Tony Conjugacion - Na Hula Punahele

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - May 04, 2007

Tony Conjugacion has spent almost all his life in the public eye, whether it’s been performing on stage at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel or in New York City as an understudy in Miss Saigon. Now he says he wants to step out of the limelight and focus on having children and taking care of his mother.

“Because I’ve had a pubic life for such a long time, I kind of want to get into a space of semi-privacy,” says the former Hawaii Stars judge. “I love children, and I really want to be a parent and be there to pick them up from school, take them to soccer or whatever. In my family we didn’t have the luxury. I’ll be real honest, earlier in my life everything was about me, but I think I’ve reached a point that it does-n’t have to be about me, and I really want it to be about something else, and I want it to be about my children.”

Conjugacion’s new CD, Na Hula Punahele, is a reflection of another love that has been with him since he was nine - hula. The CD’s 20 tracks feature songs he learned from hula masters during his earlier years.

“This CD was intended to support the rise of hula, and to be used as a tool for hula teachers,” says the Kamehameha Schools graduate. “So whenever possible I tried to repeat verses because you don’t have to rewind, and the other unique thing is there is no musical inter-ludes in the middle of the songs, which is common in Hawaiian music today, which is called pa’aini.

“I’m hoping it will be what I intended it to be, which is a tool. But also something that everyone around the world can listen to and just enjoy it for the music.”

Conjugacion will perform May 19 on the The Perry and Price Show and at the Hawaii Book and Music Festival.

Q’n A

When did you realize that you had talent?

I didn’t, actually, my mother did. I used to love this lady named Myra English and she sings this song, Drinking Champagne. When I was about 6 years old, nobody was home, and I’m just singing my heart out and my mom walked in the door.And she was like,‘Was that you?‘I was like,‘No that was the record.‘Then she was like, ‘I didn’t know you could sing.‘But like I said, I was just fooling around, and then my mom took me to a radio show,and I used to go on every Sunday and be a featured singer. Then I met Melveen, and I was with her from about 8 years old to 14.

What item can you not live without?

Coffee. I’m trying to get off of it, though. Normally I’m really grouchy if I don’t have my coffee in the morning. But I don’t drink it throughout the day, it’s just in the morning.

Describe your style.

Ever since I’ve been in the business, I’ve always gone against the grain when style was concerned. Prior to moving to New York, I thought I had style, and when I look at pictures it’s like, what was I thinking? After moving to New York and meeting my best friend Jeffrey Yoshida, who studied at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), he actually taught me when I was on Hawaii Stars as a judge. He taught me how to contain my style. In a nutshell I would say that I do tend to try to stay up with fashion.

Tony Conjugacion
Tony Conjugacion

What’s your favorite karaoke song to sing?

OK, karaoke? Because I was a judge on Hawaii Stars and stuff,when I’m home, honestly, I don’t go to karaoke bars because I have a hard time sitting in a bar and listening to someone sing flat.

(laughs) But I do go to karaoke bars in Japan, and I’ve been to them with people like Robert Cazimero and Kehau from Na Palapalai, and that I can deal with it because they all sing really good.

How do you unwind after a long and hectic day?

Usually watch a Disney video or National Geographic videos.

I like animated movies; my recent favorite is Happy Feet.

What do you think makes the world go ‘round?

I think what can make the world go ‘round is to be more tolerant of each other, and that’s obviously not the case because we’re at war. I would like to see the world exist in peace, but I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen. But as for what makes the world go ‘round? I would have to say what gets us through our days is music. Music is one of the best things that we can share, and it crosses all cultures.

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