Somehow, Las Vegas always wins. Yesterday, slack-key guitarist, Ikaika Brown, moved to the mainland and it felt like Maui's loss was Sin City's gain.
The, humble, man who grew up playing music with his family; who started recording albums at the age of eleven; who moonlighted on the `Ulalena bandstand with his guitar; who exemplified the Hawaiian gift of Aloha... is gone.
Brown chased a girl into the desert and says he'll be back in three years. He left without a, single, gig lined up. He doesn’t have a recording contract. The ink on his impressive resume’ is, still, wet.
It’s a familiar strategy but "the best laid plans of mice and men" can't alter destiny. Once show business gets its hooks into Ikaika Brown, then his straight and narrow path will start forking in many directions. Brown has what Vegas lacks: spirit.
He's got plenty of it and it's unlikely to run out. If his smile disappears then it’s only a few seconds away from returning. He carries the heart and history of his people around in his music and voice.
Brown will be the warmest spot in, any, casino showroom. Whichever hotel entertainment director discovers him first is, hopefully, deserving of his talent. Note to Ikaika: get an honest agent because you'll need one.
Brown traveled to Haiku, the day before leaving, to record a video interview of explanations and goodbyes. He sat in front of sunny banana trees and answered questions about his plan and his purpose.
He had words of gratitude for all the members of the band; for Dave and Najona; for Dennis and me. He tweaked the guitar, which was sitting by his chair, to the "Taro Patch" tuning. He played a song for my family while roosters crowed in the background.
I recognized the tune from his first album, Kalo Man. It was an album that I picked up twelve years ago, when I first moved to Maui. It was an integral part of my island education and I've shared that album, with family and friends, as a way to express the values I've learned in Hawai`i.
I felt lucky to be alive, to live on Maui and to work with wonderful people. I felt excited, for Ikaika, and confident that the music he spent his life playing would find an eager audience on a larger stage. I was basking in the sound of his music, in the synchronicity of our final meeting - and the anticipation of sharing that meeting with the world, via YouTube.
Later that day, when it was time to edit and publish that interview, I learned a valuable lesson about transferring files between i-phone and computer: never delete the original until you’ve tested the copy.
I, also, learned a valuable lesson about misplaced anger. My "best laid plans" were nothing more than naive folly. A “corrupt” video file is an unworthy target for easing the frustration of missing a friend. I was reminded to let go and let God.
Ikaika Brown has left the island of Maui and, only, God knows when he's, really, coming back.