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Artist with Kaua‘i roots goes with the ‘Flow’

  • Contributed by Michael Kanazawa

    Artist Papa Zawa, aka Michael Kanazawa, smiles with his guitar at his home in San Francisco.

  • Contributed by Michael Kanazawa

    Artist Papa Zawa, aka Michael Kanazawa, jams at his San Francisco home.

  • Contributed by Michael Kanazawa

    The cover of Michael “Papa Zawa” Kanazawa’s first album reflects the relaxed island atmosphere and the need to go with the “Flow.”

LIHU‘E — A San Francisco music artist with roots on Kaua‘i wrote his first album, “Flow,” which will be released commercially on Saturday, April 10 on all music platforms online.

With his light-rock and island-vibe songs, Mike Kanazawa, aka “Papa Zawa,” captured Kaua‘i’s spirit with his first song, “Kilauea Town,” which talks about the local uncles who work so hard yet kept living with the aloha spirit.

“Kilauea Town is the most meaningful to me,” Kanazawa said. “It has the deepest roots, and it talks about the connection all the way back to my grandfather and what his trip was and everything else. As I wrote that third verse in it, it comes back to like that sweet sugarcane that grows high. And it just reminded me of when I took my kids back there to see it, and to experience it.”

Kanazawa said his Japanese great-grandparents came to Kaua‘i in 1898 from Japan, and in 1899 his grandfather James Kanazawa was born in Hanalei. His grandfather lived in Kilauea until he moved to Los Angeles when he was 18 years old.

“Poke Bowl” is a song that could be played in restaurants around the world, and talks about how everyone is different and unique like poke bowls.

The title of the album, according to Kanazawa, is about being pure and going with the flow of life, which makes sense when listening to his song “Slow Your Ride,” inspired by how life slows down in Hawai‘i. Sometimes, after living in a busy city for so long, you have to enjoy life by smelling the plumeria flower you placed on your ear or by watching the waves crash while eating a poke bowl, he said.

That’s the Hawai‘i life Kanazawa hopes his music portrays. Up until last year, Kanazawa really hadn’t lifted a guitar since his teenage years.

“I played in bands from the time I was in high school and everything,” Kanazawa said. “But I’ve not written and recorded songs as I’ve done in this last year and a half or so. Ever. But I’ve been really in business my whole career.”

Inspired by his friends in professional music, Kanazawa took the downtime that the pandemic gave him and turned it into an opportunity for him to finally make an album that is true to his heart.

“COVID hit, all of a sudden, and I wasn’t traveling for business — I was kind of stuck at home,” Kanazawa said. A friend encouraged him, “and he’s like, ‘Why don’t you try to write and record some music?’ And I said, ‘But I’ve never really written anything.’ He said, ‘Kick one idea, that’s something meaningful to you, and just try to put some lyrics on paper or put a couple of chords together.”

Once Kanazawa wrote his first song, he was hooked.

“And so the first song, which is now the first song in the album, “Kilauea Town,” is one that I did, and I think I was feeling this,” Kanazawa said.

w Info: papazawa.com

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Stephanie Shinno, education, business, and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

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