Talk Story: A musical odyssey

When a boat sails at night, it’s magic.

At least, according to Roland Cazimero.

“When she sails in the night, and her hull hits the water, it sets off this luminescent light upon the water,” the famed Hawaiian singer said. “It lights its way to the destination. … Being out there in the darkness in the ocean, the stars and the cosmos are always playing games, so you are not alone. You can talk to God one on one all the time.”

Cazimero is imagining he is one of the crew members aboard the Hokulea — the famous Hawaiian double-hulled voyaging canoe. The vessel uses Polynesian navigation techniques — such as star charts — without the use of modern instruments.

In 2014, the canoe will begin the international leg of its Malama Honua (care for the Earth) worldwide voyage, traveling more than 47,000 miles, stopping in 85 ports in 26 countries.

Cazimero and Kauai’s Chocky Boy Chock are planning to embark on an odyssey beside the Hokulea, chronicling the canoe’s journey around the world through song.

The duo has recruited a team of Hawaiian musicians, songwriters and spiritual practitioners — from every island — to achieve their goal.

“It’s not just a jaunt down to Tahiti, it’s a jaunt around the world,” Cazimero said, referring to its first voyage to Tahiti in 1976. “There are different people we are reaching with different ideas, extending our aloha 10 times over to reach people who have no idea what is aloha. To make them realize what aloha is the same thing that you have — love, caring, sharing with one another and not hurting each other.”

The seed

It came to him in a dream.

It was 2011, and Chucky Boy Chock was listening to Nainoa Thompson talk about the Hokulea’s upcoming worldwide tour to an enthralled audience at the Kauai Museum.

He wondered if anyone was thinking about composing music for the tour, much like Cazimero did in his 1977 release “Hokulea” — an 11-track album about the canoe’s 1976 inaugural voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti.

“From that point, the seed was planted,” Chock said.

He called Roland, who he affectionately calls “Bozo,” and asked if he wanted to part of the journey.

Cazimero was immediately onboard.

“It’s an honor to lead this venture, to be part of the world tour, to tell stories through music, and we both got really excited,” Chock said.

But there were some ground rules: If Chock was not in agreement with Cazimero, or if Cazimero was not in agreement with Chock, the project would be shelved. No questions, no arguments.

The next step was to brainstorm a wish list of musicians they wanted to invite to join their team — with representatives from Hawaii Island to Niihau.

The team from Kauai and Niihau includes Kepa Maly, Koki Williams, Kelly Phillips, Thomas Takahashi and Ane Kanahele.

“We got powerful people representing Kauai,” Chock said.

In all, there will be about 20 musicians already committed to the project, and the number is growing.


Cazimero — considered a pioneer of the Hawaiian Renaissance — watched as the Hokulea launched in the 1970s.

“I wrote all the music in my mind, in my heart,” Cazimero said.

When the Hokulea arrived to Tahiti in 1976, Cazimero happened to be traveling with members of the 442nd Infantry Regiment to France.

“The day we landed in France, was the day she (the Hokulea) landed in Tahiti, and they had pictures of the Hokulea in the newspaper in France,” Cazimero said. “They showed 20,000 on the beach welcoming this canoe.”

When Cazimero and the Hokulea returned to Hawaii, he began observing the vessel, speaking with crew members. At night, he would sneak onboard the canoe.

“I would swim out, climb on board, and give her a lei or a wreath so that she could know somebody loved her,” Cazimero said. “Now that I am coming back to rewrite this thing going around the world, I’m saving her again in my mind, and finding out through people what kind of things they’re going through.

“It’s a lonely time for the navigator, I believe, because he has to make all the decisions that concerns not only the canoe but the crew members.”

The music

Cazimero and Chock have already penned four songs for the journey. But how do they compose music for a voyage that has not fully begun?

“First of all, one song came immediately — a song that blesses the voyage. It just came, almost like a prayer song, seeking the guidance of akua,” Chock said.

Throughout the journey, the Polynesian Voyaging Society will be sending daily journals from the sea to Cazimero and Chock.

“That will be an inspiration to us. That will tell us what kind of music to do,” Chock said.

The plan is to record three of four albums about the voyage.

The first album — expected to be released in 2014 — will include music about the preparation for the voyage and expectations, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Polynesian Voyaging Society, according to Chock.

“We agreed we must support his whatever way we can,” Chock said.

Chock said one of his personal challenges is to write about the dangers out at sea, including the pirating off the waters of South Africa. He didn’t know if he could write a haunting song, since the musical voyage is supposed to uplift the crew members.

As if on cue, Chock received a text message from one of the Hawaiian songwriters committed to the project. It read: “May the angel open and guard the path of the ocean to lead the voyage.”

Chock looks up from his cell phone with a smile. This will be a lyric in the song he was dreading to compose.

“I love it,” Chock said, before kissing it. “I’m keeping this forever.”

The future

The Hokulea is in the midst of a 25-leg, 1,000-mile journey around the Hawaiian Islands. Sailing beside it will be the Hikianalia.

The Hokulea is scheduled to stop by Nawiliwili, Hanalei and Niihau in mid-to-late September.

In 2014, the canoe will embark on its international journey — with its first stop in Tahiti. The voyage has a mission to raise awareness about the environment and sustainability while inspiring others, especially children.

After heading south to Tahiti, the canoe will visit New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in 2015. In 2016, the Hokulea continues to South and North America, wrapping up its journey in 2017 with stops at the Galapagos Islands, Rapa Nui and Tahiti before coming home to Hawaii.

“This three years, its got to be one hell of a journey,” Cazimero said. “I don’t even think we can cover it all (musically), but we will try.”

• Andrea Frainier, managing editor, can be reached at 245-0427 or


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