By Samuel Spencer
Ka La staff writer
In the past fifty years, Kumu Hula Robert Uluwehi Cazimero has filled Hawaiʻi, as well as the entire world, with the sweet sounds of his voice. Now, he’s passing the tradition to a new generation.
Coming from a musically inclined family, it was natural for him to take part in the “antics,” as he likes to call it, that those before him loved to do.
Having learned to play stand up bass and piano, he and his late brother Roland, along with good friend Peter Moon, formed the collective: “Sunday Manoa.”
Their first recorded album “Guava Jam” included many classic Hawaiian songs that you may know. It was about four to five years later when the two Cazimero brothers branched off to form their own dynamic Hawaiian Music duo, “The Brothers Cazimero.” Together, they made around twenty albums full of not only Hawaiian music, but classic Christmas and American songs with their own spin on it.
It was around this time in 1975 when Cazimero created his first hula hālau which included only men, “Hālau nā Kamalei o Lililehua.” Having learned hula from his kumu, Mike Margaret Maiki Souza Aiu Lake, she personally asked him to form an all men’s hālau.
Cazimero’s hālau is the oldest of those only including men, something he is very proud of. When asked how his hālau has survived so many years, Cazimero laughed and said “When a group of boys who are as indebted to themselves as they are to me, it’s rather easy to not only last, but thrive this long.” The hālau will make 45 years in June.
A lot of what Cazimero does comes from the inspiration he’s attained while watching other Hawaiian legends. He recalls some of his favorites including Alfred Apaka and Lena Machado. Falling in love with Machado’s mele and wanting to sing like Apaka, Cazimero found ways to blend both the task of songwriting and vocally performing at his best.
With his brother, Roland, performing at Waikiki Shell every May 1st became tradition for locals who adored them. The term “May Day” became somewhat of a well known year round occasion in which not only would the Cazimero brothers play, but they would invite other Hawaiian artists to showcase their talents. They would also have Cazimero’s hālau dance a number of songs they would sing. It would be a festive celebration for Hawaiian music every year that brightened the lives of Hawaii’s people.
In 2019, Cazimero passed the torch to the Hawaiian Trio band “Keauhou” to take on the tradition of May Day. Two of those band members are also dancers of Nā Kamalei, making it fitting that the tradition stays close to Cazimero.
Now 70, Cazimero feels the need to teach everything he’s learned to the next generation. His hālau will return to Merrie Monarch after a five year absence, with one of his students Kyle Atabay, now a kumu hula, leading the charge. The last time they competed was in 2015, winning the overall trophy. Cazimero remains strong and determined to showcase one more time the excellence he’s achieved at preserving Hawaiian Music and Hula.
Samuel Spencer is a Journalism 150 student at Honolulu CC and a second-year member of Roland Cazimero’s