Kalani ... Live - Kalani

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - August 24, 2007
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The 411

Kalani ... Live - Kalani
Kalani ... Live - Kalani

Kalani Smythe took his passion for music and turned it into a lifestyle that he can now share with his 12- and 7-year-old daughters.

The full-time musician turned in his 9-to-5 career hat and ditched the stresses of his Oahu accounting job to move back to his home-town of Wailuku, Maui. He quickly learned that he could make a decent living playing slack key at local hotels, restaurants, weddings and private parties.

Not only did his music allow him more time with his two girls, but it also caught the attention of two visiting tourists at the Four Seasons Hotel.

“I met this couple (David and Beth Yudovin) when I was playing, and they told me that they wanted to put on a concert for me to play at and I was like yeah, OK, but I didn’t expect much out of it,” says Kalani. “But a month later they called me up and I did a concert in Cambria, Calif. in 2003.

Also to Kalani’s surprise, the concert was recorded, marking the beginning of Kalani ... Live.

“I didn’t know they were going to record the concert and I was actually singing through a cheap system, so when they sent me the CD,I didn’t really like it at all,“says Kalani,winner of the Kiho’alu (slack key) division in the statewide KCCN Pride of the Islands competition in 1998. “I wasn’t planning on marketing it at all. I gave it to people I knew and they really liked it, so I started just selling it at my gigs as a homemade CD.”

Call it faith, luck or pure talent, but at one of Kalani’s gigs at the Ritz Carlton, famed local producer and musician Daniel Ho approached him to ask if he had a CD and questioned where he learned to play slack key guitar.

“I didn’t really care for the CD so I didn’t send it to him,” says Kalani. “Then later I saw him at the Maui Arts Cultural Center, so I gave him a CD then. The next thing I know, I get an e-mail from him and he wanted to produce it.”

The remastered version, thanks to Daniel Ho, just released this month, featuring nine of the original 15 songs recorded at the concert, and also includes two additional tracks that Kalani says he recorded in his friend’s living room.

“The big difference is that the original had a lot of talking, narration, and you could hear the crowd, but he took all that out,” adds the Maui High School grad.“And because maybe the recording quality wasn’t good, he had to take out some songs. But it still sounds live, and I’m very happy with what Daniel did.”




What kind of music did you grow up listening to?

Traditional Hawaiian. But actually my uncle he exposed me early on to The Beatles. So I grew up around Beatles kind of music, as well as Gabby Pahinui kind of music.

How has your taste in music changed over the years?

Well, growing up and until I went to Oregon for college I only listened to Hawaiian or reggae and everything else was rubbish. I could’ve cared less for any other kind of music. But you know how they say college broadens your horizons? That’s exactly what it did for me because I came back liking everything. I got exposed to jazz, James Taylor, old school rock, you name it. Now I like all kinds of music, except for the ones that are like noise.

Where is your favorite spot to play music?

My favorite spot to play is at Sushi Go in the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center (Maui) because it’s a nice little hometown restaurant owned by a friend of mine. I can play whatever I want and I can eat the sushi free. (laughs) It’s a good place and I like playing there. It’s really relaxed and I can wear shorts.

What has been the biggest life lesson you’ve learned?

To find happiness, and money cannot buy you that.The quality of life is very important. Now I feel so rich because of the time with my daughters. When I was working at the CPA firm, I barely saw my first daughter at the time. Now my time with them is so priceless.

How does your music reflects who you are?

I’m a totally mellow, down-to-earth guy. I’m laid back, I don’t like stress, and I think that totally comes out in my music. To me, I characterize my music like a mental massage. It’s stress free.

Who is your hero?

In music my heroes would probably be James Taylor and Keola Beamer. I like their style, and they’re also really laid back and easy going.

What is your favorite song to sing in the shower?

Whatever is in my head at the time. Nothing in particular. I like all kinds of music. It could be The Wheels on the Bus.


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