Since his early days performing during the U.K.'s influential ska revival movement, reggae star Pato Banton has focused on spreading inspirational messages through songs such as "Stay Positive," "Never Give In" and "Wize Up!"
"This is a mission for me," says Banton. "It's like a mission for spreading positive messages. I think people need to be hearing self-empowerment messages today."
Banton grew up in the English city of Birmingham, where he got his musical start working with his stepfather's reggae sound system. First coming to public attention in 1982 on the Beat's "Special Beat Service" album, dueling with Rankin' Roger on "Pato And Roger A Go Talk," an appearance on UB40's "Little Baggariddim" soon followed.
Pato Banton and his band The Now Generation will bring their positive vibrations to Stella Blues Cafe
"It was a very exciting time because up to that point it was a very dim existence for first generation English black kids who wanted to play the music that their parents were listening to from the Caribbean," he recalls. "It was very hard to gain any respect because we were imitating what we were hearing, and no one would take us seriously."
As a solo artist, Banton has worked with some of England's finest reggae musicians. His "Wize Up" album included a duet with Steel Pulse's David Hinds and Beat singer Roger was featured on "Universal Love."
A series of inspired teamings brought him chart success. A cover of Eddy Grant's "Baby Come Back," with UB40's Ali and Robin Campbell, sold 1.5 million copies. On the "Burning London" tribute to '80s punk rock kings The Clash, he dueted with Roger on an exuberant dancehall style version of "Rock the Casbah." And he joined with Sting on a remix of "The Cowboy Song" from the "Fields of Gold" album, and a reworking of the Police hit "Spirits in the Material World" for the "Ace Ventura" soundtrack.
"It was like a dream come true," he says of working with Sting. "I never knew Sting was a fan of mine. He said he had been to a few of my shows in America and hid in the crowd."
Banton has also collaborated with Maui's Marty Dread. They recorded a remix of Marty's song "Pray For Them," for his album "The Hits (1993-2003)," which was more recently featured on the gospel compilation, "Praising Him Island Style Vol 4."
These days Banton is touring and recording with the California reggae band, The Now Generation, which includes a three-piece horn section.
His latest album, "Destination Paradise," is informed by the spiritual philosophy of The Urantia Book.
"I like to perform and dance on stage and get people to be energetic," he concludes. "My faith in God is what inspires me to do what I do. I try not to be too preachy, but just share what inspires me and give people another way of looking at things."
* Pato Banton and The Now Generation perform at Stella Blues Cafe at 9 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Call 874-3379.
It's fantastic news that Carlos Santana will finally return to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Feb. 28. He will front a superb 10-piece band. In between his ongoing residency at Las Vegas' House of Blues, Santana will head out for shows in Asia and Australia, after he stops in Hawaii.
Besides the Rolling Stones, Santana is the only artist to score at least one Top 10 album in each decade from the 1960s to the present.
Reviewing his House of Blues show, Variety praised: "There was a purity, grace and crispness to his playing that remains undiminished since he stunned audiences at Woodstock in 1969. Songs melded seamlessly into each other, unified by an unparalleled level of musicianship and his glorious guitar playing."
Tickets on sale to MACC members starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. Call 242-7469.
There's more exceptional music this weekend when the MACC's Solo Session series features Na Palapali's Kuana Torres Kahele on Friday at the McCoy Studio Theater.
A major winner at the 2012 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, Kahele's beautiful album "Kauanaloa" won him Male Vocalist of the Year, Hawaiian Album of the Year, and Song of the Year for "Na Vaqueros."
Raised in Hilo, he began playing traditional Hawaiian music at an early age, and was inducted at 15 by Kumu Hula Johnny Lum Ho as one of the musicians for Halau Ka Ua Kani Lehua. Kahele formed the multi-award winning Na Palapalai with Kehau Tamure in 1995.
His debut solo album, which received 10 Na Hoku Hanohano nominations, featured a primarily original collection of Hawaiian compositions celebrating his family heritage. A multi-talented artist, he played almost all the instruments and sang most of the vocal parts on the recording.
More recently he released the Christmas collection "Hilo for the Holidays," which included his first original English language songs.
* Kuana Torres Kahele performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the MACC's McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $25, and $45 for VIP (plus applicable fees). Tickets to MACC shows are available at the box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
Gannon's restaurant in Wailea will host its first in-house concert on Saturday, featuring super talented jazz singer Halie Loren. She will perform as a trio with piano and standup bass players.
Hailed by All About Jazz as, "maybe the best-kept vocal secret in the Pacific Northwest," Loren has drawn comparisons to Diana Krall and Norah Jones. A gifted interpreter, on her live album "Stages," her covers range from jazzy versions of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" to the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon." While on her latest recording "Heart First," she manages to transform Bob Marley's classic "Waiting in Vain" into a sultry jazz ballad.
"Somewhere in infinity Bob Marley is torching up a blunt and smiling to hear Halie's version of "Waiting in Vain," noted the International Review of Music. "It's reggae gone jazz. It's so different yet so true to the immortal Marley."
A winner of the Pacific Songwriter Festival in 2005, Loren has been acclaimed as one of the finest young jazz singers of her generation. A JazzTimes review praised her as the, "next big thing among jazz vocalists."
Popular in Japan, her album "They Oughta Write a Song" became the No. 2-selling jazz album in 2010. In December 2011, she had 12 songs simultaneously in the jazz top 100 at iTunes Japan.
* Show at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, and $35 at the door. Seating is limited. Call 875-8080.
Broadway stars Gary Mauer and Elizabeth Southard will join the Maui Pops Orchestra for an afternoon of great songs in a special "Broadway Pops" concert on Sunday at the MACC.
The two stars of the Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's international hit, "The Phantom Of the Opera," will present a collection of memorable songs from shows such as "Les Miserables," "Show Boat," "West Side Story" and "Chicago."
Maui audiences will hear the married couple in duets and solos, singing such classics as "Begin the Beguine," "I Could Have Danced All Night," "I Got Rhythm," "Till There Was You," "Anything You Can Do," "All That Jazz," and a "Show Boat" medley. Drawing on their "Phantom" experience, the pair will sing a duet of "Phantom of the Opera," and Mauer will sing "Music of the Night."
Mauer and Southard have worked extensively in musical theater, on Broadway and in national tours. They sang the lead roles of Christine and the Phantom in the Broadway production of "Phantom." They also starred in the first national tour of the Harold Prince revival of "Show Boat."
In addition to accompanying the guest artists, the Maui Pops Orchestra, under the direction of conductor and music director James Durham, will perform "76 Trombones" and the overtures to "Gypsy" and "West Side Story."
* Broadway Pops is presented at 3 p.m. on Sunday at the MACC's Castle Theater. Tickets are $10, $25, $35 and $45 (plus applicable fees).
It was a triumphant night for Willie K last Saturday pulling off a smoking hot Blues BBQ fest at a jam-packed Mulligans on the Blue. Local bands such as the House Shakers (including Lenny and Mark from the Fleetwood Blues Band) and the Tom Conway Band (with Bonnie Raitt band bassist Hutch Hutchinson) got folks merrily grooving to the blues, before guest stars Elvin Bishop and Angela Strehli took the stage backed by Willie and the Warehouse Band. And as a special surprise Maui's resident rock-star Steven Tyler jumped on stage to rock the house with "Sweet Emotion and "Walk This Way," which featured Willie and his Aerosmith buddy brilliantly rapping together.