Blonde Highlights

Rick Hamada
By Roz Makaula
Friday - August 11, 2006

THE MEN of Na Kama - Brian Mersberg, Danny Naipo and Eric Lee - kicked off the release of their newest album, Kamakolu, at Gordon Biersch last weekend. With a stellar lineup of musical guests that included Holunape, Barry Kimokeo, Weldon Kekauoha and The Makaha Sons, the mixed crowd of locals and visitors enjoyed a Hawaiian songfest at no cost. While there, I took the op to wala’au with Eric (lead guitar/vocals) who explained the meaning of Na Kama. He told me that the group name literally means “the sons” or “the boys.” But looked at symbolically, Na Kama represents the brotherhood among its three members. Lee went on to share that in Japanese, “nakama” means, “close friends” - how appropriate. At least four generations of the Lee ‘ohana came out to support Eric, including brother Errol, a former Kamehameha Warrior - actually, Eric’s an alum, too, and so are brother Eddie Jr., sister Claudine, sister-in-law Joelle and two nieces (well, the girls are soon-to-be-alum).

Geez, all those Warriors in one family - dinners must be interesting! Errol told me that it’s been nearly six months since the family got together this way - see how good music can hui the folks? If you missed Na Kama’s performance, no worries. Check out their website, for a quick listen to their nahenahe sound and see a listing of their upcoming concerts. ... Jake Shimabukuro and The Opihi Pickers also packed Gordon Biersch recently when the two got together for a jam session for Hawaiian 105 KINE’s Sunset concert series. Jake and Imua Garza lit up the stage with their pyrotechnic ukulele skills to the standing-room-only crowd as they traded off solo displays of their mastery. Jake took the op to shoot footage for a documentary that’ll be aired in Japan. He also told the crowd about a 15-city tour he’ll be doing there.

(from left) John Koko, Eric Lee, Moon Kauakahi, Brian Mersberg, Jerome Koko and Danny Naipo at the Na Kama CD release party
(from left) John Koko, Eric Lee, Moon Kauakahi, Brian
Mersberg, Jerome Koko and Danny Naipo at the Na Kama
CD release party

Imua’s wife, Tiffa, did her thing to the tune of a Tracy Chapman song. Her performance had the crowd cheering for a hana hou! ... In case you need another excuse to visit our “ninth island,” I’ll give you one. Coming up next week, Las Vegas locals, Hawaii transplants and those who are just doing a quick “weekender” to Sin City can enjoy the inaugural Hapa Haole Hula & Music Festival Aug. 17-19 at Bally’s. The festival’s already celebrated four years in Honolulu. With its success came a high demand for a similar cultural exhibition on the Mainland, so this year, event creator/organizer Vicki Holt Takamine made plans to expand the workshop to Las Vegas. Some of Hawaii’s kumu attending the festival to share their expertise in ‘oli (chant), Hawaiian language, hula and lauhala weaving are Manu Boyd, Sonny Ching, Wayne Kaho’onei Panoke, Leimomi Ho Khan and Kalei Holt. For more details, go to ...

A congratulatory high-five goes out to 12-year-old Megan Gleason of Kailua Intermediate School. Gleason is the 2006 USA national champion in aerobic gymnastics for ages 12-14. She also won the title in ‘05. Being at the top of her game doesn’t come easy. To train, Gleason spends up to seven days a week for about three hours each day in the gym. Her focus and discipline probably come from her longtime trainer, six-time world champion Olga Cardoso of Brazil. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but if she’s still got two years left in the competition, we could be saying back-to-back-to-back-to-back in ‘08! ... And this week’s final highlight is a best-of-luck wish that goes out to another fellow Kamehameha Warrior, Miss Hawaii Teen USA Hannah Thomas. Yu Shing Ting recently introduced the 17-year-old beauty queen/body-boarder to MidWeek readers. Lucky for me, I had a chance to chat with the very humble, down-to-earth local girl and her dad, Robert, when they stopped by the KHNL News 8 morning show for a talk story with anchors Marvin Buenconsejo and Angela Keen. Set your cable dials to KHNL NBC 8 on Tuesday, Aug. 15 at 8 p.m. to see Hannah on stage competing in the Miss Teen USA pageant. IMUA!

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