By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin

“His voice is fabulous.
I like punch his throat
— I mean he just sings!”

Roland Cazimero, left on his singing partner
and brother, Robert.

May Day the Caz Way

Cazimero brothers mark
20 years of song and celebration

By Catherine Kekoa Enomoto

THE Brothers Cazimero arrive for an interview in tellingly different styles.

Robert Cazimero is punctual -- composed in black denim jumpsuit, shell choker, brown suede cowboy boots. He lounges on a black couch in the chrome and glass Nauru-Tower offices of Mountain Apple Co., the brothers' managing and recording firm for 25 years.

Roland Cazimero dashes in 15 minutes late. He's wearing shorts and a gray T-shirt with cutoff sleeves. He smells soapy, like he just jumped out of the shower. He acts like a puppy, sitting up and panting with anticipation of the first question.

The Caz -- pioneers of contemporary Hawaiian music and a mainstay throughout nearly three decades of performing -- take a "20/20" look at themselves on the occasions of a 20th anniversary May Day show and a 20th anniversary CD.

The brothers have just released their 30th album -- to mark the 20th anniversary of Na Hoku Hanohano Awards -- featuring all 19 prior Hoku-winning Songs of the Year. The two are between rehearsals for their May 1 extravaganza at the Waikiki Shell and they take a break to review their passions, visions, hobbies and mentors, even the subject of Hawaiian sovereignty.

Lead singer and bassist Robert Uluwehionapuaikawekiuokalani Cazimero, 48, says his passion is life -- and, "Singing is life."

Guitarist and singer Roland Kanoelani Cazimero, 46, says his passion is learning to speak Hawaiian to and with his 2-1/2-year-old twin sons, Malama and Pono.

Robert's vision is continuity -- to stay healthy and keep singing the brothers' unique descant style, so they can "become the teachers for those who want to know what it was like then."

Roland's vision is to learn from world-class musicians to enhance the power and healing of Hawaiian music. "It's secret," he whispers intriguingly.

Robert's hobby is hula; Roland's is rebuilding cars and collecting junk "to use later and give away."

Robert, left, and Roland Cazimero after their split
from the Sunday Manoa in the late 1970s.
Below, the cover of their 20th anniversary CD.

On the subject of sovereignty, they flashback two decades when the older sibling was uncomfortable, the younger was housing occupiers.

The issue of sovereignty impinged on Robert's life in 1976, when his hula student Charles Warrington missed practice to land illegally on the then off-limits bombing-target island of Kahoolawe.

"I was very uncomfortable with that whole Kahoolawe thing because I didn't know which way I was supposed to feel," he recalls. "You know, we are part of the United States, but we are Hawaiians as well. And when I finally decided that I thought that it was better to be Hawaiian than American, then I started to feel guilty because my parents told me that I was wrong, because we have to show loyalty to this country. So then, when it came to sovereignty -- this is a long story, yeah -- I felt uncomfortable again, until I would say recently," he laughs here, "maybe less than a year."

Roland interjects, "Until your fountainhead, the halau thing" -- referring to a Feb. 25 vigil at the state Capitol by a coalition of hula groups. They were protesting proposed legislation to limit native Hawaiian gathering rights.

Robert continues: "One of the things that really stuck to me was why should we have to go to this foreign country who overran our country to ask permission for us to be sovereign, when we already are? We never stopped being sovereign just because they invaded our lands.

"I guess I've always lived with the understanding that if I just ignore them," Robert says about legislators, "they will leave us alone. Well, they're not leaving us alone. They are going to squash whatever it is we have that keeps us sane or keeps us Hawaiian. So I ... I support sovereignty now."

Roland was never ambivalent about Hawaiian sovereignty: "I've been supporting sovereignty from day one.

"'71, I used to house the guys that were going to Kahoolawe. They would come up to my house with their Zodiac rafts, make sure they would have gas. Uncle Harry (Mitchell) would come up and we'd talk story. People from Lanai (and) Maui would stay at my house, 30 people, when I was living up Tantalus. The next day they would go hit the water, go Maui and Kahoolawe. I would support them by housing them, feeding them; so I knew about all this movement and I'm sort of a soldier, you know."

Roland said Uncle Harry, kupuna (elder) in the Protect Kaho'olawe 'Ohana organization, called him his "favorite rebel" because Roland sang protest songs at rallies and on radio stations. But Roland never got arrested like the others.

"Sometimes when I wouldn't show up for the rally and I would go to the next one, Uncle Harry would say to me, 'You're smart. Sometimes you have to make a stand and stay away, because it's good for you. And then come back stronger, 'cause sometimes you go-go-go all the time and you get lost up in the shuffle.' So I've been a soldier for years supporting sovereignty, because everybody wants the same thing -- a better Hawaii -- but everybody has a different way of reaching it."

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
The brothers practice at Robert's Makiki home
for the upcoming concert.

Whether performing or protesting, the brothers' role models have included 'ohana. Robert's many mentors include his Aunty Helen Kilauanu, his grandfather, Heloke Mo'okini, and the late, great singer/slack-key guitarist Gabby Pahinui. His "most admired" list includes his aunty, his kumu hula Maiki Aiu Lake and his "Gramps," Kalani Hoapili.

Roland's mentor is his father William Ka'aihue Cazimero, who "instilled in me, your word is gold. If you say you're going to do a gig, you show up." He most admires Robert Cazimero, he says with a straight face. "He sings well, he sings great. I am a better singer because I watch him sing every night. If you're going to back him up, you gotta be as good a singer, or try to.

Roland furrowed his brow, like he wants to be angry. "His voice is fabulous. I like punch his throat -- I mean, he just sings!"

Robert leans back across the couch and raises his right hand over his heart, which he does when speaking on subjects especially personal: "I remember I went to a psychic in my early 20s. She says, 'Your voice is going to be the best ever when you're in your 40s.' I thought to myself, 'That's so frickin' old, who the hell wants to be singing at that age and ... I think she's pretty correct there." The brothers keel in laughter here.

"My voice is a real miracle," Robert admits, "and I say that with a lot of ha'aha'a (humility) because whenever I've needed it, it's been there. When I was a kid I abused it as most people do. I drank to excess and then if I went to a football game I would yell and scream. (But) I have a lot of wonderful guides and angels that surround me. I call on them constantly whenever we perform."

The Brothers Cazimero both have many guides and angels. Despite differing styles, they strive for the same ends -- as Roland says, better music and a better Hawaii.

And, as the last cut (Cecilio Rodriguez' "Goodtimes Together") on their new "20 Years -- Hoku Award Winning Songs" CD says, for The Caz:

It's been a good time together
Lookin' for the warmth of the sun
Gonna be a long time together
And the best is yet to come.

In concert

What: 20th anniversary of the Brothers Cazimero May Day 1997 concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Waikiki Shell
Cost: $16.50 general admission, available at Blaisdell box office and Connection outlets (reserve tickets sold out.)
Charge at: 545-4000 or 1-800-333-3388

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© 1997 Honolulu Star-Bulletin