A Night Of Music At The Museum
Hawaiian history and culture come alive when Robert Cazimero presents his annual benefit concert Thursday, Sept. 20 at Kaua‘i Museum.
When you are a recipient of more than 25 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, an inductee into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame, a Grammy nominee, renowned kumu hula and an icon in Hawaiian culture — where do you go from there? What is the next mountain to climb, or the next accomplishment to achieve?
For legendary Robert Cazimero, the answer is easy.
“What am I doing now? My forever project is redoing my kitchen! The termites are holding it up; I hate them! New flooring next, and then the Azores, Paris and Aotearoa.”
Somewhere between the kitchen remodel and travels to Portugal, France and New Zealand, Cazimero finds time to fit in his annual September benefit concert at Kaua‘i Museum, scheduled for Thursday evening (Sept. 20), where the music and voice of a generation is surrounded by priceless Hawaiian artifacts. The combination of the two has created one of Kaua‘i’s signature events, seamlessly blending together Hawaiian history and culture.
“We (at the museum) tell stories of our rich culture through artifacts, paintings and powerful exhibits,” explains executive director Chucky Boy Chock. “As for Robert, his voice, his music and his dancers, this is history.”
He then continues on a more personal note: “From a Hawaiian perspective, the relationship is simple — mailelauli‘ili‘i woven with mokihana and a 15-strand lei pīkake, this is Kaua‘i Museum and Robert Cazimero. E pūlama i kā kākou mau ha‘i mo‘olelo … Cherish our storytellers of Hawai‘i. A perfect fit.”
From the ‘ahu‘ula o Mo‘i Kaumuali‘i handcrafted feather cloak on display to the Ha‘aheo ‘O Hawai‘i artifacts brought to the museum from the Smithsonian Institution, Chock has worked tirelessly, crafting a gallery that brings to life the stories of the island’s history. His goal is for the museum to one day “become a Significant Heritage Institution.”
He views Cazimero with friendship and admiration, describing his friend as “a cultural icon … he’s that and more and on a personal level, the friendship has grown into something special, and I say this because his brother, Boz (Roland), and I were close friends. My admiration for his music goes without saying. Impeccable! As a kumu hula, his stories are a tapestry of our culture that is artistically presented through hula.”
Chock continues: “The beauty of Robert is you don’t have to understand the language to know what he is singing. He brings you into the fold with his storytelling then mesmerizes you with his voice. Wow!”
It is true that through hard work and perseverance, Cazimero has built a storied career over borders and across languages. Having performed from Carnegie Hall to Tokyo, from the Wolftrap Opera House in Washington, D.C., to Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, sharing the stage with New York Pops, LA Philharmonic, Boston Pops and Honolulu Symphony.
Yet every fall, he returns to Līhu‘e town, to a century-old building that began as a library, and he cherishes it all just the same. “All opportunities are welcomed and worthwhile,” he says.
“Performing at the museum, greeting folks that attend, it’s constant rejuvenation for me,” Cazimero continues. “Each year I take to the stage and look forward to the museum telling me where it wants me to go, how I am to address the evening. I take in the faces of the people sitting in those white chairs, feel their energies, take a deep breath and sing. I’m a lucky man, I have a good life. Mine is a perpetual state of gratitude. No matter how bad things may seem, it could be worse. Believe, trust and breathe.”
Chock employs a similar, if not more ebullient, mantra in his approach to his job. Though modest, Chock is a renowned songwriter in his own right. “Being at the museum is like writing new music every day. What a great privilege (it is) and extremely humbling, with a great staff to boot, and a dynamic board of trustees. (It’s) the best of both worlds; it’s unbelievable.”
For Cazimero, he has been around long enough to have seen the fruits come to bare at the museum. Every year since 2010, Cazimero visits Kaua‘i to perform this intimate, low-key, one night-only concert in the museum’s main gallery.
“My relationship with the Kaua‘i Museum began with my first visit many years ago. I loved the quaintness and endless possibilities that historic building held. The staff, the angels that help the museum keep growing, the new layout of the displays, the hard work of Chucky Boy Chock and his crew present an awesome experience every time I’m there.”
When asked of his favorite memories from over the years, Cazimero responds, “Arriving on Kaua‘i and being driven to the museum is one. Seeing people I love makes me happy, that’s two. Walking from the dressing room to the stage, nervous as hell is three. A bittersweet memory would be leaving. It’s painful.”
His relationship to Kaua‘i extends well beyond the museum walls, though. “I love Kaua‘i. Many sentimental ties to great people and families on the island. The ties my kumu hula, Maiki Aiu Lake has to Kaua‘i is my favorite thing about the island. Lawa a pono.”
He concludes with the following: “With luck, a return to the Kaua‘i Museum next fall will come to fruition.”
The concert is scheduled for 7-8:30. Doors open at 5:30, with light refreshments served from 6 to 6:45. For more information, contact the museum at 245-6931 or visit kauaimuseum.org.