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Cazimeros evolve into driving force over 35 years

By Wayne Harada

Special to the Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 8:23 a.m. HST, Sep 9, 2010

"The Brothers Cazimero: At Home in the Islands," premiering tonight on KGMB, is a candid, revealing portrait of Robert and Roland Cazimero and their 35-year journey from Hawaiian music renaissance upstarts to enduring deans of contemporary island music.

The duo has shared, shaped and put its own spin on the tradition of perpetuating Hawaiian culture by combining hula, drama and modern influences, evolving into the driving force in live entertainment today.

An act for all seasons -- Lei Day, Christmas, Waikiki nightlife -- "The Caz" are known for spontaneity, simplicity and a remarkably fluid performing style generated by only two voices, accompanied by Robert's stand-up fiddle bass and Roland's guitar. On some occasions, there's a hula component featuring "third brother" Leina'ala Kalama Heine.

With a mix of still photographs, crude but enlightening vintage video, recent performance snippets, and a range of selective testimony from show biz colleagues and peers, the Brothers Cazimero's story is one of hard work that has embraced venues as diverse as the Royal Hawaiian's Monarch Room, Bishop Museum's Hawaiian Hall, the Waikiki Shell, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Hawaii Theatre and even a live Miss America pageant telecast.

"Whether you play at Carnegie Hall or Sam Kapu's garage (in Kapahulu) ... it's the product and the talent and the love you bring," Robert says. "It's what you feel."

'The Brothers Cazimero: At Home in the Islands'

» On TV: 9 p.m. today and Saturday on KGMB

And "At Home" is feel-good all the way, as produced by Phil Arnone for Hawaii News Now and narrated by Kaulana Park. The show tracks the brothers' career from the '70s era when they were part of The Sunday Manoa with Peter Moon and the pivotal "Guava Jam" album, which triggered a renaissance of island music among young troupers.

"We put a beat to this Hawaiian music," Roland says. The Brothers emerged when The Sunday Manoa disbanded in 1975.

With a 30-year cycle of May Day shows at the Waikiki Shell, which ended in 2007, annual holiday spectacles, 37 albums and shows with a following of visitors and locals in venues such as Chuck's Cellar, the Prow Lounge, the Ocean Showroom, Primo Garden, the Ala Moana Hotel and Chai's Island Bistro, The Caz have never been unemployed and have established a standard of workmanship that is hard to beat.

A 12-year run at the Monarch Room, the jewel of Waikiki stages, has elevated the duo to a league of its own.

"The brothers are showmen. ... They can carry an audience," says Leah Bernstein, president of Mountain Apple Co., the local recording, talent management and concert promotion company.

Over time, sellouts have been the rule.

Each brother also has maintained separate careers: Robert, principally, as kumu hula of Halau Na Kamalei; Roland as a prolific composer-musician with projects tapping the Hokule'a and the legacy of Pele, the volcano goddess.

"I like the person I've become," Robert says, "living in a state of gratitude," in which he daily thanks the Lord for his blessings, just as his mom used to do. "I think my mother lives in me."

"'Amazing Grace' -- with a beat," Roland says of his current state of mind, with a hip rhythm updating the classic hymn. Spoken and performed like a true visionary.

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