No other isle artist has done what Tony Conjugacion has: issuing a second release of an album using the same songs and musicians.

Tribute to the kane

Musician Tony Conjugacion
makes local music history

'Kamau Pono VI:
Na Kane O Ka Mele,
Na Kane O Ka Hula'

Where: Hawaii Theatre
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 3
Tickets: $20 (includes $2 theater restoration fee)
Call: 528-0506

Tony Conjugacion isn't planning to retire soon, but when the time comes, he wants to go out like Cher.

"Cher has always had a great sense of timing," he said. "She's the diva of all time. She was ahead of Madonna, and she's been able to reinvent herself, but she was also wise enough to step out of the space at a good time."

Conjugacion -- who's generally billed these days as "Tony C" -- won't be stepping out of the spotlight for the foreseeable future. He's making local music history today with the release of his new album, "Hawaiian Passion," and returns to the stage Oct. 3 in "Kamau Pono VI: Na Kane O Ka Mele, Na Kane O Ka Hula," a dance concert at Hawaii Theatre celebrating the male hula and male vocalist tradition.

"Last year, we honored women," he said. "This year, it's fully focused on men. There'll be no women on stage, including stage hands, and the only female involved in the production is the Honolulu Skylark, who will be the emcee."

Each dance segment will pair a prominent kumu hula or "dance diva" with an equally well-known vocalist. Jerry Santos will sing for Peter Rockford-Espiritu, Manu Boyd for Robert Cazimero, Bill Ka'iwa for George Holokai, and Darren Benitez for Kawaikapuokalani Hewett. Conjugacion will sing for Kau'i Kamana'o.

The show won't be exclusively hula, he says. The men of Rockford-Espiritu's Tau Dance Theatre will "reprise" Conjugacion's controversial cutting-edge album, "TC2000," and perform with the men of Conjugacion's Halau Na Wainohia.

"In many instances, my dancers are stretching themselves to learn that kind modern jazz stuff, which is really good because I want them to understand that kind of dance as well, and (Rockford-Espiritu) and I have talked about exchanging dancers so his dancers can understand the fluidity of hula."

Tony Conjugacion has added six bonus tracks to the second release of "Hawaiian Passion."

DANCE ASIDE, Conjugacion's other big project is the release of "Hawaiian Passion," a full-length re-recording of his 1985 debut album, "Hawaiian Passion." The original version was the big winner at the 1986 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. Conjugacion took home awards for Male Vocalist of the Year, Traditional Album of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year as the composer of "Ka Beauty a'o Manoa."

The original album established Conjugacion as a major player in contemporary Hawaiian music, but has been unavailable for years because Kahanu Records, the label that originally released it, went under.

Conjugacion tried to recover the master recordings without success. He finally decided that the solution was to round up the musicians he'd worked with back in 1985 and record the entire album a second time.

"No artist has ever had the opportunity to do an entire album over with the same musicians in the same keys," he says.

"Hawaiian Passion," he says, "was my most requested CD, and it was also the one that gave me the most grief because (I) never (received) any remuneration for it, and then it was the one that was least available, so it's come full circle and I'm so excited about it.

"The entire project is dedicated to Keahi Allen, because not enough people acknowledge all her contributions to the Hawaiian community ... and the conduit of that was her sharing her song, 'Keahi,' that was written for her by Jack Pitman and was only recorded on 78 by her mother, Napua Stevens, and also by Auntie Genoa Keawe on a 78.

"Thank God for Harry B. Soria; he was able to get me a copy of it," he said.

So Tony C is moving forward by taking a look back at the album that launched his career, while at the same time adding new songs to his repertoire.

"Bette Midler said that it's all cyclical: You have your highs and lows and it just keeps coming around, and every time (the highs come around), you handle it better. The first time around, I thought I was a diva, but I think I've managed my life pretty well and now I'm so over myself."


New recordings capture
beauty of originals

"Hawaiian Passion"
Tony C
(The Mountain Apple Company)

Call it a milestone. Call it a precedent-setting album. Call it one of the year's most significant Hawaiian albums. Tony Conjugacion's second "Hawaiian Passion" album is all that and probably more.

It apparently marks the first time a local artist has gone back into the studio to re-record a vintage album with the same group of musicians that created it the first time. But what's more important is that the modern recordings capture the magic of the old songs perfectly and they're as beautiful as ever.

"Ka Beauty a'o Manoa" is still a magnificent musical signature. "Behave Hula Girl" still sounds like sweet and sassy fun.

Because these are all new recordings, this isn't a conventional re-release. Six new songs -- which wouldn't rightly be included if this were a re-release of the 1985 album -- are truly "bonus tracks" in the best sense of the term, and should win over any purists uneasy about the concept of an artist's attempting to duplicate an out-of-print work.

Pianist Leila Hohu Ki'aha and steel guitarist Charles "Kealoha" Fukuba again provide the old-time ambience that is so often missing from contemporary Hawaiian music, and Jeff Rasmussen adds most of the string instruments (guitar, ukulele and bass) that are heard around Conjugacion's beautiful falsetto voice.

The only break with the traditional Hawaiian format comes when Gabe Baltazar joins the group to add sax to "Keahi." Many music fans will likely question the addition of saxophone on a single track because it does break an otherwise consistent and classic Hawaiian format.

Hula students and others interested in Hawaiian music and culture will find the lyrics for the original "Hawaiian Passion" songs included in the liner notes. Translations and additional information are available at

By John Berger

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet Ka Beauty a'o Manoa
Bullet Radio Hula
Bullet Keahi
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info

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