Back To Romance - Matt Catingub

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - November 02, 2007

The 411

Back To Romance
Back To Romance

Matt Catingub may very well have made history with the impressive lineup of Hawaiian music legends featured on his recently released album, Back To Romance.

Here’s the list: Robert Cazimero, Nathan Aweau, Henry Kapono, Hapa, Fiji, Jeff Peterson, Eric Gilliom, Cecilio and Kapono, Afatia, Kaukahi, Kawika Kahiapo, Jake Shimabukuro, Bruce Hamada, Jimmy Borges and the man himself, Matt Catingub.

Notice that the list is exclusively males? Well, that was completely intended.

“As a follow-up to last year’s Return to Romance CD, this time around we decided to use all men,” says Catingub. “It’s certainly not all, but some of the best male artists that we have here in Hawaii to put their romantic spin from the men’s point of view.”

As for a follow-up all-female album next year, Catingub says,“It seems like the logical choice, and hopefully that will be the case.”

Besides handpicking each artist, Catingub also worked closely with each one to choose the perfect song to complement their already established talent. One of things he did was find material that wouldn’t necessarily be associated with the artists.

“For instance, for Fiji I picked a Paul McCartney and Wings song from the ‘70s for him to do and stuck it in his style,” says Catingub. “I got Afatia singing a Beatles song. It’s very different in that respect, and it was a lot of fun.”

To record the album, the Matt Catingub Orchestra cozied up in the Hawaii Theatre for about a week. Catingub describes the quick turn-around as “an exercise in efficiency,” and thanks the theatre for opening its doors to them once again.

Also as a follow-up, Catingub’s Hawaii Romance Festival is returning in May 2008 for a spectacular 10-day celebration.

“This year we are very excited. If you notice it’s just called the Hawaii Romance Festival. We’ve actually dropped the word music, and not because we dropped music, but this time around we are including many things like the visual arts and food,” says Catingub.

Continuing with the tradition of making Hawaii one of the most romantic places on earth, the event will celebrate some of the most romantic music ever written, performed by some of the most talented Hawaii and international entertainers. On the bill for the May 2-11 festival are Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Aaron Neville, Kenny Loggins and Natalie Cole, among others.

Catingub sure knows how to put a list together.

For more information of the album or the festival, visit

Matt Catingub
Matt Catingub



What do you want to accomplish musically that you haven’t done yet?

Boy, my answer is very general because there’s a lot of things that I want to accomplish. There isn’t one major goal. Obviously through the new festival and the new orchestra, I am going to be able to do that - and through the Honolulu Symphony Pops. There are many artists with who. I would like to work and many artists whom I would like to bring to Hawaii. It’s a very general answer. I’m looking for a consistent flow of all of that.

Which local musician has been your biggest influence? Maybe influence is not the right word, but I will single out one person - and I don’t think anyone will get mad at me for this - and that would be Jimmy Borges. Jimmy Borges and I go way back, he knew me when I was very, very young. I think I met him when I was 8. It was Jimmy himself who brought me to the attention of the symphony to conduct one of his Frank Sinatra tribute shows he did back in the mid-‘90s. It was because of my friendship - it’s actually more than friendship because Jimmy is family - but it’s because of that I was able to be introduced to the local music scene. One thing led to another from there. So Jimmy is definitely my biggest influence.

How much of your talent do you think is a gift and how much is learned?

I would probably say 80 percent is a gift. I am very blessed because I have a very talented mother, and my father, who went unheralded in the music business, has an amazing voice and was a great bass player. I really can’t deny that’s where most of it came from. But as for the other 20 percent - since I was 15 years old I have been learning with every job I have. And every time I perform or do something now, I’m learning something new. So it’s a lifelong process.

What do you think is the best song of all time?

The best song of all time? That’s an absolutely impossible question, but I can answer with a few. A song like Somewhere Over The Rainbow would be certainly up there. And Happy Birthday. (laughs) The problem is that you can’t pick one song, and each style has its best song. It’s apples and oranges - you can’t really compare.

If you could only work within one genre, which would you choose?

I grew up with the Frank Sinatra and the Nat King Coles, that was my genre and it is still deepest in my heart. It’s probably what I would pick. Having said that, I grew up as a jazz musician, made a living as a rock ‘n’ roll musician, and now I’m a symphony conductor. So how can you really zero in on anything? (laughs)


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