Proud connection

Most musicians plan the lineup of songs for their concerts in advance. They know what they’ll open with, what they’ll close with and what they’ll play in between.

Not Robert Cazimero.

“I never know. I show up here, I find out who’s here and I pick up the feelings from these people that are here and that’s how I do my show,” he said. “They pretty much give me their perimeters of what is it I should do.”

He senses what the audience is hoping to not only hear, but experience. Because his concerts are about more than music. They’re about Robert, his life, and his audience, in this world and the next, getting to know each other all over again.

“So far, it’s been a wonderful kind of relationship,” he said.

The remarkable 65-year-old’s career — scores of albums, countless awards, thousands of concert, endless accolades, worldly travels — will continue with a Thursday benefit concert at the Kauai Museum. There’s a 6 p.m. reception in the courtyard, with the concert at 7.

And while he doesn’t know his opening song yet, he does know this: “It’s going to be good,” he said, laughing.

Cazimero, one half of the critically acclaimed musical duo “The Brothers Cazimero,” was on Kauai recently for a signing of his new book, “Men of Hula.” It is the story of Cazimero and Halau Na Kamalei, the male halau hula he formed 40 years ago.

He sat down for an interview with The Garden Island, along with his friend and fellow musician Chucky Boy Chock. As Cazimero reflected on his career and upcoming concert, he smiled often. His has been a passionate, proud life. Nothing halfway. He brings his best, always. He carries within a spirit that quickly engages those around. He has your attention. Worries and fears are not allowed into the room.

Not even an ailing foot, a protective boot around it, causes a discontent.

“The main thing is, it’s getting better,” he said, smiling.

This will be his fifth year on Kauai to help the Kauai Museum. He cherishes Kauai and speaks of a connection that is strong.

“I have been privileged to see the change here and the recommitment toward some place that is really important to all of us,” he said.

He speaks of the museum, too, and its influence here.

“How it shares and how it lives and grows is testament to how you want things in our culture to grow,” he said. “I’m part of that here by performing every year and helping to make this place live on, do the work that it’s doing. And I like that.”

Cazimero was a pioneer of Hawaiian music, dating back to the 70s, when he teamed up with his brother Roland. Their legendary talents and spirit produced and created music together and solo. They were also inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

He doesn’t let his career, while important, overwhelm him. He gives it the time and attention he desires.

“I think what’s happened now, in these mature ages I happened to be part of, I can afford the luxury to decide how prevalent I want to be with it,” he said. “I gratefully let it take me when I want and other times, I’m happy to just leave it aside. The main thing, it’s there when I want to do it.”

His accomplishments are so many, you wonder if there’s anything left for him to achieve.

There is.

“I haven’t sung yet with Barbara Streisand,” he said, laughing. “I would be her backup singer at the drop of a hat.”

Has he asked Babs about it?

“She doesn’t even know who I am,” he said, shaking his head.

When asked what Kauai has meant to his career and life, Cazimero hesitates and searches for the right words. He can’t find them.

“There are no words to put into a sentence that would allow me to let you know how I feel,” he said. “That’s what it is. It’s a feeling. It’s an emotion. It’s something that you started with a long time ago and its built itself up to where it is today.”

When he’s not feeling well, all he has to do is get on a plane, fly to Kauai, and touch the ground. Done. He is better.

“It is one of the highest places in energy in the world. The thing about it is, this energy, it doesn’t know negativity, it doesn’t know positiveness. It just gives. It’s what you do with it,” he said.

That’s why he’s looking forward to his time on Kauai. He connects with friends and family, as well as souls no longer of this physical world. Different beings and people and spirits brought him here, he says. They are all around. They provide inspiration.

“I know when I walk in this museum, I know they’re here. It fulfills me,” he said.

He speaks with reverence of history, of gods and the power of this island.

“The mana of Kauai, it blows my mind,” he said. “I don’t care what anybody says. It’s a privilege to be here.”

He’s had what he calls four “aha” moments in his life and one regarded his voice and set his career on a firm course. He was in his early 20s and recording in the studio, alone.

“So they’re playing it back and I’m listening to this voice and I say, ‘Wow, this is beautiful,” he said.

It was then he caught his reflection in a mirror.

“I was appalled to think this beautiful voice was coming from what I was looking at in the mirror,” he said. “I couldn’t quite comprehend why that person should be merged with this voice. It’s supposed to be for special people, for beautiful people. And that’s when I knew.”

“It was the moment that I learned from nobody else, but from myself, that it was the gift and it didn’t really belong to me,” he said. “It’s a gift while here in this body.”

Thursday, he’ll share that gift, with great pride, when he sits before the piano.

Those those who come to the concert, they’re going to leave with not just memories, but they’ll take part of Robert Cazimero with them.

“That, nobody else will have,” he said. “And only you, when you talk to those who were there, were able to understand. It goes back to that emotion, that feeling. I am lucky enough to create moments in my life that include the people that are there. And I think that’s what you go home with.”

Tickets for Cazimero’s concert are $100 and available at the museum. Info: 245-6931

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