The Rough Riders, made up of legendary Hawaiian singer-songwriters Henry Kapono, John Cruz and Brother Noland, conclude their “We Ride” tour at the famed Hawaii Theater in Oahu this Friday. The trio have decades of recording and performing experience, spanning the Jawaiian (Jamaican-Hawaiian), folk, slack-key, rock’n’roll, and jazz musical genres, while entertaining multiple generations with enormous catalog of classics. All three of these artists are Na Hoku Hanohano Award winners and play different styles of music, so no one knew if The Rough Riders would work when they first formed the group this year.
“We didn’t play music for the first two months when we got together,” says Henry Kapono. “We sat down, talked to each other, got to know each other, and then a few months later we took the guitars and started playing… You know, you have to make that internal connection before you can start doing what. let it be outside and I think it worked really well.
You can hear the Rough Riders connection in “Waimanalo Blues”, the first single from their eponymous six-track EP. It’s a modern take on the Mumford and Sons tones of a classic Hawaiian song originally written by Liko Martin.
“I know Liko Martin and it’s a great song,” Kapono explains. “It’s a classic, you know? But I just wanted to do it a little different because it’s a new era and a new era and I wanted to push it. I like to get things done, that’s what I do with my music.
As the music of the Rough Riders progresses, the name of the band is a nod to the past. According to Kapono, the group’s name is a tribute to the legendary paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) who shocked the world in 1908 by winning world rodeo championship titles in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
As no future concerts have been booked yet, Friday night at the Hawaii Theater could be the last time in some time to see the Rough Riders perform. They play some of each artist’s past hits on their show, but the new music they make is something uniquely Hawaiian and contemporary worth hearing live.
“It’s amazing,” admits Kapono, “we put out stuff that we don’t really know how good it is, but it feels good and people love it. “