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Maui Jam Band releases new slack key guitar mele special

By BY LOUISE ROCKETT - | Sep 10, 2021

The Maui Jam Band includes (from left): Lance Tokushima, Sharon Balidoy, Jon Toda, Geronimo Valdriz, Konapiliahi Lau, Wayne Purdy and Al Nip. Patti Kuwaye moved to Virginia before the photo was taken.

LAHAINA — The Maui Jam Band is crooning and tuning with sweet melodies on their latest release, “Aloha Ku’u Hawai’i Aloha E.” The 12-track ki ho’alu (slack key guitar) mele special is guaranteed to soothe the effects of Covid Stress — like slipping in a cool mountain stream on a hot summer’s day in the middle of a global pandemic.

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The performers’ connection is a wrap-around of harmonies and instrumentals. Their rich, well-practiced voices blend together — an exciting mix of island artists with an innate talent of sharing their love of the Hawaiian culture through music.

They are Lance Tokushima, Sharon Balidoy, Jon Toda, Geronimo Valdriz, Konapiliahi Lau, Wayne Purdy, Al Nip and Patti Kuwaye.

Al Nip is the band leader.

It was recorded at Carl Langes Studio, mostly during the course of the pandemic.

A retired educator (Lahainaluna High School), Nip plays ‘ukulele, guitar and bass on the album.

“I was influenced by my brother and his friends jamming in our patio in Palolo Valley on the island of Oahu,” Nip told the Lahaina News.

“While in college at UH-Manoa,” he continued, “I had the pleasure to work with and have as my Kumu Larry Kauanoe Lindsey Kimura and Ho’oulu Cambra, and that had a major impact in my life to perform Hawaiian music.”

Music has been a mainstay for Nip throughout his life.

“Limited to surfing and diving, and working our Kahakuloa property, practicing and improving on my skills on the steel guitar has kept me in a good frame of mind throughout this crisis,” he advised.

Fortunately, Nip continued, “We were able to perform safely through the pandemic at the Maui Coffee Attic in Wailuku once a month.”

Born and raised in Kuli’ou’ou, Oahu, Lance Tokushima, now of Peahi, is the ‘ukulele aficionado of the group.

“People who influenced me in playing Hawaiian music were Sterling (Kootchie) Lau, Walter Kawaea and Kumu Uluwehi Guerrero. Of course, last but not least, Al Nip for giving my wife and me opportunity to perform music we both love.”

“Playing Hawaiian music gives me something to look forward to during these days of COVID-19,” Tokushima said.

Seventy-one-year-old Wayne Santiago Purdy, of the storied Ulupalakua Purdy ‘ohana, adds his talents to the CD working his four-string electric bass.

His performance career commenced when he was young, playing parties and restaurants with his mom, dad and cousin.

Sharon Balidoy’s Hawaiian roots run deep in Lahaina. She is the granddaughter of the Uncle Ned and Aunty Pua Lindsey family of Front Street. Her parents are Roselle and Jim Bailey. She is the kumu hula of Hula Alapa’i i Malu Ulu O Lele and the founder of Lae’ula O Kai Canoe Club.

Balidoy is passionate about the genre.

“Music transports me to different places on the island, the world. To different environments, to sounds and fragrances and people. (It is) An invitation to recall other times, memories/recollections, (and an) ability to travel when not physically able to do so.

“Music sure can lift your spirits,” the cultural practitioner continued with verve, “get you jammin’ while working at home. And for those mele that remind me of people who have passed, it brings tears of aloha.”

Jon Toda is the principal of Seabury Hall. He was born on Oahu and raised on Maui. On the CD, he plays ‘ukulele, bass and guitar.

His voice is also an instrument.

“Practicing harmony with my voice,” he observed, “has helped reach harmony in my life, because it teaches you to listen. Listening carefully to what others are saying and then thinking about what I can add to complement what they are doing to produce a greater whole helps in all areas of life.”

Other talents performing with the Maui Jam Band are steel guitarists Geronimo Valdriz and Konapiliahi Lau and bass player Patti Kuwaye.

The title song has a special meaning for Nip.

“Aloha Ku’u Hawai’i Aloha E” was composed by Shelbi Kealohaoku’upu’uwai Shimazu of Ni’ihau and Nip.

“My grandparents on my father’s side ran an 18-acre kalo, rice and banana farm in Damon Tract on the island of Oahu. Growing up, I had the opportunity to wander and play in the patches, and while doing so, enjoyed the benefits of fresh water springs, flowing streams and seeing ocean fish a mile from the ocean in the streams.

“All this no longer exists,” Nip sadly added, “as our family farm is now covered by asphalt and concrete. This mele talks about everyone’s responsibility to preserve and show aloha to what we have left, which relate to all the other musical choices on this CD as we try to preserve traditional Hawaiian folk music with four original mele, including this song.”

The album can be purchased at mele.com or on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Aloha-Kuu-Hawaii-%C4%92/dp/B093XJF5F2/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=maui+jam+band&qid=1630612867&sr=8-6.

A schedule of their live monthly shows at Maui Coffee Attic is listed on their Facebook page.