Ikaika Kahoano may
be on national TV, but he says
it's his brother Kamuela who
deserves the spotlight, and he
doesn't mind sharing
ONLINE VIDEOBy Nadine Kam
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IT'S not every day a guy from Hawaii gets to replace Tom Cruise in the heart of one of America's best-known talk-show hosts, but there was Ikaika Kahoano on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" last Wednesday, listening to Rosie famously mispronounce his name as "Akika," then gush, "I have to say, I love you!"
A lot of people have felt the same way about Ikaika ever since the debut of ABC's "Making the Band" four weeks ago. The Friday night pseudo-documentary series tracks eight young men in a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what goes into the making of a boy band.
Only five will be selected for the band O-Town, and episodes capture the highs and lows of trying to make the band. Most of the eight seem to be more interested in fame, money and girls than in relationships or even making the music they profess to love, so Ikaika, who calls himself the "oddball" of the group, stands out as the grounded one. And it's not just an act.
Now back home, he walks into a recording studio in Waipahu wearing the same comfy, oversized shirt he wore on Rosie's show. He can't say who makes the final five until that episode airs May 26, but whether he's in or out, he's not interested in fame for himself, admitting, "I'm embarrassed to be on TV." Grill him further and a picture emerges of a young man willing to sacrifice his privacy and comfort to help give his younger brother Kamuela a shot at the limelight.
Blood runs deeper than celebrity in the Kahoano clan and Ikaika and his older brother Haku are determined to ease Kamuela's entry into the music industry.
Says Ikaika, "My brother has all the talent, and although he wasn't there (on the show), I was, so hopefully, not hopefully, I will get him into the light which is where he should be."
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Ikaika, 21 (he'll be 22 on May 15), and Kamuela, 19, had just released their first CD, "Fruit From the Tree," when the "Making the Band" opportunity came up. That put their plans as a group, Ano, on hold, but it's a blessing for fans of the show, who have access to the music while waiting for O-Town to release any music.
Ikaika gave Rosie a taste of Ano's music when he sang a few lines from "Michelle," a song he wrote, on her show.
"My heart really is with the music that my younger brother, my older brother and I make," Ikaika said. "When I sing this stuff, I feel good. Being on stage with my younger brother I can look to my right and he'll be jamming, and I'll be like, 'Just go for it, man.' "
An early startHe credits Kamuela for calling his attention to singing in harmony. Kamuela had been making music since age 8, when his grandmother gave him a toy ukulele. Haku remembers coming home from the University of Hawaii, where he played football, and hearing his kid brother reproduce songs on the radio, note for note.
"I said, 'Hey, who taught him how to do that?' Then I found out that he had been playing full songs on the piano at school," Haku said. "He was born with ability."
Kamuela said he recalls going to Sea Life Park to watch his mother Lynette Kahoano, a singer, and his father, KORL radio personality and "Hawaii Stars" co-host Kimo Kahoano, perform together.
"To see my mom and dad sing together was really something for me. Being so young, it actually used to make me cry," he said.
Going to church, he would also hear a Samoan choir and one woman stood out. "She always took a separate part. Then I started listening to the organ, and there was all this harmony going on, so I tried to copy that and (Ikaika) would go, 'What are you doing?' and I said, 'Try it,' and he became, like, the best of 'em."
They now cite influences as diverse as The Dave Matthews Band, Ani DiFranco and Boyz II Men. And both now have a vast repertoire of original songs, some with scars attached, such as one Ikaika refuses to sing again. "It was about my feeeelings," he says, drawing out the word like Bruce Lee.
He was ditched at Kam Drive-In during a double feature with "Face Off" and "The Saint."
"I went home, wrote the song, biked 23 miles to Mililani (from Kapahulu), tuned up her dad's beat up guitar, played it and asked her if she would be my girlfriend again. She said, 'no,' so I said 'OK,' that didn't work. I guess I'll just go home now."
All in the familyThat all three brothers are now involved in show business is a source of bemusement to their parents, who through the years had stressed education.
Kamuela and Ikaika are Iolani School graduates. Ikaika had been studying biology at the University of Hawaii with the intention of becoming a pediatrician. Haku earned an MBA from the University of Hawaii and was working as a systems analyst/programmer in California, but has since come home to manage his brothers' careers.
"Dad and mom knew that their talent existed," said Haku, "but we were brought up never to think about that. The last thing they wanted their children to do was to be entertainers."
Kimo now says he's a fan of his sons' music and "Making the Band." Of the TV show, he says, "The only fear I have as a father is that (Ikaika) and the rest of the boys be portrayed accurately and not be set up to fail.
"There's no script, so how do you show drama? You find emotional ups and downs. And how do you do that? You make it happen by putting them into uncomfortable situations."
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Ikaika had a taste of this early on, when, in week two, he abandoned a rehearsal in tears.
"I knew when I was crying that the cameras were on me, and I thought, 'Oh geez, this sucks.' I had a really bad cold, I had just finished dance practice ... I wasn't getting along with anybody. I was not having a good day.
"But real men, they can cry. I'm not into the whole macho thing. Cry if you wanna cry, smile if you feel like smiling."
That had resonance for hundreds of viewers, who have been e-mailing words of encouragement. When one cast member, Jacob, said that he wouldn't be in the band if Ikaika were selected, Rosie heard and said of Jacob, "I wanted to go to where he was and slap him on the head."
It was no big thing to Ikaika. "The way that I conducted myself on the show, that's how I am.
"For the most part, if you throw out positive vibes and a no-nonsense 'I'm going to follow my heart and still be good to people,' attitude, people respond to that."
He's been making the rounds of morning radio shows, and had callers tell him, "I'm so glad you're on the show because you portray Hawaii in a good light."
"I'm happy when I hear stuff like that because that was my intention. I knew that if I was going to be on national television I was not going to make a fool of myself, because if I make a fool out of myself, I make a fool out of Hawaii."
He often gets comments from viewers saying, "We're glad you're making up for that Ruthie girl."
(On MTV's "The Real World," Ruthie was a bisexual nudist alcoholic from Hawaii.)
"I tell them, 'I don't know what she did. I never watched the show.' "
For a person making pop-culture history, Ikaika is surprisingly un-pop. Perhaps one of the reasons he auditioned was because he never knew what he was getting into, never having watched the voyeuristic "Real World," save for a few San Francisco episodes.
He claims to have been led astray by his young charges while working at Summer Fun.
"All the kids were in love with the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync and I didn't quite understand it at first, but they just pounded it over and over and over, like five, six, seven times a day, and I think I was just brainwashed so I ended up at the audition. I just sang and shook my butt a little."
It was enough for Louis J. Pearlman, Svengali for the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync and the Latin-influenced C-Note. Ikaika beat out more than 1,800 nationally for a spot on the show.
And, now, he may have changed his mind about reality TV. When Kamuela says that he's a fan of "Making the Band," Ikaika laughs. "I'm a fan. And I was there!"
"Making the Band" airs at 8:30 p.m. every Friday night on KITV/ABC
Information about the Kahoano brothers, Ano and the CD "Fruit From the Tree," go to http://www.kahoano.com.
Copies of the CD are available in local record stores, or call Waltlen & Son, Inc., for information; 671-1771.
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