Time Out with the Amazing Bosco
…Troubador, Kona Icon, Recording Artist and New-Age Musical Alchemist
…By Marya Mann
…The man may be ahead of his time, but time is running short this day for Bosco as he stuffs electrical cords and mechanical contraptions into his bags. Check. Preparing for his performance at the seaside Kona Inn Shopping Village, he adds five avocados to a sack. Check.
Avocados? “In case anybody in the audience wants avos. We’re so blessed with abundance,” says the 32-year veteran of Hawai‘i’s music scene. At his home on a bucolic stretch of rolling hills overlooking Holualoa Bay, Bosco—“The Amazing One-Man Band,” singer, songwriter, philosopher, comic and media producer—has a lot to remember.
Besides the equipment, seven instruments, and enough wire to stretch from here to Hawi, he knows hundreds of songs by heart and remembers the names of many of his fans who come to hear him play three nights a week on the boardwalk, something he’s been doing for 23 years.
“If you look at my DVD cover, I’m hanging upside down,” says the man whose music, singing voice, and writing pen have breathed new life and breadth into the world of sound. The popular 1994 Hawai’i Island travel/music video, “Hangin’ with Bosco!” features the maestro’s witty songs and Chaplinesque adventures at spectacular sites around our tropical island, but it’s mostly about Bosco’s perspective, how he views a world of crazy ironies: “The Earth is spinning at 1,038 miles per hour and we’re not flying off. It just doesn’t make any sense that we’re NOT hanging on for dear life, but perhaps we should be hanging on for dear life. Then we’d take better care of it.”
He sings as much in “Mother Nature’s Plea,” one of the original tunes on his first CD (1986), “Songs For You.” From the beginning, Bosco was ahead of his time. His talent calmed hearts rather than lighting them on fire, like many of the rock stars of his generation. His gift for lightening up the atmosphere stood in contrast to some of the heavy doses of cynical rap and symphonic pining of the 20th century. The blonde-headed troubadour, who enchants audiences with his lean, clean trumpet, scintillating fretwork and hilarious impersonations, jokes and witty asides, could be called a Kona institution, but Bosco is anything but institutional.
He recently attended Keoki Kahumoku’s Hawaiian Music and Lifestyle Workshop in Pahala and has now added ‘ukulele to the seven instruments he plays in his “Amazing One-Man Band.” Added to the rainbow of musical delights and surprises in Bosco’s One-Man Band is the emotional and mental connection he makes with his audience.
“I try to keep a more spiritual perspective,” he says, keeping one eye on the clock to make his gig on time and one eye on the timelessness his music conveys. “The Universe is vibrating in all frequencies. It’s all vibrations, not good and bad. Sometimes they harmonize and overlap and make higher tones and harmonics. It’s all part of the flow.”
He takes one last look around and heads out the door, trekking along a pathway of ginger, papaya and avocado trees to get to his car and drive to his Kona gig.
The mystery of Bosco, maestro, studio musician, pied piper, and good-natured comic, defies definition. You have to watch him perform, listen to his music, and hear the bursts of spontaneous linguistic alchemy for the secrets of Bosco’s universe to be revealed.
Chairman of the Boardwalk
If not for scents of coconut oil, night-blooming cereus, and towering palm trees, you might think you’ve arrived at the French Quarter. Strolling under a night sky, past the palace, and the shops, bars and eateries of Ali’i Drive, you hear guitar strings, the dancing beat of a colorful Latin melody that rides the gentle sea breeze right into your curious nose and responsive ears.
Colorful tones and upbeat tempos enchant you toward the sound of the source. On the south end of the open-air Kona Inn Shopping Village, Bosco sits on his stool with his bare feet, literally putting his paws to the pedals which hit the metal, playing the keyboard bass line with his feet.
“All aboard!” he calls, and a barreling harmonica solo begins, blowing a powerful riff. Then Bosco switches to a voice like
Under the lights near the striped awning surrounded by his equipment—an instrument stand containing banjo, trumpet, mandolin, ‘ukulele and his beloved guitar—he uses all of his resources to produce the full sound of a One-Man Band.
In between songs, he puts his guitar down and says into the microphone, “Let’s get serious for a minute.” He looks around for five seconds, then mutters, “Okay that’s enough,” and picks up his guitar, asking for requests. Everyone laughs.
“See you, Floyd,” he waves goodbye to a regular who is heading home. Other fans arrive. A five-year-old girl runs up to the front of the audience and hugs Bosco. Everyone sighs “ohohoho” in unison. Then, he plays “Outasight.” In it, he transforms, in front of our eyes and through the sound waves into our inner ears, the English children’s song, “Three Blind Mice,” into a classic. By opening up the E-D-C melody line with dozens of new variations on the main motif, Bosco’s agile hands pay homage somehow to both classical and Hawaiian slack-key guitar.
Suntanned women amble by in sarongs, their senses tickled by his friendly music. Checking out the Internet café, gem shop, art galleries and table where Bosco’s CDs and DVD are for sale, the women are joined by friends and they all sway as one to Bosco’s beat. Before they mosey along, one of them drops a $5 spot in the downstage straw hat.
In a joyful whirlwind, his urgent drum and “Flaming Burritos” harmonica ends and the lilting “Green Sands Serenade” begins—a sensuous original guitar solo that’s transportational, a happiness pill without the side effects. In the tender opening he creates a low, slow, sweet mandolin mood like when you first get to the beach dripping the stress of city-life, but after you’ve had a few moments to breathe the clean ocean air, you’re suddenly transported into a squall of pleasure, sensing the natural waves of life. His chord progressions up and down the frets induce waves of remembering “Eternal Love,” the title of another one of his original compositions.
Bosco’s music evokes something like “earstalgia,” memories of beloved melodies blended with all the times we have truly listened to the music of life. At hotels, restaurants and private events, he belts out “Hello, Dolly” on his trumpet, morphing into Louis Armstrong. He sings “Mr. Bojangles” with a cleaner tone than Jerry Jeff Walker, “You Are My Sunshine” sounding like Willie Nelson, and then he transmutes into the Animals lead singer Eric Burdon for one of the most lucid versions of “The House of the Rising Sun” ever recorded.
Blues, rock, folk, Hawaiian, jazz, country, reggae, big band, bluegrass, Latin, and more, Bosco covers everyone’s favorite tunes in concerts and at private events. When he performs at the Kona Inn as he’s doing tonight, he blows us away with feel-good originals and creative improvisation.
The Power of Paradox
The One-Man Band has now expanded to two. In typical Bosco paradox and musical spontaneity, Chama Cascade shows up to jam. The protégé who at the age of 10 started taking guitar lessons from Bosco, Chama plugs his cables into the amp and is now riffing on his guitar in polyphonic harmony to a piece that sounds like “Harvest Moon” but isn’t.
“This is for all you heavy breathers out there,” says Bosco. He asks everyone in the audience to take two breaths in and two breaths out, rhythmically, rapidly. It’s hard, but most of the two dozen or so designated “heavy breathers” are soon cruising on the ecstasy of the natural breath. “Don’t try this at home,” he says.
Before playing “Breath to the Death,” he calls out for a nurse in the audience, preferably female, to resuscitate him, sending giggles throughout the crowd. Then he plays the harmonica tune so fast you think he may really pass out.
His invigorating charisma and tantalizing trumpet have appealed to thousands of people who return to Kona year after year, some of them specifically for the aloha they know they can find every Wednesday through Friday nights at the Kona Inn Shopping Village. Bosco says he wants to create a musical space for falling in love again. Check. A place where there’s no hustle and no hassle. Check. And where the only danger is to your old way of thinking about what street performance or musical entertainment really is. Check.
But who is the real Bosco?
Musical Mystery Tour
Musical DNA entered Bosco’s blood early. He picked up his first trumpet at 8, played drums in a band at 13, added the guitar and then harmonica because he was bashful and didn’t want to sing. He started playing tambourines with his feet, one on each foot; foot-fleeted bass pedals came soon after.
How many people in the world can do that? Play mandolin, ‘ukulele or banjo with their hands while blowing wind instruments and keeping their feet tapping on keyboard bass pedals for a full band sound—all at the same time.
“Whoever wants to probably,” the minstrel says. “Whoever is crazy enough to try.” Right. Busking, the practice of performing in public places, has been around since antiquity, but the David Banks who became Bosco didn’t start doing street acts until he studied music therapy and film-making at Eastern New Mexico University in
“Having an interest in the healing arts, I was amazed by how influential music was on people who had certain afflictions, like a person who couldn’t speak could sing wonderfully. A person who couldn’t walk could hear music and suddenly jump up out of a wheelchair and dance. Then the music stops, and they get all frozen up again.”
Moonlighting through college led to playing in après ski lounges in Colorado, where he built his own log cabin when he was 23. During balmy weather, he journeyed from Mexico north along the Rocky Mountains and through Canada like a musical medicine show, winding up in Alaska. He also did a magical, nine-month music tour in New Zealand.
“How I got to Hawai‘i was a flood, though. The flood sent a 60-foot wall of water down the Big Thompson Canyon,” he says, wiping out the road to his hand-built cabin. He couldn’t get home for two years. “I was also freezing. I played the bass pedals barefooted. In Colorado, that was not so acceptable, taking off my boots and socks in the cold, so I thought I’d better go to a climate where I could be barefoot.”
Landing on the island with his treasure chest of pop, country, rock, folk, jazz and original songs, he recorded his first CD in 1986 in South Point at his studio, The Rubber Room, using only solar and windmill power. His second CD, “Bosco: The Amazing One Man Band,” was recorded at a more conventional studio in 1989. His next CD will be completely produced using solar energy, he says.
Recording the CDs and backup tracks for performing is a solitary pursuit, so Bosco is grateful to Uncle Billy Kimi, the owner of Kona Inn Shopping Village, for supporting his public performances, allowing him to spread the joy of music in the heart of Kailua Town for over two decades and counting.
“I just wanted to play and be able to make people happy,”
Make people happy. Check. v
See Bosco‘s Amazing One-Man Band (and sometimes, Chama) at the Kona Inn Shopping Village most Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, 7 – 9 pm, with the exception of rain or prior commitments. For info, contact 808.322.6604.
Hear and watch Bosco perform on the internet at
Join Bosco’s Facebook page @ Bosco the Amazing One Man Band.
Contact writer Marya Mann at email@example.com