“Expect a show that is full of positive energy, mixed with roots, rock, reggae, and Latin grooves,” Benjamin Cerda told me when I caught up with the frontman to talk about the upcoming performances of his band, Chala. “If you wanna dance, jump, laugh, smile, cry, love, hug, pray, let go, and make family, then a Chala concert is where you wanna go!”
This coming week, Maui residents will get their chance at three different concerts. The band, made up of long-time Maui musicians with known names, is kicking off Thursday night at Wai Bar, Friday night at Charley’s, and Saturday night at Tante’s Late Night at the Ma‘alaea Harbor Shops, where they will be shooting a live music video for their hit song “All Night.”
Chala’s music is upbeat, with positive lyrics, an optimistic island feel, and multi-genre roots in various styles: reggae spiced with Latin, hip-hop, and R&B. “Chala today is a six-piece power house,” Cerda told me. Cerda handles guitar and vocals, with “Jesse Smith on drums, Jason Foghino on bass, Sulemon on percussions, David Electric on lead guitar and vocals, and Stephen Bradley on trumpet and vocals.” The band evolved from a collective of musical styles from various local artists, all with their unique flavors.
The band has deep Maui roots, but began in its current form in 2013, when Cerda put together “a collaboration of Maui’s best” to record a song called “Dawn Patrol,” which went to No. 1 on a reggae chart. The song, which included Andrew Hubbard, Michael Casil, Ben Gali, Jordan T, and Ka‘ale, is a feel-good cruising song that features a lighthearted, head-bobbing beat, a horn section, and a backyard jam-session vibe. Cerda knew he had something.
“After performing on Maui all those years, I knew a lot of talented musicians who were always looking for new projects,” he told me. So he activated his network and put together a mixture of the best musicians he could find: Jesse Smith on drums, Andrew Hubbard (“Doobie”) on keyboards, Dane Patao on bass, Becki D and Riley Edwards on back up vocals, Paul Bunuan on sax, Jeff Hornbeck on lead guitar, and Hector Serrano (“Papi”) on congas. “We did several shows together and the band began to grow fan base through the islands. In 2014 I got together with an amazing producer-drummer named Jimmy Cui. Jimmy and I put together our first full length album titled Walk This World.” That album featured a song called “Sweet Maui” that followed their previous hit to No. 1.
“I’d have to say my biggest influences aren’t just famous artists like Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin, and Santana, but the people around me who I’ve played with through the years,” Cerda said, when I asked about his influences. “I love how everyone has their own styles and philosophies. I feed off of all of that. Life in general inspires me. Seeing big crowds of people dancing, singing your songs – your friends’ daughters singing your songs. Music is world language, we can communicate through the music.”
One characteristic of the band is its collaborative sensibilities. “Since then we’ve toured and recorded with several different artists including Kanamon, David Electric of Steel Pulse, Stephen Bradley of No Doubt and Steel Pulse, Kamakua, Ekolu Kalama, Koa Lopes, Natalie Robles, Lawaia, Gus Kendrick, Sulemon, Yaya Lioness, Mr. Kapu, and many more. I could keep going!”
“I am deeply honored and thankful that I have the opportunity to share our message of peace, love, and unity,” Cerda said. “All my life I have dreamed of giving and sharing my love to the world, and now I am living that. Through good times and bad times, we can always turn to music and know that every little thing is gonna be alright!”
Chala Live w/ Members of Steel Pulse
Mar. 21, 9pm: Wai Bar, $10 at the door
Mar. 22, 10pm: Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon, $10 at the door
Mar. 23, 10pm: Tante’s Late Night, $15 at the door (feat. Inna Vision)
Images by Slater Neborsky