male and female dancers (Kyle "Bubu" Atabay, Alika Parker, Keola "Bully" Makaiau, Kyle "Kaliko" Chang, Jackie Booth, and Moea Silva), they brought along three other singers who are stars in their own right. First was 70-year-old Mahi Beamer. He was the first in the famed musical Beamer family to cut a record. He plays the piano and sings with a voice that sounds utterly Hawaiian. If you're in Hawaii, you can see him perform at Waikiki's Prince Kuhio Hotel on Friday and Saturday nights.

Next was Amy Hanaiali'i, a singer and dancer from Maui whose 1997 album "Hawaiian Tradition" won the Album of the Year honors at the 1998 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards (Hawai'i's Grammy Awards). In 1998, she released her third album titled "Hanaiali'i" which captured the Group of the Year, Song of the Year, and the Hawaiian Album of the Year honors at the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. She first performed with the Brothers Cazimero at their May Day concert in 1997. This is her first trip to Japan.

The third star singer was Kaipo Hale who was Roland's classmate at Kamehameha Schools. He has one album under his belt, and he strives to pass on the Hawaiian language and culture to the younger generation. His name is often found in the credits of Brothers Cazimero albums.

There were also two Japanese guest performers. One was Naoko Shimizu who danced the hula and the other was Sandii who danced and sang at the same time.

"The Music of the Night"

The two-hour concert started at 7 p.m. with hula dancing by several male and female dancers accompanied by chants telling about the birth of the Hawaiian islands. Then the Brothers Cazimero rolled out from behind the curtain. Robert was on the left playing his stand-up bass, and Roland was strumming his double-neck guitar while sitting on a white box. It was their standard configuration.

They opened with "Hawaiian Paradise" and continued with "Pua Hone" and a medley which included "Mai Lohilohi Mai 'Oe," "Hula Blues," and "Kawika." They had aged a bit since the last time I saw them in 1988 at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. But their voices were ageless and as beautiful as ever.

Amy Hanaiali'i then took over and performed "Hale'iwa Hula," "I Ali'i No 'Oe," and "Palehua" which won Song of Year at the 1999 Hoku Hanohano Awards.

The Brothers Caz came back with "No'eno'e Maika'i Ke Aloha" and "Akaka Falls" before the spotlight went to Kaipo Hale who introduced himself as being from Pauoa in Honolulu. He sang "Pauoa Hula," "Blue Hawaiian Moonlight," and "Huapala Maka Onaona." One hour had already passed by this time and there was a 15-min. intermission.

In the lobby, people jammed the table where Brothers Cazimero CDs (2,500 yen each), T-shirts (2,900 yen each), and videos were being sold. The concert program, selling for 1,000 yen, was also very nice with color pages. (At the Osaka concert, I heard that they sold a lot more stuff like Hawaiian fans, T-shirt skirts, pau skirts, and even rubber slippers!)

The second part of the concert began with Mahi Beamer on piano and vocals. He played the piano alone for quite a while until he finally started singing. It was a surprise to hear his voice. It sounded so Hawaiian.

The Caz then reappeared with "Tewetewe," "I Lei 'Oe," "Hawaiian War Chant," and "Ka'ena," one of my all-time favorites. They sounded so perfect, just like their records. In between, there were performances by the Naoko Shimizu and Sandii. At the end, the Brothers sang songs from their latest CD titled "Destination Paradise."

The concert was virtually sold out. The audience consisted of older ladies (looking like hula dance students) as well as young people. And a few were obviously from Hawai'i since I could hear pidgin being spoken. Not many were wearing aloha attire. (I heard in Osaka a lot of people came in Aloha shirts and muumuus.)

For this one night, it was like we were back in Hawai'i. It helped to ease some of our homesickness for Hawai'i. (Or perhaps it made it worse.) Those songs and dances tugged at my heart and soul, reminding me of how much Hawai'i was in my blood.

"One Small Favor"

They gave one Hana Hou (encore), and as soon as they finished, the house lights went on and all the performers rushed to the front exit. We soon found out why.

The Brothers Caz, Mahi, Amy, and Kaipo were in the lobby sitting at a long table signing autographs. All the dancers also had lined up along the staircase toward the autograph table. There was no announcement that they would be doing this. We rushed to the end of the line and took out our concert programs and CD jackets. The line progressed quite quickly and we got to the Cazimeros soon enough.

I told them that we were from Hawai'i living in Tokyo. They asked us what high school we were from and they lit up when we said "Roosevelt and Kaimuki." Photographs weren't allowed during the concert so I wanted to take pictures of them. They happily posed for me and then they told me to get into the picture with them. Wow, what a thrill that was! Then they let my friend from Hawai'i do the same with me taking the picture. They were so friendly and nice.

The Cazimeros, Mahi, Amy, and Kaipo were signing everything--concert programs, CD jackets, and T-shirts. They all signed my concert program and "Destination Paradise" CD jacket. Apparently they gave autographs at all their concerts in Japan. What great service, and what great aloha they were spreading. They were serving very well as Hawaii's goodwill and cultural ambassadors to Japan.

After that concert, I can no longer think of them as just voices coming out of my stereo. I now think of them as real, flesh-and-blood people whose hands I have felt and whose faces I've seen smiling directly at me. Now I can’t help but see their faces in my mind whenever I listen to their songs.