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‘An Evening of Aloha’: Tatofi, Yamanaka headline fundraiser for Pacific Tsunami Museum

  • courtesy photo Grammy nominee Josh Tatofi co-headlines a fundraising concert for the Pacific Tsunami Museum Friday Nov. 16 at the Grand Naniloa Hotel Willie K Crown Room.
  • TIM WRIGHT/Special to the Tribune-Herald Na Hoku Hanohano winner Mark Yamanaka co-headlines a fundraising concert for the Pacific Tsunami Museum Friday Nov. 16 at the Grand Naniloa Hotel Willie K Crown Room.

Two of Hawaiian music’s brightest luminaries, Grammy nominee Josh Tatofi and Hilo’s own multiple Na Hoku Hanohano winner Mark Yamanaka, headline “An Evening of Aloha.”

The event, at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, at the Willie K Crown Room in Hilo’s Grand Naniloa Hotel, is a fundraiser for the Pacific Tsunami Museum. Included in the admission price is a Bayside Luau dinner buffet from Hula Hulas restaurant.

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The 27-year-old Tatofi received a 2017 Grammy nomination in the Best Regional Roots Music category for his album “Pua Kiele.”

“I wasn’t really expecting the Grammy nomination, which was super cool,” Tatofi told the Tribune-Herald last week. “It was a great experience. New York City was amazing, as well.”

While Tatofi’s music is Hawaiian, his vocals have a definite R&B flavor, which has garnered him a nickname: “The Polynesian Luther Vandross.”

“My approach is always coming from the love song era, artists like Luther Vandross, James Ingram and Peabo Bryson. That era of love songs is how I kind of try to portray my music. What brings it all together is doing it in a Hawaiian music fashion,” he said.

If Tatofi’s last name sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because his dad, Tiva Tatofi, and uncle, Timo Tatofi, were two-thirds of the original lineup of the legendary music group Kapena. He said as a child, music was everywhere and he was surprised to find not every family makes music.

Advice his dad and uncle gave him as he embarked on his music career?

“Have fun. That’s what they said to me all the time. And that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Tatofi has just returned from playing in Japan and has two more Japan tours planned before year’s end. He also is working on an album he hopes to release by summer.

Yamanaka called Tatofi “a tremendous talent and all-around good guy,” and added he’s pleased to share billing with him.

The admiration is mutual. Tatofi described Yamanaka’s “vocal control, his musicality, his musicianship” as “top of the line.”

“His sound is timeless and he’s one of the people who’s paving the way for Hawaiian music in the modern day,” Tatofi said.

Yamanaka, a Hawaiian falsetto singer whose career started as a musician in Johnny Lum Ho’s Halau Hula Ka Ua O Kani Lehua, is scheduled to release his third album, “Lei Lehua,” on Friday.

“We’re super pleased with the outcome. We’re really excited that that it will be released tomorrow,” he said. “This new CD is different with the contemporary material I’ve decided to release, like ‘Grandma’s Love,’ which is kind of a country song, ‘This is Paradise’ is kind of a tourism song which presents an image of Hawaii. But ‘Lei Lehua,’ the title track, is a hula song, Uncle Johnny’s ‘Ka Rodeo O Waimea,’ and there’s ‘Kokee,’ which is traditional-style song. There are some hula songs, and I think it’s my kuleana as a musician to do music that is danceable and that kumus can choreograph, to help perpetuate the hula.”

Yamanaka recently married his longtime love, Laura Leilani Pereira, and two originals on the CD, “Leilani” and “Our First Dance,” are dedicated to her.

The popular singer appeared Wednesday morning on Hawaii News Now Sunrise and recently revealed that one of the morning news show personalities, Lacy Deniz, is “my cousin from the Kona-side family.” He’ll also hold a CD release party on Nov. 24 at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

Yamanaka performed at last year’s Pacific Tsunami Museum fundraising show and said he’s delighted to return.

“It’s flattering when an organization like that wants you. I think they’re really important to Hilo,” he said. “They raise awareness of what happened before and what could happen again. Right now, it’s a busy time for me because of the CD release and because my son (Jordan) is in the musical ‘Hairspray’ at Kamehameha Schools, but (museum executive director) Marlene Murray wanted me to do this and I’m happy we could make it work.”

Seating is limited and reserved. A premium table for eight is $1,500 and includes two bottles of wine. A VIP booth for four is $600 and includes a bottle of wine. An upper-level table for four is $500. Individual tickets are $75 each.

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For tickets or more information, call 935-0926.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.