Bobby Ingano - Stranger Here

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - October 19, 2007

The 411

Stranger Here
Stranger Here

Bobby Ingano is assistant manager of the produce department at Tamashiro Market by day and steel guitarist by night - and he’s not quite sure which one garners him more recognition.

“For me, music is not about awards or fame, and I always tell people that I’m more famous for working at Tamashiro Market,” says Ingano, who has been at the store for the past 37 years.

When he’s not chatting with shoppers,Ingano has been keeping busy performing and recording with artists such as Amy Gilliom,The Brothers Cazimero,Willie K,Kekuhi Kanahele and many others. He even managed to squeeze in some time on the Legends of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar album, which won the 2006 Grammy award for Best Hawaiian Album.

This month he releases his second album as a solo artist, Stranger Here.

“This album, I had more freedom to do what I wanted to do, and I just wanted to do something different,” says Ingano.“Half is original singing tunes and the other half is original steel guitar solos. It’s totally different from any album on the market.”

The album showcases a number of his powerful instrumentals and also includes a few vocal tracks, compliments of Sean Thibadeaux. And it features seven songs written and composed by Ingano, including Medway Bounce, Kalihi Waltz (Fiesta), Kula Stars, Missing You, Primrose, Lanai City and Kalihi Waltz (Sunset).

As far as accomplishments are concerned, it was about three years ago when Ingano said he achieved his ultimate goal - he learned to play from his heart. It’s a lesson that he says his mentor, David Feet Rogers, told him was the key to playing music that people can actually feel.

“As you go on in life, you’ve got to better your life and better your heart,“says Ingano.“David Feet Rogers told me that to play sweet music you have to first be sweet. And I had to clean up a lot of things in my life before I could really understand where he was coming from.”

A special performance in celebration of his CD release is happening Friday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m. in Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Tickets: $25. Available at, Island Guitars at Ward Warehouse, Surf & Sea and Hungry Ear Records.

Bobby Ingano in the studio
Bobby Ingano in the studio



How has music enriched your life?

It made me a better person. It really made me see life more clearly and I’m more happy. Basically, it made my life a whole lot better. Not in riches or anything, but it enriched my heart.

What makes your music unique?

One lesson that I learned from my mentor is when you go on stage, you have to remember it’s not about you, it’s about the audience.So when you go on stage, you just turn off your thinking so your heart can shine - and don’t every try to go on stage and impress the people. He told me, “When you turn on your brain is when you collect your pay at night, so they don’t short you.” (laughs) But yeah, music really opened up my heart.

What do you do to stay healthy?

Well I’m still trying to kick cigarettes. Other than that, it’s hard for a musician to stay healthy because we hardly get any sleep. As far as eating healthy, I’m really starting to eat real healthy. I’ve cut back on the rice and I drink only a cup of coffee in the morning and just water all day - no juice and no soda.And it really makes a difference. And the job that I’m working at is really physical.Another thing of being healthy is trying to relax the mind and using your heart a little more.

What other instrument do you wish you could play?

Violin and clarinet. Clarinet, I was always drawn to that because my dad was a big jazz fan. He was a jazz guitar player too. And when I asked him why he didn’t continue, he told me that when you’ve got eight kids, you’ve got to work. But violin, in my opinion, is the hardest instrument to play. But if I’m going to practice that I’ve got to be where no one is around.When I started practicing guitar I just had people complaining - neighbors saying that it sounds like a dead cat or a dead horse.

What local musician did you most enjoy performing with?

BB Shawn - Shawn Ishimoto. The first CD I did was with BB Shawn. He changed his name back to just Shawn. The reason why it was more enjoyable with him is that he kept me on my toes. He is just the most awesome musician, and I have to keep up with him. I’m over twice his age, but man, that guy is amazing. And the best thing about playing with him is that when we are on stage, we are always laughing. If you cannot smile when you playing music, then by all means get off the stage.


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