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Robi Kahakalau
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Robi Kahakalau, or, as many of us call her, “Sistah Robi”, is considered one of Hawai`i’s most popular entertainers, and is unquestionably one of our most versatile female vocalists. She has won multiple Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards for excellence in the Hawaiian recording industry. Her distinctive voice, creative energy, as well as mastery of seven languages (one of them being Hawaiian) puts her in a class of her own.
Audiences viewing her live performances are captivated by the glow of enthusiasm and sheer joy she projects. Her unpretentious demeanor, radiant personality and contagious smile are all assets that compliment her as an artist and enable her to bridge the gap between young and old, as well as cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and certainly musical barriers.
A third-generation Hawaiian musician, born and raised in Germany, this “Hapa Hawaiian - Half German” first moved to Hawai`i in 1980. “The moment she stepped off the airplane,” Robi knew that “she had found her new home.” She was determined to study and soak up all and everything about her Hawaiian roots. Little did she know that 10 years later she would be a Hawaiian language instructor at the University of Hawaii, as well as a successful recording artist.
Robi started to sing professionally in her late teens. However, it was not until she performed and recorded as female lead singer for the Hawaiian Style Band in 1990 that her distinctive voice became widely recognized, and her musical talent admired throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
In 1995, Kahakalau released her first solo project, entitled Sistah Robi, which became an instant favorite on local charts. Robi portrays her creative energy and versatility through the selection of songs that present a picture of old and new, of Hawaiian and Haole, of gentle and wild - like Robi herself.
Her second solo CD, Keiki o ka `Āina, released in 1997, further revealed Robi’s proficiency as an accomplished vocalist, reflecting her wide range of musical styles and her ability to bring together some of Hawaii’s finest musical talent.
For the Millenium, Kahakalau released her third solo CD. “All I Want,”, which clearly expresses Robi’s aloha for diversity and her talent as vocalist and skilled linguist. It also displays Robi’s natural gift for harmonizing, well-known to her live audiences everywhere. Even more amazingly, this CD exposes her talent as budding arranger and producer extraordinaire. Says Sistah Robi: “All I want is to share my songs with anyone who will enjoy the different musical styles that reflect who I am.”
In between her own CD releases, she keeps busy with numerous tours, performing with some of Hawaii’s finest musicians and vocalists — including the Mākaha Sons, the late Dennis Pavao, “Auntie” Genoa Keawe, Fiji, Sean Na`auao, Cyril Pahinui, Jeff Rasmussen, the former Ka`au Crater Boys, Hapa, and more. These tours take her throughout the United States mainland and include multiple Carnegie Hall engagements, regular Los Angeles (West Coast), Denver, and Las Vegas performances, as well as international travel to Tahiti, Guam and more recently to Japan and Sri Lanka.
What about any highlights in her musical career? Glowing with enthusiasm, Robi starts with “the time she got to open for, hang out, and actually talk story with Bonnie Raitt? Unquestionably Bonnie is Robi’s most influential role model. Robi also points out a “real fun gig” in Japan with reggae group “Big Mountain”, as well as two inter-island tours with UB 40. Naturally, Carnegie Hall would have to be considered a true honor, as well as major highlight to anyone’s singing career, and then, there was her fairly recent performce with the Honolulu Symphony.
Any new releases? This past year was Robi’s turn to help friends and fellow musicians on their projects (she appears on Konoshiki’s most recent CD), on Tiny Tadani’s 2nd and up-coming 3rd project, on a “lullabye” CD recorded for and presented to the granddaughter of Japan’s Emperoror, as well as on Christmas compilation CD. Presently, she is concentrating on a compilation of duets with a variety of male singers.|
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