The soaring voices of Robert Cazimero and Nina Keali‘iwahamana filled the vaulted ceilings of the Albert Spencer Wilcox Building during the Kaua‘i Museum’s Sept. 15 benefit fundraiser.
“I have been in Washington, D.C., I was in Japan, I was in Boston and Dallas. I like these faces better,” Robert said before the concert.
Surrounded by a sold-out crowd of more than 100 people, Robert talked story sitting behind a black piano.
As one of the pioneers of Hawaiian music, Robert, along with his brother, Roland, have performed throughout the islands since the 1970s. In recent years, Robert has explored solo projects, with his latest being “Hula,” which was released in July.
Although Robert announced he was nervous during the Kaua‘i concert, any jitters he had weren’t obvious as he launched into song.
“I’m coming back to Kaua‘i,” he sang while playing a soft piano.
While Keali‘iwahamana and Cazimero hadn’t pre-planned what they were going to perform, many songs the duo sang were from other Hawaiian composers they admired, including songs by Helen Desha Beamer and Robert Nelson, plus samplings of songs that were recorded by Robert and his brother, Roland.
Inspired by the lei around his neck, Cazimero launched into “My Sweet Pikake Lei.” After a hearty round of applause, Cazimero said, “I’m just so happy already, just one clap is enough.”
Wearing a flowing red gown, an array of lei and floral head wreath, Keali‘iwahamana joined Robert mid-way through the concert as he continued to play the piano.
“My goodness, it’s so wonderful to be here,” Keali‘iwahamana said to an excited crowd. “How about the accompanist? Robert, you are the best.”
During the concert, Robert and Keali‘iwahamana entertained with anecdotes, telling stories about school, growing older, their favorite composers and Club Jetty.
Robert, who holds the art of hula close to his heart, invited a student from his halau to dance during a select few of his songs.
“Nona (Beamer) was responsible when we were school to finally dance hula was standing up,” Robert said while talking about his days at Kemehameha Schools. “For many years we had to dance hula sitting down, Nona says ‘Stand up.’ We did. Then she went to the trustees and said ‘This is a Hawaiian school, let us dance.’ We danced.”
In the midst of good friends, Robert paused the concert to announce he was getting text messages on his phone requesting songs.
“This is junk. So fast already,” Robert said toward the end of the concert.
“We are going to end our evening with you all — oh, I hate saying it like — we are just taking a short break, and we will be back,” Robert said.
Robert has already committed to an encore concert next year at the Kaua‘i Museum.