New Curators Of Hawaiian Music

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - August 26, 2009
Maunalua at The Royal

Besides starting with the letter M, Makana and Maunalua have another thing in common - both are headliners at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s new Curators of Hawaiian Music series.

“I’ve been very fortunate because I grew up in Hawaii and I just remember as a kid and teenager seeing those amazing shows in Waikiki, and knowing that the Monarch Room was always such a spectacular showroom,” says Kelly Hoen, general manager of The Royal Hawaiian. “So when I became the general manager, I knew in my heart I wanted to bring music back to the Monarch Room, and bring the spirit back.”

This week marks the end of Makana’s two-month ride of what he says, “was a dream come true ... My vision has always been to maintain a sense of place for Hawaii, and Waikiki is the world’s vision of Hawaii. And so to bring our show and music there has been such a success.”

Bobby Moderow Jr., Kahi Kaonohi and Richard Gideon of Maunalua hope to keep that momentum going as they gear up for what they call an incredible show and unlike anything they’ve ever done before.


For the months of September and October, Maunalua will be taking stage at the historic Monarch Room to pay tribute to Hawaii’s culture with an incredibly crafted show telling of a day in the life of a family party in Hawaii.

“We are so very honored and humbled to be asked to be a part of this special series celebrating all that has to do with Hawaii,” says Moderow. “In this venue we will have a very unique stage for us to tell our stories of this magical place. We’re taking the audience through a visual aspect of what it takes to have a party.”

Thanks in part to the many hands who made it possible, including Hoen and Jan Brenner, director of entertainment, the stage has been set and the guys are ready for their Monarch Room debut.

“We’ve never done anything like this, so it’s almost like taking us out of our comfort zone because this is a very scripted and put-together show,” says Moderow. “But I’m definitely up for the challenge.”

A plantation-style set will be the backdrop for the one-hour show, where Maunalua takes the lead performing 12 songs that Moderow says, “helped us become who we are.” The visual storyline, which will include a host of hula dancers, will share the story of ohana and the life of old and new Hawaii.

“This is such a beautiful opportunity to showcase what’s so great about Hawaii,” adds Hoen. “We knew that by offering a show that people who live in Hawaii would love, that the visitors would love it as well. I just see more and more that people who are traveling to Hawaii more now than ever really want to connect to an authentic experience.”

Makana’s anniversary CD

The weekly cocktail-style event with two performances (6:30 and 8:30 p.m.) each Thursday evening was created in an effort to bring the rich musical legacy of The Royal back to life and to pay tribute to Hawaiian culture.

“Maunalua’s show is completely different from Makana because, besides slack key, we’re also featuring falsetto, ukulele, keiki hula, male and female hula,” says Brenner. “There’s a lot of different elements, and that’s what we wanted. We wanted each artist to bring something very different.”

And as Makana passes the torch to Maunalua, he continues his musical journey with the release of a new instrumental album, Venus and the Sky Turn to Clay.

“This album marks the 20th anniversary of me being a guitar player,” says Makana. “I’ve never released an instrumental album before, and when I decided to do it I didn’t even realize that it was my 20th anniversary. It came together in, like, three recording sessions because it was something very natural for me.”

The music on the album is all original, solo slack key guitar compositions written by Makana.

“I wanted to show the potential of what can be done with just one guitar,” he explains.

The inspiration for the album title is almost as interesting as why it’s written from right to left on the album cover.

The sunset being Makana’s biggest inspiration for the songs, a poetic euphemism describing the sunset seemed fitting. But as things often are with Makana, there’s also many more layers of meaning. Just ask him to find out.

As for the right to left inscription, he says, “When we were designing it we laid out the cover and it came out backwards by accident. I thought it was interesting and what I found as I researched about Venus is that Venus actually rotates opposite of our planet. So I love serendipity like that. So we left it backwards.”

And the graphic of the cover also has it’s own special meaning. With Makana everything is intentional and never without a sense of purpose. The two spheres are from a painting that was given to Makana from one of his fans who was inspired by his music. It’s an image that sets the stage for the music inside that strongly evokes the merging of contrasting worlds, night and day, earth and sky, familiar and foreign.

“With my music it’s an evolution,” says Makana. “What I’m doing is art, and it just happens to be in the field of sound. I’m always looking to expand it.”

Tickets for the Curators of Hawaiian Music cocktail show are $49 per person. There’s also a $39 2-for-1special for kamaaina. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

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