SAN FRANCISCO — Aloha. One small word with many meanings: love, peace, goodbye, hello.
Like the Nihonmachi Street Fair, which has been celebrating diversity and community involvement for 40 years, the word “aloha” inspires one to interpret its meaning emotionally, personally, ever changing, and with a sense of pride.
In the spirit of aloha, the Nihonmachi Street Fair has begun presenting the “Aloha by the Bay” music series as part its fundraising efforts. Organizers hope that through these concerts they can build friendships and showcase and bring together many talented Hawaiian and local musicians.
“Aloha by the Bay” will pull the heartstrings of new and longtime fans of island music, and each music series is destined to be an unforgettable evening of music, escape, community, and of course, aloha.
This year’s concert takes place Saturday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. at West Bay Conference Center, 1290 Fillmore St. in San Francisco’s Western Addition. Following are profiles of the featured artists.
• Weldon Kelauoha has been turning heads in Hawaii’s music scene since 1998. Whether he’s belting out soulful ballads or plucking bright riffs from his guitar, the gutsy songster from Kane’ohe puts a fresh spin on the classics and brings a melodious candor to his own tasty tracks.
Lauded by the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts, Kelauoha grew up with an instrument in his arms and a head full of inventive lyrics. His lifelong training makes for gentle, rich, and innovative music that’s as musically nuanced as it is addictive.
His accolades include a Grammy nomination in 2014 and numerous Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, including Male Vocalist, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Favorite Entertainer.
Jack Ofoia and bassist Alika-boy Kalauli IV will be joining Kelauoha. The trio continues to pair contagious melodies with crafted musical arrangements and to tell the kind of emotionally resonant stories you’ll remember long after the song is over.
• Gary Kawiliau Haleamau, born and raised in Kailua-Kona, has become a well-known musician and songwriter who has made a positive impact on Hawaii’s music industry and the lives of many aspiring musicians.
In 2008, Haleamau received a Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Best Religious Album of the Year and nominations for Male Vocalist of the Year, Traditional Hawaiian Album of the Year, Haku Mele, and Anthology of the Year. Besides his solo career, he has performed with and been a part of the Pandanus Club, the Sons of Hawaii and the Native Hawaiian Band.
Haleamau has traveled from the U.S. to Japan and Tahiti, sharing his music and touching the lives of many young men and women pursuing their career in music. He has given several Hawaiian Music Scholarship Awards throughout the state to students pursuing their career in music and/or Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. He has also produced albums for Maya Soft Plan Co. Ltd., located in Japan.
He now resides in Las Vegas, sharing music with his band Kāwili and Hālau Hula o Kaleimomi. He is the owner of GSK Productions LLC and co-produces “Lei Day Las Vegas,” a Hawaiian event in Las Vegas.
• Steven Espaniola offers a refreshing new spin on a traditional genre of music. Raised in Aliamanu, and now residing in the Bay Area, he is a multi-instrumentalist specializing in ki ho’alu (Hawaiian slack key guitar), ‘ukulele, upright bass, and leo ki’e ki’e (traditional Hawaiian falsetto).
He has performed with Hawaiian music legends Nathan Aweau, The Brothers Cazimero, Amy Gilliom and Ledward Kaapana. In 2007, he received the New Artist of the Year award at the Hawaii Music Awards for his mesmerizing collection of traditional and original Hawaiian mele. His debut album, “Ho’omaka,” transports the listener to the Hawaii of yesterday with soaring falsetto vocals, nahenahe slack key guitar, and rhythmic ‘ukulele.
• Faith Ako grew up in Hawaii in the’60s and ’70s, and music was naturally a big part of her family traditions and cultural heritage. Singing in the home and at church formed a solid foundation of her passion for music. She is one of the Bay Area’s premier female artists in traditional/contemporary Hawaiian and continues to grace the West Coast with her versatile soothing voice.
She’s received two Hawaiian Music Awards for her first album, “Kukahi,” and her second album, “Papaku Bring It Home,” earned a Hawaiian genre Grammy entry in 2010. Traditional Hawaiian music is making its way back and is reviving its people and senses to what was once lost in the music scene. Ako’s goal is to help preserve and promote traditional music of the Hawaiian people.
• JD Puli was born into a family of musicians in Hawaii. He plays six instruments — ukulele, guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion and drums — and sings. Always lending his talent to many causes in and around the Bay Area, he recently has been featured on many social media posts for his aloha spirit as he continues to entertain waiting passengers of Hawaiian Airlines.