Michael Keale is a gifted singer and musician.
And, when he plays Monday night at Tahiti Nui, it’s clear he is also a gifted storyteller. He connects with the audience.
If you’ve been to the Nui when the music is playing, most of the time it’s pretty noisy. Lots of conversations. Lots of background voices.
When Michael Keale sings in Spanish, Hawaiian or English, people listen.
When Michael Keale plays his ukulele or guitar, people watch — and record on their phones.
It’s not just professional for Keale. It’s personal as he shares stories of himself, family and friends, those who have influenced him, the path that led him to where he is today.
His songs are filled with passion. It’s heart.
“I think it’s important we share information about why we love music,” he said after the performance.
That’s how it was Monday during his nearly three-hour session. An understated showman, Keale weaves, smiles and laughs through his set. At one point, he rises from his seat and jams on his guitar, even tossing in a few jumps.
During one song, his wife Linda dances and when the music ends, they kiss, much to the delight of the crowd.
During another, his granddaughter dances to a western song that “celebrates the life of the cowboy.” She ends it with a spirited, “yee-haw.”
“I told her to make that yee-haw really loud or she was going to have to walk home,” Keale says, grandfatherly pride shining through.
When he wraps up his set with “What A Wonderful World,” all eyes and ears are on him.
“Thank you all for coming to Tahiti Nui, folks,” he says at the end. “We’re happy to have you here tonight.
“Thanks everybody. Aloha.”
Throughout the evening, people walk up and toss money in the tip jar. During breaks and when the show is over, some pose with Keale for pictures, talk story like they’re old friends and buy his new CD, “Come Back Home.”
It was a good night for Keale, wonderful spirit and energy filled Tahiti Nui, one of the places he has performed at around the island since he moved here in 2010.
When it was pointed out how everyone was quiet and listening to his music, he laughed.
“It’s not always like that,” he said.
But he was happy with the crowd connection.
“That’s really cool. I love it when I can share that aloha. That’s what it’s all about, try to share the aloha,” he says.
His third CD release does that, and Keale considers it his finest work.
“I do, brother, he says as he relaxes after this set. “I was finally able to put down my thoughts and music on a CD. I get to express a little bit about who I am.”
Who he is is someone who finds beauty in life.
“It is up to us how beautiful we want our life to be,” he said.
The five-time Na Hoku Hanohano finalist put 12 tracks on the album, including four original compositions.
The title track, “Come Back Home,” is Keale’s first composition.
“Experiencing life’s ups and downs, healing only resulted when he listened to those who truly loved him, and took positive steps to again move forward with his life,” according to a press release.
Keale had gone through his own difficult times but found his way back to where he wanted to be — with a little help from his friends.
“When you start listening to those people who are trying to help you and telling you to come back, that’s when your life gets back,” he said.
His wife Linda contributed three original songs that reflect the life they share on Kauai.
“Hanalei Lani” praises the majestic Namolokama, its misty rain and the ageless community of the people of Hanalei.
“Down By The Bay” celebrates Hanalei Bay’s rainbows, its beautiful ocean hues and especially the children that have frolicked for decades in her surf.
Lastly, “Ku‘u Home ‘O Kauai” personifies the love and appreciation Michael and Linda have for each other and their beloved Kauai.
Listeners of “Come Back Home” will also be treated to the translation and music contributions of Kellen and Kalikolihau Paik, as well as two mele that were recorded years ago by members of Keale’s ohana.
Keale grew up in Kailua, Oahu, during the 1950s and received his first ukulele when he was 8. Music has long been in his family, originally from Niihau. 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.
His uncle Moe Keale, who played roles on Hawaii Five-O, “always the bad guy,” was a gifted musician, too with a big heart.
“He was just a gentle giant,” Keale said.
His brother, Bill Keale, is a musician and entertainer in Bend, Oregon.
“He’s an awesome slack-key guitar player,” says Keale, who has mastered the instrument himself.
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.
“I try to share that same love for music and aloha,” Keale said.
He was a social worker when he moved to Kauai in 2010 but later dedicated himself to his music and family.
That proved to be a good decision. Life, he says, is beautiful.
“I’m really, really happy,” he said.
Come Back Home is available at Linda Keale’s Hawaiian music store at the Princeville Shopping Center. It is also available at Walmart, Tropic Isle Music in Nawilwili, online at www.hawaiianmusicstore.com.
Michael Keale’s weekly music gigs:
Monday, Hanalei Bay Resort Princeville, ukulele/pool bar 3-5 p.m.; Tahiti Nui Restaurant, Hanalei, 6 to 9.
Tuesday, The Hukilau Lanai Restaurant at the Kauai Coast Resort in Kapaa, 6 to 9 p.m.
Wednesday, Hanalei Bay Resort Happy Talk Lounge, 3 to 5:30 p.m.
He is also available for weddings and other occasions. Info: www.michaelkeale.com