Make way for an influx of talented musical artists with promising futures on Monday night at the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort near Hanamaulu, when an eclectic group appears individually and as a group, performing in a variety of musical genres.
On Monday, March 11, Kauai Rising Stars, featuring Keiki‘aloha Kaohelauli‘i, Kimberly Hope, Rydge Nuesca, Jeremy and Aimee Brown and Kepa Kruse will be the featured artists at E Kanikapila Kakou, a heritage Hawaiian music program.
EKK means, literally, “let’s play a stringed instrument together.” It brings people together on 10 consecutive Monday evenings, January through March each year, to celebrate the Hawaiian culture through music, song and hula.
A breakout group forms at 6 p.m. and goes 45 minutes. Attendees with or without ukulele who desire to learn a Hawaiian song join in and, later in the evening, those who learned it will show their stuff, playing and singing the song to the audience.
From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., the visiting artists take to the stage and, in keeping with this year’s theme, “Music is our Mo‘olelo,” or “Music is Our Story,” will sing and talk story.
Each EKK season brings in a cast of musicians, composers, kumu hula, storytellers and artists steeped in all things Hawaiian. They share their unique talents and, often, spontaneous hula breaks out while the guest artists perform.
Regarding this special EKK night, program co-founder Carol K. Yotsuda, wrote to participating artists, “I was very glad to have this date open up so that I could bring to our stage new talents that have not yet been introduced to the EKK audience. I am sure they will be very happy with your program — new faces, new collaborations, hopefully new surprises for each of you.”
Jeremy and Aimee Brown have been with kumu hula Puna Dawson for nearly 20 years, having incredible opportunities to learn and grow in Hawaiian music, traveling to Europe and Japan and growing musically and as people. As well, they are the core members and songwriters for their band, Soulgood Family.
The couple will lead the evening with the 45-minute ukulele breakout. Their CD, “Lifting Consciousness,” will be available for sale.
Kaohelauli‘i will perform accompanying himself on the piano. Born and raised on Niihau and Kauai, this young man plays many instruments and sings.
Not surprisingly, he wrote to his fellow musicians who will also be sharing their musical talents on this night, saying, “Just so you all know, I’m gonna try and be less disruptive when it comes to your sets, but if the music takes hold, I greatly apologize in advance.”
Hope has been playing violin for about 14 years, starting at age 10. As soon as she picked it up, she says, “I fell in love with it and couldn’t put it down.”
Hope was awestruck when she first heard a special violin crafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1720. And then she met the current owner of the precious instrument, who invited her to play it.
Nuesca picked up the ukulele about the age of 7, and has danced hula for the Smith’s Wailua River motorboat tours. He lays guitar, bass and drums, and occasionally sings falsetto.
His first choice in music is traditional Hawaiian. A favorite of his is Ingrid Michaelson’s love song, “What I Am.”
Actor, musician, composer, recording artist, Kruse has an ever-growing list of accomplishments. He grew up listening to a variety of music: Hawaiian, big band, reggae and jazz, plus local comedy from the late Rap Reiplinger because it made him laugh.
“I learned how to play ukulele from kupuna Helena Santos at Hanalei Elementary,” says Kruse. “My grandmother gave me an ukulele to play when I got into seventh grade at Kamehameha Schools, and I brought it with me everywhere I went.”
At Kamehameha, he and his best friend learned all the Ka‘au Crater Boys songs, replaying the CD until they had it down pat. After high school, he played gigs in Waikiki to pay for college.
Moving to Los Angeles in 2005, Kruse became influenced by hip hop and R&B.
“Stylistically,” he says, “my music is a reflection of my biggest influences — Rap Reiplinger’s humor and irony, Jack Johnson’s chord progressions, and T-Pain’s vocal style.”
Kruse won a Na Hoku Hanohano award for his 2011 album. More recently, he says, “My dad recently heard my new song ‘Slippahs’ on Island Radio 98.9 while he was driving home from work and told me it made his day.”
A suggested donation in the calabash is $10 to $15 or more. A no-host bar and food concession in the ballroom operates throughout the event. All EKK events are open to the public.
Next Monday at EKK, week nine, March 18: Iron Mango, featuring Kalei Gamiao, Lopaka Colon, Jon Yamasato and Richard Gideon.