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Members of high energy ukulele band Kanekoa came to our San Francisco offices all the way from Maui to perform a set that includes a stand out Pink Floyd cover.
Kanekoa is a six piece high energy, ukulele powered experience of sound and culture hailing from the Northshore of Maui, Hawai’i. Playing together since 1999, Kanekoa melds elements of Hawaiian, Rock, Roots Reggae, Folk, Blues, and improvisation into a truly new and one of a kind sound.
In Hawaiian the word KANEKOA (kah-ney-koh-ah) has its roots in the words kane (man) and koa (a sacred tree indigenous to Hawai’i), and translates into English as “a strong man or warrior. ” Kanekoa as a band translates into one of Hawaii’s premier live music experiences. Because their sound is based on the yet untapped potential of the electrified Hawaiian ukulele, inspired by the range of musical tastes of its players, and shaped by the land and culture of Hawai’i, Kanekoa has discovered a land of limitless musical possibility. In short, you have not heard or seen anything like this before.
Lead singer, principal lyricist and rhythm ukulele player Kaulana Kanekoa provides the band’s soul inspired, thought provoking vocals and melodies; drawn from the Hawai’i of old, influenced by the diversity of the larger world, but always confronting the struggles of today. Growing up on both Maui and on the mainland, Kaulana Kanekoa was encouraged to explore all of his avenues of musical interest: from Gabby Pahinui to Led Zeppelin, The Wailers to Peter Moon, The Grateful Dead to the Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau, he was always guided to music that “moved the soul. ” On lead ukulele and backing vocals is Vince Esquire, considered by many to be one of the next generation’s new masters of the instrument. As a an accomplished blues and soul guitarist he has shared the stage with the likes of Willie Nelson, Greg Allman, Willie K, Mick Fleetwood, and Los Lonely Boys; but on an ukulele he is in a class all his own.
Connecting its roots in the sounds and culture of the Hawaiian ukulele to the sounds of the larger world Kanekoa brings together a talented and diverse rhythm section. On fretless bass guitar, and at the crossroads of rhythm and harmony, is Shawn Michael. A wizard at shaping low end roots grooves, thunderous rock backbones, and subtle harmonic kaleidoscopes of sound, Shawn is a key ingredient in Kanekoa’s ability to span musical genres. For its rhythmic foundations Kanekoa utilizes a three piece drums and percussion section featuring the talents of Brett Kealoha Nelson (percussion/sounds), Clive Tucker (kit), and Travis Rice (kit/percussion). Because of the range of styles of its drummers, in a single night the Kanekoa rhythm can morph seamlessly from a double kit rock and jam groove, across roots reggae, Hawaiian, folk and blues vibes, slipping into drums/space, and back into high energy improvisations that make you think: how did they just do that?
KANEKOA has performed over the past 13 years at various venues and festivals in Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, and Californial. Kanekoa has shared the stage with Los Lobos, Bill Kreutzman and the 7 Walkers, Eric McFadden, Marshal Tucker Band, Makana, Anuhea, George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, DJ Logic, Monophonics, Fruition, Papa Grows Funk, Afromassive, Brown Chicken Brown Cow, Kanekoa, Bruddah Waltah, Afrolicious, MothXP, Ultra Violets, Flash Drive, Maui Underground, the Kit Kat Club Cabaret In addition to its own burgeoning internet sales and online listenership from around the world, Kanekoa enjoys regular airplay in Hawaii and select markets on the U. S mainland. The band’s 2007 CD “Under the Coconut Sky” is distributed worldwide courtesy of Fontana/Universal.
In addition to the various surf and locally produced video soundtracks Kanekoa has collaborated in over the years, their most notable film appearances have been in the 2005 big wave surfing documentary “JAWS Underground” and in the 2007 Farrelly Brother/ Ben Stiller feature film “The Heartbreak Kid. ” Director Peter Farrelly saw Kanekoa perform in 2006 at The Mint in Los Angeles, stating “It was one of the best live shows I’d seen in years. ” Farrelly later invited the group to appear in his film and feature their unique sounds.
Over its thirteen years Kanekoa has produced two full length albums, three EP’s, a revolving set of live albums sold and distributed at its concerts, as well as hundreds of hours of video. Kanekoa is releasing new studio tracks in Spring 2014, Live shows in Spring 2014, and more recently working on releasing acoustic material.