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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, December 3, 1999

Robert and Roland Cazimero

Brothers Cazimero
are ready for
holiday mele

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


Robert and Roland Cazimero celebrate months rather than days. There are the "birthday months" of Robert and Roland and their "third brother," Leina'ala Kalama Heine, the festivities surrounding the annual Cazimero May Day extravaganza at the Shell, and the Christmas month now in progress.

A Cazimero Christmas month traditionally includes a concert with Heine and the members of their affiliated halau. This year the Christmas concert is a three-night event with the Honolulu Symphony in the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

"I for myself enjoy Christmas, period," Robert said recently while autographing copies of the duo's new album, "Cazimero christmas Favorites," in the Honolulu offices of the Mountain Apple Co.

"For us Christmas was always a time when we loved all the presents and things but it was also a time to acknowledge the birth of this special child. I don't think that it's really a problem to say 'Happy Birthday, Jesus.' I don't think this should be the only time we say it, but I don't mean to sound so religious either. It just seems to be easier to do it at this time of year. I also like the celebration of it all."

He adds that Hawaiians traditionally celebrated this time of year as part of the makahiki period that precedes Ho'oilo (the Hawaiian winter).

Robert and Roland were working as a two man assembly line autographing several hundred copies of their new Christmas anthology. It contains songs from their previous Christmas albums, "Christmas Collection" and "Christmas Collection Volume II" -- plus an additional song, "Jingle Bell Rock."

Robert was the primary spokesman as the session continued.

"When we did the first two albums the whole thought was the celebration of the birth of this person who happens to be Jesus Christ. The songs that are not so much about that person came along as part of the celebration. But basically this is based on the Christian belief that this is the time of the birth of Jesus."

"And that Santa's around too," Roland interjects with a chuckle.

"This one has an even amount of secular and non-secular numbers. I think it's something that we planned to be that way. Roland and I have always had a nice kind of evenness between church and" ... "and pop Christmas songs," Roland adds.

The interplay -- always a popular part of a Cazimero show -- reflects a facet of their personal relationship and a key to their successful career. Robert is the long-time leader and spokesman. Roland is the irrepressible younger brother always ready with a one-liner.

"I've really learned to trust Roland's ideas. We've had our fights, but the most important thing is the commitment that we have made to each other, to ourselves, and to this culture of ours. For the longest time Roland felt he had no say, but (the album "20 years of Hoku Award-Winning Songs") was a lesson to me. Roland worked his ass off (on the arrangements) while I was on the mainland, and we came out with a product that to this day may be a little too early in it's likability but later on will survive."

It wasn't the first time that the brothers have been ahead of the market. They've been doing updated contemporary arrangements of hapa-haole songs for years. Time was when some kupuna felt the duo was ruining Hawaiian music by "be-bopping it up." These days the Cazimeros' arrangements are considered traditional and other local artists are playing Territorial Era songs.

"Roland and I are from a strange space in time. We get homesick even as we are home here in Hawaii, and these songs connect us to a time past that is still a time present and a time future that encompasses family, friends, origins, costumes, language and life. Our mom and dad played those songs in the 40s and encouraged us, but it's real easy to offend people, and when they're offended they'll tell you. We've gone through our years getting our chops from the kupuna (but) the best thing about that is that we've learned from it.

"Sometimes the guidance was unspoken -- kupuna can be very good at that -- but we pretty much knew what we could do and what we couldn't. Jon de Mello said to me years ago 'If there is a shade a doubt that what you're doing isn't right don't go there.' I think it's good advice to this day for all of us."

Robert says the duo has also been influenced by artists as diverse as Gabby Pahinui, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley.

And "Kawika Lee Roth," Roland announces.

"And our audiences every place from our uncle's garage in Kailua to Chai's at Aloha Tower, and from Carnegie Hall to Kalaupapa," Robert continues smoothly.

The brothers head back to Carnegie Hall in January.

A Cazimero Christmas

Bullet When: Thursday, Dec. 9 through Saturday, Dec. 11.
Bullet Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Bullet Cost: $50-$15
Bullet Call: 538-8863

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