The Right Time

Former Natural Vibrations lead singer PeniDean Puaauli and his new bandmates: (from left) Kayton 'Sly Mongoose' Macariola, percussion/vocals; Nick James, bass; Puaauli; Harry Kawaihalau, drums; Breydan Torres, guitar/vocals; and Ikaika Rente, keyboard/vocals PHOTO COURTESY PENIDEAN PUAAULI

Former Natural Vibrations lead singer PeniDean Puaauli and his new bandmates: (from left) Kayton ‘Sly Mongoose’ Macariola, percussion/vocals; Nick James, bass; Puaauli; Harry Kawaihalau, drums; Breydan Torres, guitar/vocals; and Ikaika Rente, keyboard/vocals PHOTO COURTESY PENIDEAN PUAAULI

With his former reggae band in the rear-view mirror, singer PeniDean Puaauli sets course on a new career path as a solo artist

The physically large guy who’s been singing to reggae-loving fans around the globe for years now, encouraging them to “put a little faith in your mind,” is finding it necessary to be a big believer in himself these days.

That’s what happens when you take a leap of faith by giving up the security of life in an established band for the danger of life as an untried solo artist. But singer-songwriter PeniDean Puaauli has never shied away from a good challenge, and he’s not about to do so now just because he doesn’t have the boys from reggae masters Natural Vibrations, an outfit he’s fronted since the early ’90s, on stage with him anymore. In fact, he’ll tell you to your face that it was time for him to begin carving out a new career path and start believing that, as the lyrics of the popular song goes, “every little thing will be just fine.”

“I’m savoring every moment now that I’m on my own,” says Puaauli, who over the years has produced several Natural Vibrations groove standards such as Put A Little Love and Shawty. “I’m accepting the challenge because I know it’s all on me now. If there’s a failure, only I am the one who’s responsible. But I’ve captained a ship before, and I feel like I’m capable of captaining a ship now as a solo artist.”

To celebrate this career move, Puaauli is hosting a music bash over the next three months. Called “PeniDean’s Funky Reggae Party,” the event will serve as the official single release for his latest song, appropriately named Right Time, and be held from 6 to 11 p.m. Sunday at Boardriders Bar & Grill in Kailua. The party will then repeat itself Nov. 16 and Dec. 21 at the same location.

Puaauli adds that an EP “with five or six tracks” is currently in the works and is expected to be released soon after the new year, with a full-length CD to follow. His latest songs, which include the previously released When You Love Somebody, hearken back to the older Natty Vibes sound when the music was “fun, uplifting and definitely danceable.”

“This is the right time for me with this venture I’m on,” he explains. “And I’m not holding back. I’m baring my soul for the people to hear. I want people to pick up my songs, and I want you to be directly affected by the words I’m saying. I want you to feel as if I’m talking to you, the person on the other end of the speaker. I want you to feel anything but junk.”

Here’s what else Puaauli told Musical Notes:

MN: What’s the vibe with Natural Vibrations like these days?

PP: Our relationship is cool. I mean, I still love them like brothers even though I haven’t really talked to those guys (since parting ways). Been busy trying to get my solo career off the ground.

MN: What were your reasons for leaving the band?

PP: It was just time. When we moved to San Diego a couple of years ago, throwing all our marbles into the bucket to tour year round and chase our dreams, we felt it was something we had to do because the market here was getting smaller due to the recession and the clubs around town were disappearing. But life on the road wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. I was missing home, and the whole experience of living on the Mainland left me staring at stacked-up bills and eventually broke financially. You know, when you give your heart and all to your profession and the return is slim to none, it makes it real difficult to want to continue. So, following our gig on the Big Island July 4, I decided that was it for me — and walked away. But I always knew inside my heart that I could start up my own group and put it in a direction that I wanted it to go in.

MN: So who’s in your new band?

PP: These young players from the Windward side, and they’re all hungry. They’re part of my daughter Quela’s band, Q The Music. She’s taking a break now, and I just kind of stepped in and asked the guys if they wanted to play while my daughter was away. I knew I could use the help, and the result has been a beautiful marriage.

MN: Your music has always resonated well with reggae fans. Where do you find inspiration for your compositions?

PP: Life experiences. I’ve been through a lot of crazy situations in my life, and all those experiences are what I use as a rough blueprint to pull out messages for my songs. For the most part, my songs

deal with the kinds of things we can all relate to. We experience the same things, the same hurt, the same pain, the same love and the same emotions. The only exception is we go through these emotions differently.

David Sanborn

David Sanborn

SMALL-KINE NOTES: American guitarist James Burton puts his legendary rock and country picking technique on display Friday evening at Blaisdell Arena. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Burton has performed alongside notable singers such as Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Roy Orbison and John Denver. This week, “the Master of the Telecaster” will lead Presley’s former core rhythm section, The TCB Band, in concert along with New Zealand singer John Rowles. Burton and the boys start their jam at 7:30 p.m. … David Sanborn, one of the most accomplished saxophonists in contemporary music, will thrill smooth jazz lovers during a Nov. 1 concert at The Magic of Polynesia Showroom, located within The Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort. The Apaulo Music Productions concert begins at 8:45 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at or by calling (951) 696-0184.