In 1975, one man brought about a permanent change in the practice of hula. His name is Robert Cazimero and his vision was Halau Na Kamalei, the only male halau hula in the Hawaiian Islands.
Today, Robert Cazimero is considered to be one of the most respected kumu hula of Hawaiian dance. The men of Na Kamalei perform around the world, and for over 40 years, they have carried on the tradition of male hula.
Through the years, Robert Cazimero and Halau Na Kamalei have blazed their journey with Hawaiian pride, dispelling deep-rooted stereotypes of grass skirt girls and coconut bras. The men of hula have swayed the heart of hula by reclaiming the masculine side of the ancient dance.
For Hawaiians, coming of age in the 1970’s was a turbulent time, but for Robert Cazimero it was the time when he discovered himself and his life’s purpose…Hawaiian music and the art of Hula. This discovery has taken him on an amazing journey. While the journey was not without turbulence, his path became clear and he followed it to where he is today; at the top of his game in his music and certainly in the art of Hula.
Robert’s twin passions have always been inter-related. They are the threads that weave the intricate patterns that are Robert Cazimero. His musical talent was recognized at the age of three, followed quickly with piano lessons while still in elementary school where his quickness endeared him to his instructors while his ability to vary and improvise astounded them. Robert’s secondary education required participation in the Kamehameha Schools’ Concert Glee Club and Hawaiian Ensemble. His knowledge of music deepened but more importantly, he came in contact with the person who would serve as his Kumu Hula (hula teacher), Maiki Aiu Lake and just at the right time for the Hawaiian cultural renaissance was blooming.
And so it came to be that at the height of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance, Robert Cazimero was learning the art of hula from one of the most respected masters of the dance form. Already known for changing the familiar sound of Hawaiian music, Aunty Maiki infused Robert with her vision of him starting an all male halau (hula school). Men dancing hula as a halau was something that had not happened in decades. She envisioned men dancing hula with pride and masculine grace and Robert soon shared this passionate image.
Over the ensuing decades Robert has realized Maiki’s dream again and again, dedicating his energy to the once vanishing tradition of male hula. With the knowledge passed on from Maiki coupled with his own talent and passion, Robert has inspired hundreds of men to carry on this magnificent art form.
In 1975 Robert Cazimero created Hālau Nā Kamalei O Lililehua, the only male halau in the Hawaiian Islands. Starting with six students from Kamehameha Schools, his hālau went on to compete at the Merrie Monarch Festival in 1976, the first year kane (men) were allowed to participate, and won the overall men’s award. The hālau also swept the kane divisions and the overall title in 2005, as well as took 1st place in the ‘auana, 2nd in the kahiko and 1st overall in the 2015 Festival. The hālau continues to live by Aunty Maiki’s motto: “Hula is the art of Hawaiian dance expressing all that we see, hear, feel, taste, touch and smell; hula is life.”
Today, Robert Cazimero is considered to be one of the most respected kumu hula of Hawaiian dance. The men of Nā Kamalei perform around the world, and for 40 years, they have carried on the tradition of male hula. Cazimero has taught about 200 students across two generations, with several who went on to start their own hālau.
Robert’s elegant voice is so distinctive that whether he performs on piano or with his brother Roland as the Brothers Cazimero, he is instantly recognized and people are compelled to listen. Recording music has also played a vital part of Robert’s life journey. During that journey he has been a part of close to 40 full album projects; many considered classics in the history of Hawaiian music. The popular success of the music he has made and participated in is recognized through dozens of awards, performances on the world’s most prestigious stages and the millions of albums that have been bought by people around the world.
Robert’s passion and talent have played a huge role in taking Hawaiian music and dance to diverse stages from Carnegie Hall, Wolftrap, Tokyo, and the Hollywood Bowl; his voice has graced the orchestra’s of the New York Pops, the LA Philharmonic, the Boston Pops and of course, the Honolulu Symphony. Hula is always an integral part of these shows as it is in all performances large and small of the Brothers Cazimero and whenever he performs a solo engagement.
While it’s not too early to measure the impact of Robert Cazimero on the world of Hawaiian music and dance, it is way too early for Robert to stop creating for the passion continues as does his life’s journey on the path of hula and Hawaiian music and so we joyously present to you Hula, a collection of some of Robert’s favorite music for the Hula.