Makaha Sons: Home at last
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
The Sons Louis "Moon" Kauakahi, Jerome Koko and John Koko are reviving their annual summer spectacle, this year called "Take a Walk in the Country," at the Makaha Resort's lu'au grounds. What used to be dubbed the "Makaha Bash" drew throngs to the Waikiki Shell for 14 years.
But the concept was born in Makaha, so a big homecoming spirit prevails on O'ahu's west side.
And folks such as Polly Grace, known as Granny in the Makaha and Nanakuli communities, are excited that the show is finally returning to home turf, practically where it all started.
"I remember the boys when they were a backyard act, playing in Makaha," said Granny, whose family runs Paradise Lua, a business offering mobile and portable potties for rent. Granny will be at The Makaha Sons' homecoming, too, providing the best "facilities" for the event: "It's what we call the Prestigious Executive
Restroom Trailer, with red carpet valet service," she said of her deluxe rental.
More about the facilities later; what about the fanfare?
"Things are looking real good," John Koko said about the buzz in the community. "Bringing it all back to the west side, where it started, was a good idea. We did two smaller concerts earlier, just to test the market, and now we're ready for the big one. We've got big plans, like doing a live recording of the show, coming out next Feb. 22, and a new studio one, coming out later next year."
"It's kind of exciting to go back to Makaha, but I'm kind of nervous, too," said brother Jerome Koko. "Fourteen years ago was the last big one there for us. But because we're from the area, we gave a lot of country shows before we moved to the Waikiki Shell. I think it was in 1978 or '79, when we did a show at Ohikolo Ranch."
Jerome Koko said the "Take Me Back" outing is a bona-fide means of giving back to the community that helped launched their success. In other words, the Kokos and Kauakahi aren't going to be swimming in money with this one.
"We're establishing two scholarships for Nanakuli High and two for Wai'anae High, which will be awarded in 2004," he said. "And we're also supporting two funds, one for Arrianna Diaz (a 7-year-old battling cancer), the other for the Officer Glen Gaspar Memorial Fund." (He's the Honolulu policeman killed in the line of duty earlier this year in Kapolei.)
"Everybody's talking about the show that's what the boys wanted to do, to bring it all back to the community," said Sharlene Aoki Oshiro, the event's concert coordinator. "It's not about their recordings; it's all about doing something wonderful for the community."
John Koko said the charitable aspects of the concert are linked to the group's "People Helping People" campaign, with net proceeds of the concert and all of the silent-auction proceeds benefitting their selected groups.
He said the trio hopes the attraction will be held annually at the Mkaha Resort. "It depends on the new owners," he said. "We want to let the people know the place is open, and if the new guys like us, we'll do this again next year and every year."
The Makaha Bash was a summer tradition at the Waikiki Shell, uniting locals with visitors, with folks journeying from Hawai'i Kai and Hale'iwa. The right to use the concert name was registered by Kata Maduli, a musician who played with the Sons and also booked the act; when relationships faltered, the concerts stopped, leaving a vacuum on the concert calendar for a couple of years.
Jim Haupt, a longtime fan who works at West O'ahu Realty in Waipahu, frequented the annual gig and is pleased that the show is back in the area of origin. He is part of a 14-member contingent that will be sharing the aloha and mana'o of the group.
"It's a type of music that can be enjoyed by local kama'aina and visitors alike," said Haupt, who has plunked down $125 for VIP tickets. "Sure, it's being indulgent. But it's great to have an event that brings folks to Makaha, to what a wonderful place it is to live and to re-create."
Haupt splits his time living in Waikiki and in Makaha "and work in the middle, in Waipahu." He had praise for the Mkaha Resort, "a hotel that is so accommodating. I'm a vegetarian, and I know they'll take good care of my needs, like a small-town hotel in lot of ways."
"I've been a Makaha Sons fans for years, so I'm delighted they're doing their show at the Mkaha Resort," said Chris Lau, owner of the hotel, who introduced himself to the group at a corporate function some time back in Waikiki. "Are you guys really from Makaha?" Lau asked, informing Kauakahi and the Kokos of his link with the hotel and golf club. "That was probably the springboard for them bringing the show to us."
Lau said the guys frequently dine at the hotel. "One time, they were having breakfast on the lanai; they had their cell phones going, doing bookings. I interrupted and told them (jokingly), 'OK, guys, we talked about doing something let's get serious. You pull out your book, we'll pull out our books. I don't know if the economics would work, but let's try.' "
"They still live here that's important and they're still giving back," said Granny, who expects the experience to be a lot less stress for concert-goers. "Aaaay, in Waikiki one time, I gotta park far away, walk two miles. I remember one time, we parked so far away, we caught da bus to da show."
OK, back to all-important restroom matters: With an expected throng of nearly 4,000, the resort needed extra help, particularly because the event also boasts a beer garden.
Granny, 66, who earned her nickname because she has 21 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchilden, is formally retired (her offspring and other family members run the show) but remains active.
The gargantuan Prestigious Executive Restroom Trailer is her pride and joy. "It's the only one of its kind here," said Granny. "And it has baby changers on both sides. Now days, da guys also change da babies. Cost me an arm and a leg and a hand, but it's really special."
The hotel anticipates early arrivals, so the parking facilities will be open from 3 p.m. Those attending should bring mats or beach seats as if they were going to the shell. Same rules apply: No coolers, no outside food and drink, and beach seats should be legless.
The anticipation includes some apprehension, however. "I am nervous," Moon said about the homecoming, mainly because it's also a reunion of area friends, of family members who reluctantly missed their later Waikiki gigs because of the distance.
"Even among friends we haven't seen for years, this type of coming-together atmosphere makes me a little nervous. It's a huge confrontation; I hope it plays like a backyard jam, like the old days, when we talked to the audience, friends and family, before the show, and talked some more afterward. Since we haven't done one of these in this scope for a long time, it's a little scary."
Reach Wayne Harada at email@example.com, 525-8067 or fax 525-8055.
The Makaha Sons
A look back
- Year formed: 1975, as The Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau, with Skippy Kamakawiwo'ole, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Sam Gray and Louis "Moon" Kauakahi. Mel Amina also was part of the early group.
- Year turned "professional": 1976, as opening act for Na Keonimana.
- Stage nicknames: Jerome is the Emperor, John is the King, Moon is the General and the acronym is EKG (the heartbeat of Hawai'i's music).
- Number of albums recorded: 19; 18 with Poki Records.
- Next two CDs: The 20th, due in October, is a compilation that will be part of a Sam Choy cookbook; the 21st, due Feb. 22, will be titled "Kumuwaena."
- Chicken-skin moment: When the trio rejoined former member Israel Kamakawiwo'ole in a live performance at the 1996 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards show, which would turn out to be Kamakawiwo'ole's last appearance before his death June 26, 1997.
- Next milestone: Feb. 22, 2004, will mark the group's 28th anniversary.
Louis "Moon" Kauakahi
- Age: 47.
- Birth date: July 30, 1955.
- High school: Nanakuli High and Intermediate School, class of 1973.
- Early memory: Played "Cotton Fields" on 'ukulele as a child.
- Early experience: Nanaikapono Boys Choir, nameless combo at Nanakuli High, member of Darrell Lupenui's Men of Waimapuna.
- Role now: Plays six-string guitar, serves as group's leader, arranger and composer; fluent in Hawaiian language.
- Personal: Married to Lydia; daughter, Hoku.
- Little-known facts: Played with ki ho'alu master Gabby Pahinui in his youth; was class valedictorian.
- Age: 42.
- Birth date: Aug. 24, 1960.
- High school: Nanakuli; was to be part of class of 1978, but couldn't graduate for health reasons;earned GED.
- Early memory: "We were really poor ... we did not have a can opener."
- Early musical experience: Na Leo O Nanakuli, performed at the Sheraton Makaha (original name of what is now the Makaha Resort).
- Role now: Plays upright bass; runs Makaha Sons Inc.
- Personal: Married to Tori; sons, John Jr., Jerman, Jordon, Jerry.
- Little-known facts: Had open-heart surgery in 2001; also is a foster parent.
- Age: 47.
- Birth date: Sept. 21, 1955.
- High school: Nanakuli, class of 1973.
- Early memory: Excelled in football (all-star running back) and track in high school.
- Early musical experience: Played guitar in high-school band.
- Role now: Plays 12-string guitar, is the resident emcee-comedian.
- Personal: Married to Yolanda; son, Jerome Jr.; daughters, Jeri-Lynn, Jessica Pohakalani.
- Little-known facts: Has a passion for golf; a former teacher once told his mother that Jerome would be an astronaut some day; "look at him taking up all that SPACE."