Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Sep 02nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Island Fever

Blind Hawaiian rocker and multi-instrumentalist, Dayan Kai, heats up with sixth album
It’s not uncommon to experience a sense of déjà vu, when listening to Dayan Kai’s songs “Right Your Wrong” and “Give Free Your Love.” While the former is a classic rock anthem carried by distraught, raspy vocals, and the latter is a piano- and organ-laden, gospel-like number, both contain the same lyric: “Yesterday is just a fantasy.”

This is in no way due to a lack of songwriting material, though. For as long as Kai can remember, the succinct, anxiety-filled revelation that “Yesterday is just a fantasy,” has plagued him. Born blind, he admits, “I had to develop my memory because I couldn’t write them down so much.” Kai recalls the popular childhood game of Telephone—“By the time it gets back to you it’s something completely different from what you said,” says Kai. “Everything we think has happened is just our own perspective on what has happened … when will my perspective no longer be valid?” he often wonders.

Even without the ability to see, the multi-instrumentalist’s depth of perception is stronger than most, showcased in his heavily textured tunes and enviable mastery of Americana, blues, and rock music.

“It’s in my nature,” Kai explains. “I love so many different things. I love jazz and classical. I’m an American boy—I love rock and reggae music,” says the Beatles- and Bob Marley-influenced musician. “I almost feel that genres are a construct of the industry [and] sometimes I feel that they’re unclear to me. I don’t have a specific genre … I feel that part of my pursuit in life is musicology. I go in and out of stuff—I get fevers for certain sounds.”

A Maui native, who grew up in San Juan Bautista, Calif., Kai (actually his middle name, which is Hawaiian for “ocean”) sums up his unique repertoire of instruments as “keys, strings, winds, and skins”—“skins,” of course, referring to percussion and skin-headed drums.

He caught the musical fever at age two. “Some of my first memories are probably [with] my grandmother, Paulina,” he reveals. “She played piano and guitar. I remember her teaching me the notes and telling me I had perfect pitch. I remember playing things on the piano that I heard on records, before I knew what I was doing [and] being really satisfied with that feeling.” Kai was also formally schooled in drums, beginning at age four, when his grandfather bought him his first set.

His diverse inspirations—Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Claude Debussy, Ray Charles, and Miriam Makeba, to name a few—shine through when he’s jamming with his bandmates and when he’s performing at First Congregational Church’s jazz mass on Sunday mornings.

With five solo albums under his belt and a sixth in the works, Kai and the Kookaburra—the title affectionately refers to his two children—scheduled to be released in June, Kai is looking forward to his Saturday performance at Kuumbwa Jazz, as it marks a first in his career. Although he is no stranger to the venue by any means—he has performed there several times with other projects—this weekend, Kai will finally play his own original material. Several longtime friends and locals will join him onstage: Steve Uccello (bass), Jimmy Norris (drums), Art Alm (piano), Mike McKinley (mandolin), Sharon Allen (vocals), and his wife, talented ethnic folk dancer Angell Estrada.

For Kai, Estrada’s presence is essential. “In most cultures, the word for music and dance is the same thing—only in English and a few others do we make the distinction,” he explains. “Part of my message is just unifying that … music and dance are a part of what makes us human beings.”

Lately, Kai has been listening extensively to music by contemporary Hawaiian musician and slack-key guitar specialist Keola Beamer—a style which will no doubt infiltrate his upcoming show. A sneak peek of material off his new record could also be in store. Kai promises the album will be just as eclectic and entrancing as ever, due to it containing “a stronger world influence: Samba, reggae, African, Haitian, [but] still American music for sure.”

Dayan Kai plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320 Cedar St. #2, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $18. For more information, call 427-2227.

Comments (2)Add Comment
...
written by Patrick Gilmore, March 19, 2012
I knew this boy when he visited his Grandmother Pauline, as we were good friends! I remember watching Pauline teach him the chords on the guitar. We all knew he would be a great musician someday.
...
written by Lynn Casura, March 15, 2012
He is such a treasure trove of talent, musically and from his beautiful Aloha spirit. All the best to you and yours Mr. Dayan Kai, I believe you are on such a Blessed path. I cannot wait to see you LIVE again.


Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

You Are What You Post

Online personality algorithms put astrological profiles to shame, but UCSC psychologists are raising questions about sharing personal data

 

Venus Direct, Mercury Retro Soon, Honoring Our Labors

As Burning Man (nine days, Aug. 30-Sept. 7 in the sign of Virgo) burns in the hot white desert sands, a petal of the rose created by retrograde Venus and the twelve-petaled Sun in Virgo’s petals unfold. All of us are on the burning ground (Leo) in the womb (cave of the heart) of the mother (Virgo), gestating for humanity once again (each year) a new state of consciousness. Both Virgo and Cancer, feminine (receptive energies) signs, are from our last solar system (Pleiades). When humanity first appeared on Earth we were nurtured by the mother, a matriarchy of energies (on islands in the Pacific). Eve, Isis and Mary are part of the lineages of our ancient Mother. Overseen by the Pleiades, the Earth (matter, mater, the mother) in that last solar system was imbued with intelligence (Ray 3). As we move toward autumn, another mother, Ceres realizes she has mere weeks left with her beloved daughter, Persephone. Persimmon and pomegranate trees prepare for autumn, their colors signs of hope as the light each day continues to dim. Sunday, Venus in Leo turns stationary direct, yet continues in her shadow until Oct. 9 (when retrograde Mercury turns direct). Slowly our newly assessed values emerge from the Venus retrograde. We thought in Venus retro how to use our resources more effectively. Mercury retrogrades Sept. 17. Monday is Labor Day. Let us honor the labor of everyone, all life a “labor.” Let us honor Labor Day and all those who have “served” (labored for) us this past year. We honor their labors. We honor the labor of our parents, those who have loved us. We honor our own labors, too. We are all in service, we are all laboring. We are all valuable.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Girl Gone Wild

’70s SF recalled in raw, poignant ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sushi Garden

Local sushi empire expands to Scotts Valley

 

Do you overshare online?

I don’t think so. I just post things about my life, like successful things. Sometimes I just like sharing different news that I find interesting, or favorite artists, clothes, music. I like to post photos. Natalia Delgado, Santa Cruz, Server

 

McIntyre Vineyards

I recently met up with three friends for dinner at Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort. We chose to eat outside so we could watch the sun set over the ocean, but the Aptos fog rolled in and swallowed it up.

 

Sustainable Supper

The Homeless Garden Project’s Sustain Supper series supports its award-winning programs