Uma’s Ultimate Kona Konnection is a weekly column covering the music scene of Kailua Kona. This week she focuses on Manuel Roberto, flutist and percussion player, who speaks and plays music with Prema Rasa Music (Irminsul on harp & santoor, Madhavi Infinity on harp and synthesizer and Manuel’s wife, Bernice, on harp, harmonium and vocals) Sunday, August 25 at New Thought Center in Kealakekua from 9:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. with a free Janmastami feast & potluck to follow. You’ll also want to mark your calendar for December 7 at Pyramid House when he’ll perform a Christmas Concert with the Kona Harp Ensemble.
Having lived off and on in Hawaii since 2009, I’ve had the great pleasure to work with and get to know many musician friends. One of those is Manuel Roberto. He and his wife, Bernice, are lovely, spiritual, beautiful people who share their love of music and life with everyone they know. We have many things in common, including all three of us being substitute teachers – quite often at the same schools – with a Hindu spiritual background and an affinity for Indian culture including visiting India and a deep appreciation for the music. They also have other work on the side of music; theirs are as insurance brokers for the Hawaiian Islands.
I learned a lot about Manuel this week, when we happened to find ourselves subbing in the same classroom. Grabbing a local musician in person serendipitously to interview was quite a surprise and treat! If you can attend tomorrow’s musical event in Kealakekua, I highly recommend it, as his wife will play harmonium and harp and Manuel plays several flutes, including the Bansuri from India. They will be traveling to Maui and possibly California until December, so the next time to see them won’t be until then with another holiday music event with the Kona Harp Ensemble possibly on December 22 at Queen Emma’s Community Center on Konawaena Rd. Bernice and Manuel also offer daily kirtan (devotional Indian music) at their home near Puapuaanui Rd. in Kona and some and some Sundays at 8 p.m. at Yoga Hale, also in Kona.
Any challenges and/or joys of playing music?
I love playing private events, like weddings, which we do almost every month. Bernice stays very busy playing harp for ceremonies and parties. One challenge is that there is not a great opportunity to play flute, harp and world music like my wife and I play here on the Big Island, so we travel quite often especially to California, where we both used to live.
How did you get your start playing music?
As a poet in San Francisco, I began hanging out more and more with musicians. One time I picked up a flute and somehow I knew how to play it. Everyone was astounded, as was I, but I chalk it up to some kind of past life recall or memory perhaps. I started on percussion and Tablas, moved onto congas, and flutes from all over the world, including the Shakuhachi from Japan and the Celtic piccolo.
Your biggest dream music-wise is…Playing and recording some amazing music with my wife and other contributors. Our Stairway to Heaven with 3 harps (with the Kona Harp Ensemble and is available on Amazon, iTunes, etc.) is one example, which is played worldwide. Unfortunately we make very little money from that. I produced Beyond the Gates of Heaven, which is music my father would be proud of. I still want to record two important cd’s: one is the Six Essential Ragas – classical music from India and Yogananda recommended and Traditional Bhajans.
Any suggestions for aspiring musicians?
Follow your bliss. Play what you like, not just anyone else’s preferences just to make money. It’s not about the money; you can be happy when you play what you enjoy.
If you could have a super power, what would it be?
Surrendering to music is a super power, when I tune into the emotion of a voice and accompany singers, it makes the most beautiful music imaginable.
Any closing thoughts, shout outs, mahalos, etc.?
Mahalo to my wife Bernice, from whom I’ve learned so much, particularly in the musical realm. I’m always grateful for my teachers: G.S. Sachdev, the international Indian flutist, who I studied with for 7 years in Berkley and Bakir Hussain, who taught me Tabla. My teachers told me to practice so much that the music will simply flow and come to my fingers automatically. I do that, by practicing 6 or more hours a day, which connects me to Source and the sound vibration.
To find out more call Manuel at 808-640-2643 for details. New Thought Center is located in Pualani Terrace at 81-6587 Mamalahoa Hwy. Ste C302 in Kealakekua. It’s a nondenominational, inspiring talk featuring a different speaker every week; service is held on a a lovely outdoor lanai and the last Sunday of the month potluck is always heavenly. If you want to hear them live, check out one of Manuel & Bernice’s New Thought performances from this past year: https://youtu.be/8XJx0Hggff8
Love Guru Uma performs solo acoustic (8/27 at Foster’s Kitchen in Kona has been cancelled) every first Saturday at Hawaii Cigar & Ukulele in Hawi from 12-3pm. She also sings in the 4-piece Uma Zuma Band, which performs at the Korner Pocket in Kealakekua on 8/30 from 8-11pm and Laverne’s in Kona 8/31 from 7-10pm. She loves performing any chance she can, especially in a duo with her husband, Dave. Uma’s busy as a substitute teacher, Uber driver, Tour guide and self-published author. She just completed Book 2 in a series of adventure love story and self-help reads entitled Love is Crazy – Lessons in Love: Creating your own Happy Ever After and Love is Crazy Satisfying. More at umaojeda.weebly.com