Kalahiki breaks out into her own music


POSTED: Friday, August 28, 2009
This story has been corrected. See below.


Ever since she was a teenager, Starr Kalahiki was told she had the gift of song.

Since then she has built her resume as a featured vocalist with the long-running Maui show “;'Ulalena”; and the short-lived “;Hawaii Nei”; in Waikiki, as well as with the alternative rock band Missing Dave and the R&B/funk collective eight0eight. But while fellow musicians and local music observers know she has the chops to make a name for herself, Kalahiki has been patiently building confidence until she felt ready to break out.

That opportunity is now at hand. With the help of veteran arranger and songwriter Kit Ebersbach—who has worked in the studio with people such as Teresa Bright, Na Leo and Raiatea Helm—she is starting work on an album that will make her into a headliner.

In the meantime you can listen for yourself during a series of Kalahiki's gigs starting next week (see schedule).

The only child of a Pentecostal minister and his wife, Kalahiki said she remembers singing as early as age 5. “;Everybody in my world, both sides of my family, can sing well. I remember, at home, hearing records by people like Sarah Vaughan and Tony Bennett.”;

But it was as a 16-year-old that Kalahiki's voice was recognized as something better than just good. “;When I went to the (University of Hawaii) Lab School, Nola Nahulu was the music director there. She was the one who got me into the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus and the Kawaiaha'o Church Choir, both of which she conducts. In my tryout with the opera chorus, she said when she heard my Debussy solo, that compared to other girls my age, my voice was special.”;

It's an opinion that Ebersbach shares. “;I've been in the business for four decades now, and what I love about Starr is that she's a musician first and foremost,”; he said. “;She sings as a musician, and what I mean is that she listens to everybody that's around her onstage and reacts to it. And she has a great temperament. Starr's one of these people that, when she walks into a room, she just lights it up, and she brings it out totally unforced.”;





        » 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, as part of “;A Tribute to Michael Jackson: The King of Pop,”; at Gordon Biersch Brewery in the Aloha Tower Marketplace. No cover. Call 722-9226 (see sidebar).

» 8 to 11 p.m. Thursday at Indigo, 1121 Nuuanu Ave. Free. Call 386-7833.


» 7 to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at Hula's Bar and Lei Stand, 134 Kapahulu Ave. No cover. Call 923-0669.


» Also: 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays at Duke's Canoe Club Waikiki, 2335 Kalakaua Ave. No cover. Call 922-2268.




NONE OF HER current focus would be evident if not for one of those revelatory moments four years ago that caused her to re-evaluate her career.

One of her steady gigs was performing with the Star of Honolulu cruises, and she said, “;When I was 29, I would've been content just singing jazz and blues five times a week on the boat. Then, one night, just before I was ready to do a set and looking over the songs I was going to sing, I thought to myself, 'What the hell do I really know about singing the blues?'”;

Now, at 33, with a couple of “;life experiences”; behind her (i.e., broken relationships), Kalahiki feels she's ready to express herself musically.

“;I'm fearless once I'm in the music,”; she said. “;Before any gig, I'm usually a big ball of anxiety. Also, if the music is not vibe-ing for me, I would rather hang drywall.




MySpace: Starr Kalahiki



“;I'm blown away by Kit's musical sensibilities,”; Kalahiki said of her onstage accompanist. “;It's those lush chord changes that he plays that stirs me.”;

“;While I enjoy the clever things song-wise that I've done for Don Tiki,”; Ebersbach said, referencing the exotica tribute band he co-leads with Lloyd Kandell, “;writing songs for Starr is making me search my heart. I want to make sure that what I write for her will make the musical communication from her as complete as possible.”;

Kalahiki said, “;I've worked really hard to be a musician, to use my voice as an instrument and be in with the boys.”;


Local talents pay tribute to Jackson

Starr Kalahiki will be one of the featured performers at a Michael Jackson tribute Wednesday night at Aloha Tower Marketplace's Gordon Biersch.

On a night usually set aside for jazz, trumpeter and concert organizer DeShannon Higa will bring together singers and dancers to bring the King of Pop's art alive once more. Kalahiki, Anita Hall, eight0eight, Rocky Brown, Willow Chang and iNTREPiD will be some of the talent that will help Higa.

“;This is basically our take on his music, our interpretations, and to let everyone express their talent through his artistry,”; Higa said. “;We just had our first rehearsal Monday for the three-hour show, and I hand-picked each person. They're all pros, all great in their own right, and known for their dedication to craft.

“;Anyone who loves MJ and his music won't be disappointed,”; Higa said.





        » Singer Starr Kalahiki and her accompanist, Kit Ebersbach, perform 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays at Duc's Bistro, 1188 Maunakea St. Free; call 531-6325. Her MySpace site is http://www.myspace.com/starrkkalahiki.