REVIEW BY DJ NOCTURNA


Singer and songwriter Ginai performed at the Blue Note Hawaii last Sunday, July 29, 2018 with a special tribute to soul, R&B singer, Anita Baker. The legendary Grammy Award-winning contralto singer, born in Ohio, but raised in Detroit, known for her repertoire of soulful ballads, sadly announced early last year with a series of tweets that she will be retiring from the music industry.

Ginai, charismatic and driven to please, is a longtime fan of Baker. She wanted to do a tribute show because Baker inspires her “because of her many hits and still very active following.” Ginai said she often borrows some of Baker’s vocal stylization of love songs. She said, “her slides and slurs were very sexy tools for selling love songs” and funky grooves.  Ginai, in a beautiful blue shimmering sequin dress, covered a catalogue of songs, some of which are from Baker’s biggest selling album, Rapture, released in 1986 on Elektra. The patrons at the dimmed candlelit venue swooned from one moving hit after another, including “Sweet Love,” “Caught up in the Rapture” and “Been so long.”  Ginai’s sensual and sultry vocals captured Baker’s soulfulness and passion with “No one in the world.” The encore “Same ole love” with all its alluring tinge of sadness, opened up old wounds, yet it felt so good, leaving the audience craving for more.

Ginai was accompanied by a band of skilled and accomplished musicians, the best of the best, tight, with impeccable timing, stirring up deep emotions. They started the set with Jason Gay, playing tenor and soprano saxophone; while performing on piano was Alan Okuye; George Coppedge on bass; Kevin Hirasa playing guitar; visiting tenor saxophone player, Doug Buchanan and drummer, Justin James. Background vocalist and gifted singer, my hometown boy, Santino Sgambelluri returned to the Island and gave us a heartfelt rendition of “Witchcraft” popularized by Frank Sinatra in 1957.  Baker was fortunate to have recorded “Witchcraft” with Sinatra in a duet in 1993 before he passed away five years later.  Background vocalist, Hasani Lawson, a rising young talent also shared the stage.  I marveled at her solid and powerful solo performance of “You bring me joy.”

Ginai, whose name means “one who loves” is an island girl with humble beginnings. She was raised in Waianae and later went off to attend college in the San Francisco Bay Area where she discovered music and fell in love with jazz and R&B.

Since then Ginai has opened up for Bruce Hornsby, Lou Rawls, Diana Krall, and the legendary, Ray Charles, just to name a few.  She has traveled around the world as a Whitney Houston impersonator for Legends. Ginai is also an international acclaimed jazz singer, a three-time Hawaiian Music Awards winner and the winner of two Na Hoku Hanohano awards for the albums “Hot Club of Hulaville,” “Django Would Go,” and “Hula Joe & The Hut Jumpers.”  Ginai said she “prides herself at being very diverse musically but revels in jazz, funk, soul and R&B.”

When Ginai is not singing or performing, she is at the beach surfing or volunteering at nursing homes and hospitals. You can catch Ginai’s upcoming shows around town or at the Blue Note Hawaii, sometimes solo or with trumpet player, Mike Lewis. They have produced and performed numerous shows together.

The Blue Note Hawaii, dark, classy and romantic, showcases two performances nightly in an intimate setting, located inside the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. The venue features a wide range of local and international musical entertainers, one of which I had the pleasure to see up close and personal on October 14, 2017, Burt Bacharach.  I was fortunate to sit a few inches away from the Living Legend, one of the greatest songwriters and record producers in the world. He was so close to me that I chuckled when he looked at my food and asked me if I was enjoying my dinner.

Blue Note Hawaii also offers a full dinner menu with great selections of food, appetizers, wine and custom created cocktails for many celebratory nights. Their martinis, their French onion soup and their Caesar salad are some of my favorites. Check out their upcoming shows:

It would be a shame if there will never be another Anita Baker tour or another album, but the pendulum of life swings and who really knows what hiatuses really mean. We can definitely expect that tribute performances will live on like how old love sonnets are re-told and revised as frequently as heartbreaks and heartaches continue to influence musicians and poets to write love ballads because love conquers all !

Tribure to Anita Baker

Ginai Anita Baker