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Down Home with Kalapana

From left: Kalapana members D.J. Pratt, Malani Bilyeu, Kenji Sano and Gaylord Holomalia. The group will perform May 27 in Temecula, along with a host featured performers.

By GWEN MURANAKA Rafu Senior Editor

There will be wine, merriment and an aloha spirit at the 2018 Temecula Wine & Music Festival on Sunday, May 27, with legendary Hawaiian band Kalapana headlining the event.

The festival, which benefits the Boys and Girls Club, Southwest County, is the vision of smooth jazz saxophonist Michael Paulo, who has shared the stage with the likes of Al Jarreau, Kenny Loggins and Johnny Mathis.

Bringing musicians together for a good cause has been Paulo’s passion, seen in his work in recent years producing the Asian American Music Festival at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo. The highlight was seeing so many talented Asian American artists performing together before an appreciative audience.

This year, Paulo is bringing his musical ohana to Hawk Ranch in Murrieta, where he will be jamming alongside Kalapana. Last year, Paulo joined Kalapana onstage at the benefit for the Asian American Drug Abuse Program (AADAP). He was the original sax man for the popular band, once dubbed “the Beatles of Hawaii,” and can be heard on the first four Kalapana albums.

John Valentine (left) and saxophonist Kanzaki will join the fun in Temecula.

In 2011, Paulo received the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement Award as a member of Kalapana, alongside Malani Bilyeu, Mackey Feary (posthumously), David John Pratt, Kirk Thompson, Alvin Fejarang, Randy Aloya, Gaylord Holomalia and Kenji Sano. Fearey was the singer of the band, performing the lead on such hits as “The Hurt” and “Everyone Knows.”

His death at 43 by suicide in 1999 was the tragic end for a remarkable talent, but his legacy continues to live on in Kalapana.

Paulo recalled the first time he saw Fearey perform, when he was still a student at St. Louis High in Kaimuki.

“I didn’t even perform music at the time. But I sat in the gym and saw him sing, and I knew he was going to be big. You knew he was special — and that was Mackey,” Paulo said.

Paulo initially didn’t have dreams of becoming a professional musician, despite coming from a musical family. His parents Rene and Akemi Paulo performed together; singer Akemi, known for her interpretation of the popular Japanese standard “Kimi to Itsumade mo.” Rene continues to charm audiences with his energetic showmanship on the piano.

Paulo’s first instrument was the oboe, which he played in high school.

“I hated it,” he said, laughing.

When the finally picked up the saxophone, it was the beginning of a musical journey that would lead him to playing packed houses to thousands of fans around the world.

After getting his start with Kalapana, Paulo recorded a solo album, “Tats in the Rainbow,” for Japanese release and made his MCA debut, “One Passion,” which became a Top Ten hit on the contemporary Jazz/ NAC charts, followed by “Fusebox” on GRP Records hitting the Top 20 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart.

Michael Paulo, the original saxophonist of Kalapana before embarking on a solo career, is producing the 2018 Temecula Wine & Music Festival.

In 1994, Paulo launched his own label, Noteworthy Records, with the release of his fourth solo project, “Save the Children.” While that album found Paulo reflecting on the joys of fatherhood and his many world excursions, his similarly successful 1996, top ten, smooth jazz hit, “My Heart and Soul,” was about the simple balance between Paulo’s passions for slamming funk and dreamy balladry. Today, Paulo is hard at work on a new album, his first in 10 years.

Another musical family will have a member joining Kalapana at the Temecula Wine & Music Festival.

John Valentine will be sharing the stage with Kalapana. He has been performing in Waikiki for decades, but these days may be best known for his nephew: Bruno Mars. YouTube videos show young Bruno performing in full Elvis regalia, alongside Valentine and other family members.

Besides music, the festival will feature a silent auction and winetasting from local and international wineries.

Paulo said the most important aspect is helping others by raising money for the Boys and Girls Club, an organization that serves more than 400 youth by offering programs that inspire and enable kids to realize their full potential.

“My parents were always giving people. If anybody needed help they were always there. I’m very proud to say I use my talent and abilities to help a lot of people over the decades, and I still do so,” Paulo said.

The Temecula Wine & Music Festival 2018 will be held on Sunday, May 27, from 2 to 7 p.m. at Hawk Ranch, 42149 Elm St., Murrieta. More information at For ticket inquiries, email info@ or call (951) 696-0184.

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