Web site: www.myspace.com/wwwmyspacekohomuacom
Open a Hawaiian dictionary and you’ll find kohomua defined as “a first choice, and one greatly desired.” By the steady bounce on the dance floor from the Saturday night patrons of Casanova—out in force to support a benefit for the King Kekaulike High School Class of 2000’s upcoming 10-year reunion—folks unanimously define the band Kohomua as great, local-style roots music.
“We’d like to thank each and every one of you for being here tonight. We’re gonna bring you some roots and we wanna see you all on the dance floor. Let the music move you,” says vocalist David “Baileymon” Bailey.
Those orders prove easy to follow, as the seven-member ensemble plays reggae standards from their listed influences—Bob Marley, Gegory Issacs, Katchafire—as well as with originals from their two albums, Reggae, Reggae Music and The Next Chapter (available island-wide and on iTunes). The group is currently at work on a third album, yet untitled.
“We usually come up with that at the end of the album,” says Konane “Sista Kona” Pokipala, of the upcoming release. “We hope it’ll be out late this summer or early next year.”
With regular radio play, the band’s fan base has grown steadily over their nearly eight-year history. Their last release dropped in 2006, so a new Kohomua album will undoubtedly be music to their fans’ ears.
When asked about their processes for recording, Pokipala replies, “We usually just get all our music together and create a scratch tape, which we then have mastered. We like to mix it up.”
As for the audience, the mix errs toward the happily homogenous. The attentive crowd—notwithstanding the venue’s location—is decidedly Upcountry. Few in attendance are not 1999-2007 KKHS alum. Even Marty Dread makes an appearance to imbibe and make the rounds. As a former KKHS student myself, the night feels quite a bit like a mini reunion.
Casanova, in its late night capacity, is characteristically dim lit, darkened further by the virtually all-black clad attendees. Catching the light along with the sunset-flashes of circulating green bottles are sparse pops of patterns, bright reds and choral blouses accented with bling that adorn the still popular girls.
“Oh, Mikioi Javier,” says Aukai Kim of his long adoration for the living, breathing bronze Barbie. “Since second grade, all the way.”
Kim, indulging in the dance floor revelry, points to the stage and continues to shout, “They’re good—really good!”
Kohomua’s solidly executed, head-bobbing set list—true to the nature of the local scene—shows some things are content to stay just the same. And sometimes, that’s a great thing.
Myself? I remain a pasty, notebook-clutching loner, happy as a clam with a front-of-the-class seat and smooth-running ballpoint. The adage “some things never change” further applies as I find myself spending a good chunk of time chatting it up with “teacher” (in this case, the abundantly friendly cops who show up—like the crowd, in force—to ensure a smooth closing at 2pm).
Deep as Kohomua’s rootsy bass lines, so run my affections for Upcountry people and Upcountry styling. Grinning from the inside out as I observe the hand-slapping, shoulder-hugging camaraderie of friends reunited, the many faces familiar since small-kid days and…the flannel. Nothing says Upcountry like designer flannel.
And nothing sounds like Upcountry like local music. For the climbing roads, the truck windows rolled down, the chill in the air, Kohomua’s brand makes for the perfect soundtrack. They build a wall of vocal harmonics, three throats strong with Pokipala, Bailey and Hendrick “Tano Mon” Haupu.
Guitarist Jason Pokipala is the only man on the six-string Saturday night (though Bailey plays guitar too). But even when he has a technical malfunction half-way through the set, keyboardist Rodger “Ra Jah Mon” Agcaoili keeps the rhythmic treble full, while bassist Kyle “Kayamon” Arakawa and drummer Calvin Canha bury the beats deep.
The band is impassioned and well practiced, and the crowd eats up their tunes like hot Portuguese sweet bread—especially when Bailey croons, “I want to go outside, go outside/In the rain/I want to go countryside…”
Meanwhile, the night’s opening act, New Direction, lives up to its name. Naturally, they swim mostly in reggae seas, but do dive into pop waters with surprisingly distinctive renditions of mainstream tunes like Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning.”
New Direction’s conspicuous star is keyboardist Rocky Keawekane, who on several selections shows his skill by incorporating heavy ballads that make you wish you were hearing his fingers hit ivory. For this, the crowd cheers the loudest.
They are the sort of band you listen to, enjoy and are desirous to see develop; a youthful unit consisting of Max Kincaid and Leroy Amano on guitar, Amano’s sister Justine on vocals and brother of the aforementioned popular beauty, Lukela Javier on bass. Worth cheering for too is the fact that Javier and the Amanos are KKHS alum.
More impressive still, the band has only been playing for two months, at Wednesday night’s Jam Night or the occasional Friday night at Eha’s Pool Bar. Their newness is sometimes evident with transitional hiccups, but all is forgiven when you learn that drummer Doug Chong is a fill-in grabbed two hours before show time. (The seat is usually filled by Matt Solomon, husband of Tami Solomon of Eha’s.)
Back to the bar at hand, it’s pushing 2am and the lights are on for the last track, and a much cheered-for hanahou (the audience started cheering for a hanahou well before the first set was over, in fact).
“Once again, good night everyone,” chants Bailey as they wrap. “May your journey be blessed. Live every day like it’s your last. One love. Respect.” With that, the bouncer shouts “Okay! Everybody out!”
The sound dies, the lights rise and in well-practiced form, the remaining alum walk out quietly, single file. Anu Yagi, MauiTime