His band Conscious Healing was setting up amps for practice when Brad Kahikina started telling me about his group’s philosophy.
“You can make music that affects people positively or negatively,” he said, “and reflect it in your music and performance. We choose the light side.”
“Everybody loves music,” said fellow band-mate Curtis Piligrin. “It affects their character, the way they live. It’s important what you listen to and who, ‘cause it can be healing for your body, mind and soul. Conscious Healing is more than just a good name, it’s a way of living—not only through music but to be a way of life, life-giving, a whole vibe.”
Kahikina and Piligrin first played music together in the local 10-piece band, Backyard. Later, drummer Stacey Elaban and multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Chris Oana joined.
“They just hung around,” said Piligrin. “It was all horns, rhythms and people just singing, looking like they’re playing and not playing anything. This was back in the… ‘60s! No, about eight years ago—mid ‘90s.”
“I was a fan who got to play,” said saxophonist Jay Arcangel.
The Backyard members went their separate ways. But throughout the years, Piligrin kept playing with Oana and Kahikina. Eventually, Elaban rejoined them. And now, along with Arcangel, a newly formed Conscious Healing also features trumpet player Riley Edwards and trombonist Scott Heintzman in their horn section.
Piligrin, Oana and Kahikina do the brunt of the songwriting and sing their own songs, which means switching instruments when they change lead vocals. The band now plays mostly original music, with an occasional Steel Pulse or Katchafire cover.
“When we’d play our music and people didn’t know it,” said Kahikina, “we’d see ‘em rockin’ in their seats but they wouldn’t get up until they heard something they knew.”
Oana is also the founder of Base-2 Records, the indie label that recorded Conscious Healing’s self-titled debut last year. In addition, as a solo project, Oana recorded the soundtrack to the 2004 Maui-made film, Divers.
The band prides itself on the various style elements it incorporates into its island-based sound. Piligrin cites blues and reggae as his main influences—especially Bob Marley & the Wailing Souls—as well as Hank Williams. Kahikina goes for the classic rock, with The Eagles and Credence Clearwater Revival, as well as country and Hawaiian. Oana likes hip-hop, Ben Harper and especially Stevie Wonder.
“Our tastes vary drastically,” said Oana.
The rest of the band agrees wholeheartedly with Oana.
“I like music as long as it doesn’t suck,” said Arcangel.
“Also, C&K, Kalapana and Peter Moon are big influences,” added Piligrin. “They made us want to play.”
The band freely admits that spirituality is the biggest part of their sound, and a major aspect of their songwriting. Although in performances, most people don’t notice. The band says they promote “the Lord—meaning Jesus Christ and God,” but they don’t preach.
“I wouldn’t call it Christian music,” said Piligrin. “It’s just giving praise.”
At the end of summer, Conscious Healing hopes to tour other Hawaiian islands. For now, they’re content to spreading the good vibes here at home.
“We know this stuff won’t last forever,” said Kahikina. “So we got to do it the best we can, while we can.”
The Conscious Healing sound ranges in tempo and style from one-drop reggae rhythms to faster ska and Latin-Caribbean beats or even to a smooth-as-molasses, slowed-down lovers rock. With the exception of the horn section, all members contribute to vocals and intermittent group call-outs. The result is an energetic, harmonious blending of feel-good sounds.
“It’s hard to get a bunch of people—with different attitudes, morals, influences—to come together,” said Piligrin. “When you get the right formula of players, it works—it flows and prospers.”
“We’ve been together for two and a half years,” said Kahikina. “Now we’re ready to promote positivity [sic] through our music and songwriting.”
“That’s the plan,” said Piligrin. MTW