Finding beauty in music

There is a joy in Michael Keale’s eyes when he sings. His bass voice is soothing. His songs, relaxing.

When the Kauai man performs, he shares his love for life as well as his talent for music.

“In my 61 years living on this Earth, I’ve found that the potential of how much beauty we experience in life, really depends on us,” he said. “It is up to us how beautiful we want our life to be.”

It’s that outlook that provides the inspiration for his recently released 10-song CD, “No Ka Beauty.” In his performances at Hukilau Lanai and Tahiti Nui, he showcases his diversity in range and styles, sometimes accompanied by his wife, Linda Lester, as she dances the hula.

Entertaining, yes. Meaningful, absolutely. Because this CD is about sharing what he calls the beauty of love, of place and of life — the very things that connect everyone.

“No matter where you live, who you are, beauty is all around,” he said.

There is a humbleness in his songs, which can be linked to his humble beginnings growing up in Kailua, Oahu, during the 1950s. His family is originally from Niihau and his great-grandfather, Moses Keale, lived for a time in Kalalau Valley where he began composing music back in the 1800s.

His mother was raised in the cane fields of Kaeleku, Maui, and his father, on the beaches of Waikiki. Both share a love for music and entertaining, and passed that on to their son. His mom was an entertainer who put together shows for GIs during the Korean War.

“We were lucky to be surrounded with music growing up,” he said.

Michael received his first ukulele when he was 8. He recalled that songs like “Baby Kali,” “God Bless My Daddy” and “Pua Carnation,” were the very fabric of his early life — when things were simple.

The name given to him by his grandfather, by the way, is Kalahoonaui, which means “day of glory.”

“I learned a lot from my parents,” he said. “They taught me about music and life.”

Another of Michael’s early influences was his Uncle Wildfred “Moe” Keale, who started playing music in his teens and eventually became an accomplished actor and a Na Hoku Hanohano award-winning musician.

Michael followed family tradition. Over the years, he has entertained at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Marriott’s Moana Terrace in Waikiki, as well as locally on Kauai, and has shared the stages with his cousins, Iz and Skippy Kamakawiwoole, Moe Keale, Dennis Kamakahi, Cyril Pahinui and George Kuo.

The task of working and joy of raising a family — he has three children and five grandchildren — became his focus, however, so his professional music was put to the side until he released his debut album, “Remember,” in July 2010. It included a mix of music from Hawaii’s past and present and earned him two Na Koku Hanohano Award nominations.

He moved to Kauai in 2010 to work at a homeless shelter but today is a full-time entertainer who love the outdoors.

His wife, Linda Lester, not only performs the hula to his songs, but sells his CDs at her two music stands, Paradise Music, Hawaiian Music Stores, one in Princeville and one at the Coconut MarketPlace.

It is through music that they met. Before they were married, Linda heard Michael performing and told him, “I can sell your CDs.”

Sure enough, she did. That business relationship grew from lunch to dinner to marriage.

“It’s been a wonderful thing,” he said.

His new CD, which he produced with Michael Ruff, includes the songs, “Pikake,” “Beautiful Kahana,” “Pua Ahihi” and “Aloha Is.”

He believes it is his finest effort and hopes others will enjoy it, too.

“As you listen and hear the music, I hope to share with you, some of the beauty in my life,” he said.

When people ask him why he didn’t put out CDs early, he laughs.

“I tell them life got in the way,” he said. “I’m kind of what they call a late bloomer. I always played music along the way, never to this level.”



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