“Contemporary Hawaiian” is one of those nearly amorphous terms that can be interpreted any number of ways. But for veteran 30-year-plus musician, composer, singer and actor Chucky Boy Chock, the term encapsulates the wide range of musical expression he’s accomplished.
“When I first started playing, I wasn’t playing traditional Hawaiian music,” Chock said. “It had Hawaiian lyrics but with the music I like — a kind of a Latin rock. I like anything Latin.”
It’s a fusion of influences that inspire the effervescent, always-smiling Chock, and it doesn’t end with Hawaiian or Latin cultures.
His influences have also been Russian, Chinese and Jamaican, to name a few.
In fact, it’s from all over the world that Chock, who recently came out with a new album, “The Music of Chucky Boy Chock Vol. 1,” collects instruments.
Among his collection? The steel pan, kalimba (thumb piano), balalaika (triangular Russian stringed instrument) and pipa (Chinese four-stringed lute).
“People know I collect instruments and I’ve had instruments given to me from all over the place — even given to me upon people’s death,” Chock said. “People would say, ‘My dad wanted me to give this to you for him.’”
Whenever that has happened, Chock said, he has responded the same way.
“I write a new song,” he said.
Noting the steel pan is his favorite, Chock had some humorous anecdotes accompanying it.
“The Chinese community would love to come in and see it and they’d say, ‘please play the wok,’” Chock said of the deep, drum-like instrument many associate with the Caribbean.
“Other people say, ‘play the turtle shell,’” he noted.
Though he’s since retired his instruments from public shows (he says he’s “burnt out on performing”), the artist who has composed songs for big names like Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo‘ole, The Brothers Cazimero and Kapena, and has received Na Hoku Hanohano nominations for awards such as contemporary album of the year, contemporary Hawaiian album of the year, religious album of the year and song of the year, can be heard two ways. Fellow church colleagues can find him playing music at Lawa‘i’s Kaua‘i Bible Church. For the rest of us, his new album or two previous albums (“Celebrate” and “Leilani”) can be downloaded on iTunes or picked up at places like Borders Books, Music & Movies.
Also at Borders? His new, environmentally friendly and culturally relevant coloring book, “Ama: The world’s only ‘ukulele playing crab.”
Inspired by his daughters, twin high-school seniors “getting ready for the next level,” as Chock put it, the coloring book takes on the role of explaining to keiki the responsibility shared in taking care of beaches and ocean in a respectful way.
Characters in the coloring book (also due out as a paperback soon) are referenced in Chock’s new album, he said, in the songs “Iwaki Shuffle” and “Sweet P,” the former of which refers to Ama’s friend Iwaki, a toxins professor.
An obviously thankful and spiritual man always looking at the positive, Chock expressed his gratitude at his accomplishments, which no doubt occurred because of his attitude.
Take, for instance, his coloring book and paperback. Wanting to name his character “‘A‘ama,” the Hawaiian word for the type of black crab the ‘ukulele-playing crustacean character is, Chock was made to choose another name. A California resident of the Big Island got there first, naming his surf company “‘A‘ama” and trademark-ing the word.
“He did say I could use it, for the price of $75,000,” Chock said with a smile. True to his lighthearted form, Chock went with the flow and changed the crab’s name to “Ama” rather than wasting time getting flustered over the usurpation of a Hawaiian word.
Going with the flow seems to be a theme for Chock, who sort of haphazardly got into music in the first place.
“Originally I wanted to be a detective,” Chock said, adding (somewhat in jest), “but then I saw all the fun (musician Michael Ka‘awa) was having — and a couple of checks — and I said, ‘you got this much to just play music? Maybe I want to play music, too.’”
After getting a somewhat late start by musician standards — he began playing guitar in his late 20s — Chock started to write songs.
“My cousin (Theresa Bright) was going to school at (University of Hawai‘i) and was learning Hawaiian,” he said. “So she would translate the songs I wrote.”
With a repertoire of about 10 songs, Chock found himself at a gig where many of the guests were slack-key guitar big wigs, including the likes of Gabby Pahinui, Peter Moon, and “Auntie” Alice Namakelua.
“What a way to open doors,” Chock said. “I was in the right place at the right time. …Gabby gave me a standing ovation.”
Also fortunate for Chock? The back row was full of sponsors of the hosting radio station.
“God was right there, Amen on that.”
Fittingly, it’s God, and his wife of 20 years to whom Chock said he is most grateful.
“I have to thank Akua, and my wife (Pam), for putting up with me,” he said.