Merrie Monarch: Robert Cazimero honors Kumu with Ho'ike tribute

Merrie Monarch: Robert Cazimero honors Kumu with Ho'ike tribute

He's one of Hawaii's most talented and beloved musicians and an accomplished Kumu Hula -- and he has a very special tribute planned for this year's Merrie Monarch.  Na Kamalei O Lililehua is returning to the Merrie Monarch Festival – but Kumu Robert Cazimero says it's not what you expect.

"You know, people are probably coming because they're hoping to see things we've performed and maybe won with while we there -- yeah, nothing," explained Cazimero with a laugh.  "Everything is -- it's just stuff that I wanted to do and I wanted to present."

The halau won the first overall title when the kane division was added to the competition in 1976. In 2005, they swept all the kane categories. But this year, they're only performing for Ho'ike night on Wednesday in honor of the Festival's 50th Anniversary celebration.

"50 is always a significant number, but when it's the 50th anniversary of an entity that is a friendship, that is a kako'o [support] for what you've been doing, for what our culture still has left in hula and things like that-- then the honor is all mine.  It's really not about us at all," said Cazimero.

Their exhibition is a tribute to Cazimero's  Kumu – Ma'iki Aiu Lake.

"This Ia 'Oe E Ka La is for her.  It's for all of us that are Maiki and the fact that-- uggh, I wish I was dancing instead of playing the music, I tell you. I would love to be in that line of 40 plus guys," exclaimed Cazimero.

Cazimero says their performance honors Ma'iki's legacy and keeps her respect for tradition alive.

Because of her, Cazimero says hula was revived and his life was forever changed.

"It's pretty overwhelming, actually," said Cazimero, leaning forward in his chair. "What Ma'iki did was she gave me foundation, she gave me lineage, she gave me history, she gave me pride, she gave me love-- and you know, it made my life what it is today."

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