Friday, June 11, 2004


The Makaha Sons outside Sam Choy's on Nimitz Highway, where they held a VIP reception for tomorrow's concert. From left, John Koko, Jerome Koko and Louis "Moon" Kauakahi.

Still going strong

The Makaha Sons have survived setbacks over the years that could have broken up the group. The death of Skippy Kamakawiwo'ole and abrupt disappearance of Melvin "Mel" Amina could have been the end of what was then known as the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau back in 1982.

The sudden departure of Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole in 1993, days before a major concert, left the Sons facing another career-threatening challenge.

Take a Walk in the Country 2

With the Makaha Sons, Robert Cazimero, Genoa Keawe, Halau Hula Olana, Na Mamo O Pu'uanahulu and kumu hula Sonny Ching, Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom & Willie K, Ho'okena, Kapena, Na Palapalai, Three Plus, Maunalua and the Lim Family

Where: Waikiki Shell

When: 5 p.m. tomorrow; gates open at 3:30

Tickets: $25 pool, $17 lower terrace, $15 upper terrace and $10 grass area

Call: 592-2211

As it turned out, the traumas only made the group stronger. The Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau rose to unprecedented commercial success and critical acclaim with the post-1982 lineup of "IZ," Louis "Moon" Kauakahi, and brothers Jerome and John Koko. The post-"IZ" trio likewise bounced back with a series of Hoku Award-winning albums that started with "Ke Alaula (The Dawning)" in 1994 and a greatly expanded tour and concert schedule.

Forming their own management company in 2002 was a logical next step.

The trio made a successful debut as concert promoters last year with "Take a Walk in the Country" out at the Makaha Resort. This year, they're doing their "walking" at the Waikiki Shell. The show starts at 5 p.m. tomorrow.

"It's an even bigger venue, so it's really a challenge. The work has quadrupled," Kauakahi said last Friday as the Sons and Sharlene Aoki Oshiro were hosting a VIP reception for concert sponsors and close friends at Sam Choy's Breakfast Lunch & Crab. (Oshiro, head of artist relations at Aloha Music International, has a professional relationship with the trio as the distributor of the Sam Choy/ Makaha Sons' "Hawaiian Luau" cookbook, as well as helping publicize the Sons' concerts.)

"Last year, we were more just testing the waters to see how it works to self-promote a concert, so we started off small," Kauakahi continued. "It was an ideal setting back there in Makaha, but when (the resort) was sold ... we couldn't wait for a response whether or not we could go back, so we decided to go back to the Shell."

The Shell was where the Sons held their "Makaha Bash" concerts back in the 1980s and early '90s.

KAUAKAHI SAYS he expects future Sons concerts will also be held at the Shell. He describes it as "bringing the country to the city and still talking a walk in the country.

"If you look at it way back when, it was all country -- but not any more."

After years of delegating management tasks to others, the Sons now split the load three ways. John Koko does the secretarial work, older brother Jerome handles the contacts and "business stuff," and Kauakahi does the musical arrangements. At concert time, they delegate responsibility to trusted friends like Oshiro and Myrna Young.

Tomorrow night's concert comes in the middle of a busy year for the Sons. Last month, they were touring Japan. Next week, they'll play a date on the Big Island and then take off for a summer tour of the mainland.

Jerome Koko was one of the founding members of the original Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau back in 1975. He left the group in the late-'70s, and says that when Kauakahi called in 1982 and asked him to help the group play some gigs it had committed to prior to Skippy's death, he wanted it to be a long-term commitment.

"I told Moon ... that I didn't want it to be a three-month thing or a six-month thing. I said if (John and I) were coming in, it would have to be a lasting relationship to the very end. That was the intention 22 years ago and we've stuck with it ... Now Moon's a grandpa and I just became a grandpa. John's kinda like the young pup!"

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