Social media feeds off what’s hot, and sometimes the result is hot garbage. Wading through all the muck to find the truly worthwhile stuff can frustrate you to the point that it makes you cynical, not wanting to waste time on parasitic memes and videos.
But every once in a while something comes along to give you a little hope. The video for “E Pi‘i Mai” by Kamaka Camarillo and Ryan Kawika “Wikz” Aspili is the newest sliver of joy coming from Hawaii’s corner of the internet.
The local musicians put an island twist on the melody of Bruno Mars’ chart-topper “That’s What I Like” and replaced the lyrics with an ode to nature sung entirely in Hawaiian. The result is a rare example of taking something already great and using it to make something different but recognizable, and most importantly, pretty darn good.
Aspili says he was inspired to write the lyrics in early 2017 after Mars’ “24K Magic” album came out and he “was really feeling (it).”
“I wanted to do an olelo Hawaii version through a Hawaiian perspective,” Aspili said, “for the Native Hawaiian community and Native Hawaiian speakers … to push the perpetuation of our culture, our language, our practices and love of the land, aloha aina.”
The original YouTube video of the pair singing the song on the couch racked up some views after it was shared on Facebook — it’s now closing in on 50,000 — and friends Pua and Elijah Perkins helped them make a more polished video last month.
The new video, shot in Camarillo’s Kaiser High School classroom — he’s a guitar, ukulele and Polynesian music teacher there — and at beautiful locations around our Hawaiian Islands, dropped Saturday. The timing makes it easy to dismiss “E Pi‘i Mai” as an attempt to capitalize on Roosevelt grad Mars’ record-breaking three-show stand at Aloha Stadium this week that will wrap up his 24K Magic World Tour. That would be unfair. With Aspili’s sweet, smooth vocals underscored by Camarillo’s jazzy, at times bluesy guitar, the pair have created a piece of music worth seeking out.
You won’t have to look too hard. In just a few days, the video has racked up nearly 150,000 views and about 4,000 Facebook shares.
Camarillo says his “phone’s been blowing up” since Saturday, with far greater response than he ever imagined.
“I was hoping for the best, but you never know until you put it out there. I didn’t think it would get this big this fast,” says Camarillo, who is planning to attend Saturday’s Bruno Mars concert. (Both are “huge fans,” but Aspili, a massage therapist and UH-Manoa graduate assistant in Hawaiian studies who merely dabbles in music, wasn’t able to get through when tickets sold out quickly this summer.)
The song can also be downloaded or streamed in all the usual places. Go to kamakacamarillo.com for links.