Iconic Entertainer Robert Cazimero on Why He’s Playing One Last May Day Concert

Plus, find out why he’s glad the concert moved from the Waikīkī Shell to the historic Bishop Museum this year.
Robert Cazimero
Photo: Courtesy of greatlawnhawaii.com


For 30 years—starting back in 1977—the best place to spend May Day evening in Honolulu was listening to the Brothers Cazimero, enjoying the lovely hula of their family and friends while picnicking under the stars at the Waikīkī Shell for an annual concert and entertainment extravaganza.


But busy schedules, special events and life got in the way in 2008 and Robert and Roland Cazimero performed in other venues and on their own, occasionally talking about a potential reunion concert before Roland’s death last July.


A special Island entertainment tradition will return next week, May 1, with a mix of nostalgic tribute to the Brothers Cazimero concerts of yesteryear alongside a starry lineup of entertainers on the Great Lawn of the Bishop Museum.


Robert Cazimero will be joined by artists Keauhou and Jerry Santos as well as additional hula hālau. Cazimero describes this as his last May Day concert, in honor of his late brother. We caught up with him this week rehearsing for the special concert and asked him to share behind-the-scenes stories.


HONOLULU Magazine: You and Roland were synonymous with May Day for decades, even though the last show was more than 10 years ago. How did this show happen this year? 

Robert Cazimero: I’ve always loved May Day. When Jon de Mello asked years ago what day we wanted to do a concert, May Day was a no-brainer.  After this 10-year respite, a number of events came to pass that, strangely enough, seemed “do it” signs for one last May Day. The true catalyst was a Christmas concert at the Hawai‘i Theatre that brought Nā Palapalai together. The last time Roland, myself and our lady of hula, Miss Leina‘ala Kalama Heine, were together was at the Hawai‘i Theatre. I thought that Christmas of 2017, well, guess it’s too late for the brothers to reunite. Then Peter Moon passed and I was reminded of how many people would ask for a reunion concert with the three of us.  


Watching Nā Palapalai brought me such pleasure. Their music is time-full, memory-full and enriching. It made me happy. Then sadness overtook me knowing I would never play those songs I did with Peter or Roland and that ‘Ala never danced the same way ever again.  These scenarios prompted my wanting to do this May Day 2018.


HM: Why at the Bishop Museum instead of the Waikīkī Shell?

RC: Roland and I did May Day at the Waikīkī Shell for 30 years.  As much as I love the Shell and I really do, it’s antiquated, it needs repair work, it needs redoing and honestly, I didn’t want to walk to the beach to bathe before the show after rehearsing and sound-checking all afternoon. I didn’t want to use a hose to wash off in the parking lot as folks passed by anymore. It’s time to make new memories with yet another old friend. I’m excited for May Day on the Great Lawn of the Bishop Museum.


HM: A favorite May Day memory or story that you’d like to share?

RC: This is not a favorite memory but a memory nonetheless. Roland and I were fighting one May Day during the whole show. As our pal Gramps stood singing “Hawai‘i Pono‘i” with a huge Hawaiian flag over him on stage, Roland and I were swearing, fighting and yelling at each other as we walked off. I’ll never forget that. What I have forgotten is what we were so angry about!


HM: Have you any particular songs or tributes planned for Roland? 

RC: A few, yes!


HM: Anything else you’d like people to know?

RC: Come, it’s going to be a wonderful night. It will be something to hear, see, smell, taste, touch and feel. It’s going to be nostalgic as much as it will be refreshing. It will be a glimpse back to what can still be, a glimpse to the present and beyond. It will be one of the most important ripples in this lifetime of ours. It will be May Day, Lei Day in Hawai‘i.


HM: Do you have a favorite lei?

RC: It’s pīkake. Everyone who knows me, knows us, knows how much we love the making, the wearing, the giving of a flower lei on May Day. (Thank you, Don Blanding who had this brilliant idea and started May Day in 1918.)


May Day Show

Tuesday, May 1, 4:30–9:30 p.m., The Great Lawn at Bishop Museum


Doors open at 4:30 p.m. with the concert starting at 5 p.m. Special guests include Keauhou, Kapena and hula performances.


Tickets: $25 for lawn seating advance purchase, $35 at the door; $35 for reserved seating, $45 at the door; $75 for VIP, $100 at the door. Tickets are available at the Bishop Museum Box Office. Hawai‘i’s Finest Clothing is sponsoring the performance by Robert Cazimero and his Hālau Nā Kamalei o Līlīlehua. Guests will include four additional hula hālau:


  • Pua Ali‘i ‘Ilima, kumu hula Victoria Holt Takamine

  • Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima, kumu hula Mapuana de Silva

  • Hālau Hula Ka No‘eau, kumu hula Michael Pili Pang

  • Hālau o Ke ‘A‘ali‘i Kū Makani, kumu hula Manu Boyd


Guest Artists Keauhou and Jerry Santos will also join Cazimero on stage, with Kapena and Ei Nei welcoming guests to the venue before they perform at 7 p.m.


Along with entertainment, there will be ‘ono food, cocktails, local vendors and lei stands. A portion of proceeds will go toward Groove Child Charities and the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum.


For more information visit greatlawnhawaii.com