Back home after touring the Mainland for two months with Anuhea, reggae musician Mishka will play Stella Blues Cafe in Kihei on Friday and Saturday evening.
The two musicians teamed for a "Love & Roots Tour," which drew crowds from Seattle to New York City.
"We went all across America," Mishka reports. "It was kind of a cross pollination of our fans. People who didn't know her got to know her and people who didn't know me got to know me, so that was really cool. It helped both of us."
Mishka creates soulful, conscious roots reggae with a folky ambience that’s heartfelt and inspirational.
Photo courtesy Mishka
Bassist Lenny Castellanos and keyboardist Mark Johnstone have teamed as a duo. They are featured on Monday Blues nights at Paradise Grill in Kaanapali from 6 to 9 p.m.
Photo courtesy Maui Jazz & Blues Festival
Making Maui his home for the last three years, Mishka creates soulful, conscious roots reggae with a folky ambience, that's heartfelt and inspirational.
"I hope it does the same thing like other artists have done for me, people like Bob Marley and Bob Dylan that speak a real conscious message," he explains. "I put on Bob Marley and I'm able to function and flush out all the garbage from my head and do stuff. If my music can help people get through their life and through their day and feel good that's a good thing. But when I say feel good I don't mean in a light way. A lot of what's labeled as feel-good music does not particularly have any depth. I like to combine good feelings with a message."
Born in Bermuda, Mishka found it inevitable to be drawn to playing reggae. He spent most of his early life sailing in the Caribbean, with his parents and older sisters.
Their boat had a small battery-powered cassette player, and as a child Mishka absorbed the music his parents loved, from the Beatles and Jimmy Cliff to Dylan and Jimmy Buffett.
"My parents were pretty down to earth, they didn't like to listen to anything that was highly produced, poppy stuff," he recalls. "They listened to a lot of folk music, traditional-sounding stuff. Not having media allowed me to discern what was good and what was shined up for the front row and what had substance to it. I see it today with the music my kids are listening to. They get taken up with the glitz and glamour and what the latest thing is, but it's cool, it's like a whole education for me."
While reggae was ubiquitous in the Caribbean, it wasn't until he spent time in a boarding school that his passion was ignited.
"It was always there, but when it really hit me and how much it meant to me and how much I felt it was actually when I left the Caribbean and went to North America," he continues. "I was in boarding school for a couple of years and was immersed in a culture that didn't make any sense to me at all, and I didn't even know why it didn't make sense to me. I couldn't stand most of the music around me. And then I started listening to the music that made me feel most grounded and happy and connected to my soul and roots, and that was reggae."
And it was roots reggae's conscious messages that most attracted him.
"The more I listened to the lyrics it just gave me a perspective on my life," he explains. "I can't see things any differently now. It got rid of the whole colonial, Eurocentric point of view and gave me an understanding of what's happening in the world. Growing up in Bermuda it was very colonial, God save the Queen and all that. Something about it never resounded well with me. I didn't like the whole thing, but then I started listening to the message of reggae I was like, OK."
He recorded his first album, the self-titled "Mishka," in London, and his song "Give You All the Love" cracked the charts in Britain and Japan, where it went Top 10. "One Tree" followed and while on tour he met Darryl Thompson, the legendary guitarist known for his work with Sly & Robbie, Black Uhuru and Peter Tosh. They began working together on a new album, and then movie star Matthew McConaughey swept into his life.
Back in 1999, McConaughey was partying in Jamaica when he first heard Mishka's debut album. Immediately enthralled, he began a lengthy odyssey to meet the artist.
Mishka discovered McConaughey was a fan of his music, after his wife read an article in People magazine, where the actor named the reggae musician as his favorite artist.
When they finally met, McConaughey formed his own record label, j. k. livin, solely to release Mishka's music. He included two of Mishka's songs on the soundtrack of his "Surfer Dude" movie, and released "Above the Bones," which promptly landed at number one on Billboard's reggae chart.
"I was signed to his label for about four years, but the enthusiasm didn't last," he notes. "A lot of it was really stagnant, it didn't go anywhere, so I made an independent move."
Mishka's latest album, "Talk About," finds him more rocking on some tracks like rousing "Music of the Moment." "I listen to so much different stuff and I love to try and play everything that I hear and implement different styles into what I do," he says. "I don't like to get stuck in a particular genre."
Opening with the jubilant, "Give Them Love," he teams with Willie Nelson on "Homegrown," evokes Bob Marley's righteous spirit on songs like "Dead End Streets" and "Just Keep Livin'," and especially excels on the beautiful ballad, "The Stars are Shining."
"It's a kind of live in the moment song," he says. "People are always living in a kind of future paradise in their mind thinking one day we're going to have this and one day we're going to have that, and one day it will all be peaches and cream. But you can look up at the sky and check out how beautiful it is."
Recently releasing the six-song EP, "Anything Anytime Anywhere," Mishka will debut his next inspirational collection in the fall.
"I like to listen to music that is uplifting, whether it's the music itself or the lyrics," he concludes. "If the music is getting me down, I have to turn it off. So it's a like attracts like situation. I just try and keep the vibration alive that's uplifting."
* Mishka performs at Stella Blues' Supper Club in Kihei on Friday and Saturday. Dinner and show costs $60, show only is $30. Call 874-3779.
Two Mick Fleetwood Blues Band's members, keyboardist Mark Johnstone and bassist Lenny Castellanos, have teamed as a duo. They are featured on Monday Blues nights at Paradise Grill in Kaanapali from 6 to 9 p.m.
"We're playing all facets of blues, it's really fun," says Lenny. "Mark's also playing some guitar and dobro and we're both singing."
Living on Maui for many years, Lenny has played with bands across the spectrum including Tashombe & Friends, Rio Ritmo and Willie K. "I'm realizing now I'm actually a blues guy," he continues, laughing. "I've been reduced to the blues."
Both Lenny and Mark played on the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band's Grammy-nominated CD "Blue Again." The live recording received a Grammy nomination in 2010 for Best Traditional Blues Album. It marked the only time the legendary drummer had been nominated for a Grammy outside of Fleetwood Mac.
"John McVie (Mac bassist) was supposed to be in the Blues Band," says Lenny. "I let him use my equipment and it was fun hanging with him. But then John didn't really want to do it. Seeing them play together, I told Mick, I can't compete with that."
Lenny first worked with Fleetwood in the Island Rumors Band. "Any bassist who plays with me has big shoes to fill," Mick noted when the band formed.
"It's so great, Mick just wants to play, Lenny adds. "He calls me and Mark the lads."
This year he's played a few corporate gigs with the Island Rumors Band, and will be part of the festivities at the grand opening of Fleetwood's on Front St. with some special benefit shows Aug. 24-26, featuring Island Rumors and the Blues Band, plus special guests.
Lenny can also be heard playing with the House Shakers, a hot rocking trio including drummer Paul Marchetti and impressive guitarist Kenny Gieser. They play at Three's Bar & Grill on Wednesdays.
Both Lenny and Paul backed singers Caron Barrett and Deborah Vial at an "After Glow" party, following Melissa Etheridge's brilliant Castle Theater concert last week. Closing her tour on Maui, this powerhouse performer rocked solid for two hours drawing roars of approval from a packed audience.
A passionate vocalist, she dazzled on guitar often stretching out songs with extended instrumental passages, including a mighty version of "Like The Way I Do," where Etheridge ascended the drum riser and joined drummer Blair Sinta for a percussion duet, and then walked behind guitarist Peter Thorn and reached around him for a four-hand, blazing guitar solo. It was amazing.