A Cazimero ChristmasLast week, as I attempted to dislodge a coil of catalogs jammed inside my mailbox at the post office, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. “I was just thinking about you,” she said, and we hugged. “How are the kids?” I asked, and she rolled her eyes. She has seven, all teenagers. I cannot imagine. “I much prefer Thanksgiving,” she said.
Some might think that the holidays don’t extend to Hawaii. That palm trees are not the same as Christmas trees. Sand castles not the same as snowmen. And, sure, those people might have a point.
But I’m here to tell you that even in Hawaii, it’s hard to escape the holidays. And by holidays, I mean the cheesy Christmas carols blaring as background music in grocery stores, coffee shops and banks. I mean the circulars falling out of thin newspapers. The inundation of sale offers clogging email inboxes.
To be honest, I’m not entirely opposed to the commercialization that goes on around the holidays. If pressed, I’ll admit I’ve benefitted from a few online sales, some for those things I needed, or thought I did, and others for those things I clearly didn’t need. But, hey, the price is too good to pass up, I say to myself.
When I was on Oahu for the Honolulu Marathon last week, I decided to balance my physicality with some art and culture. That is, I went to see Wicked playing at the Neal Blaisdell Center. I also went to see A Cazimero Christmas starring The Brothers Cazimero at the historic Hawaii Theatre in their three-show, one-weekend-only annual production.
Sure the semi-slapstick, music routine of Robert and Roland Cazimero doesn’t exactly qualify as high art, but it does land squarely in the ranks of culture--Hawaii culture. In that, they are a class act.
Since coming of age during the Hawaiian cultural renaissance of the 1970s, the brothers have received numerous Na Hoku Hanohano Award nominations and, appropriately, won the award for Christmas Album of the Year for Caz Christmas. Their work has been recognized with Grammy® nominations. They have been inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame. They have received the David Malo Award and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts.
This just goes to show that the brothers have their routine down, with Robert playing the straight one and Roland, wearing only socks on his feet, playing the goofy, daresay, dumb guy in the comedic duo. You thought they were just musicians? Like all the other Hawaiian musicians I’ve witnessed, these two do more than strum a guitar and sing. They crack jokes. They tell stories. They perform.
The show opened with a full stage—both brothers, the Ladies of the Royal Dance Company and Halau Na Kamalei O Lililehua—performing the song, “It’s Christmas Time.”
That rolled into a litany of Christmas songs and while the holiday is a Christian one, the song selection turned out to be quite secular, celebrating Santa more than Jesus. Santa Claus, Santa Claus. Holly, Jolly Christmas. Well, Hello Santa.
The brothers performed their comedy routine between song medleys.
“I think for all of us born and raised here in the Islands, snow is a fantasy,” Robert said by way of introduction to a medley of snow songs. “We, of course , don’t think about shoveling the snow so you can get your car out of the garage, we think about snow cones and shave ice. Brother, tell them about the first place we saw snow.”
Roland looked up from his guitar, a blank look on his face. There was a long, silent pause. Then, Roland leaned into the microphone and played the “mouth horn,” a sound he resorted to throughout the evening--to rounds of great guffawing--whenever he wanted to divert or attract attention.
The answered turned out to be Mauna Kea. “We went up there to make a snowman,” Robert explained. “But it turned out to be the size of snowman.”
They played Snow, Snow, When Are You Falling? Let It Show. Winter Wonderland. Merry Christmas Time. White Christmas.
It was during this medley, as barefoot men and women performed hula to Christmas songs that I came to understand something about Hawaii and, perhaps more so, something about the image I’ve held about Hawaii during my 24-year relationship with the place.
In my mind, I realized, I’ve naively tried to separate the real Hawaii from the real world of Hawaii today. That is, I romanticized pre- contact Hawaii. For two hours with The Brothers Cazimero, though, I witnessed how Hawaii has blended her indigenous culture with that introduced by the missionaries in a real and beautiful way that is wholly and uniquely Hawaii. Hula dancing to Christmas carols? It can’t get more Hawaii than that. And some icy judgment about how Hawaii should really be thawed within me. I think that might be called acceptance.
The brothers sprinkled a few Hawaiian songs with the Christmas ones, including ‘Olu O Pu’ulani, Waiahole E, My Sweet Pikake Lei, and ‘Ala Pikake. And, they finished, of course, with Mele Kalikimaka.
For a couple hours with The Brothers Cazimero, I escaped all that we spurn about the holidays, and I found the spirit of Christmas. The Brothers Caz make for a good holiday tradition.