Social Encore: Opihi Pickers reunite

Aug. 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser

If you are looking for something to do this weekend and love reggae music, you have to check out the annual “MayJah RayJah” on Saturday, Aug. 31, at Kakaako Waterfront Park.

Promoter Raymond Ho, Jr. continues to bring Hawaii residents together through music, and this year he’s orchestrated a reunion performance by one of the more popular island music bands of the last 15 years.

The Opihi Pickers, clockwise from left: Kahale Morales, Imua Garza, Kevin Okimoto and Hoku Garza. (Courtesy Imua Garza)

The Opihi Pickers, clockwise from left: Kahale Morales, Imua Garza, Kevin Okimoto and Hoku Garza. (Courtesy Imua Garza)

Saturday’s concert will mark the first time the Opihi Pickers have played together on stage since 2006. I spoke with the band’s lead singer, Imua Garza, to discuss his musical career. The Opihi Pickers formed in 1995 when Garza was in the fifth grade and taking ukulele lessons at Roy Sakuma Studios. He would often go home to practice what he had just learned with his brother and cousin, bringing out multiple ukulele and jamming the night away.

What started off as a way to spend quality time with family members turned into performances at their church. For a time, the band even included Garza’s mother as one if its members.

“As we kept playing, my mother was our singer since we were too shame to sing,” Garza said. “Music was inspired by my mom, Pamela Garza, who plays slack-key guitar and sings traditional Hawaiian songs.”

Garza said throughout the band’s existence, instruments were switched between members as songs were written and albums were recorded. Soon the Opihi Pickers were playing six gigs every weekend, and this continued for years.

“Hawaiian and island music was in our bloodstream,” said Garza. Everyone in the band was raised on Hawaiian music and were heavily influenced by bands and artists like the Ka’au Crater Boys, Israel Kamakawiwa’ole, Braddah Waltah and Kapena.

These days, many people know Garza as a family man in addition to a working musician. He said his priorities changed after 12 wonderful years of making music with the Opihi Pickers, and he was faced with a very hard decision to make.

Imua Garza, right, with his wife, Tiffa, and two children. (Courtesy Imua Garza)

Imua Garza, right, with his wife, Tiffa, and two children. (Courtesy Imua Garza)

“I was married and my boy was about to be born,” he said. “I wanted to do music with my wife and try something new, but (also) slow down a little bit.”

In 2006, the Opihi Pickers disbanded and Garza focused more on the production side of Hawaii’s music industry by spending more time helping others perfect their sound in the recording studio. Since the band was so close and there was so much love amongst them, everyone else supported his choice to head in a different direction.

That all changes this weekend, when the Opihi Pickers perform at the all-ages concert alongside Rebel Souljahz, Common Kings, Kapena and former UB40 lead singer Ali Campbell, who now performs as a solo artist.

“The Kaka’ako Amphitheatre is an ideal location to host a reggae music festival, with less noise restrictions and a capacity of over 10,000 guests,” said Ho, the promoter.

For Garza, this weekend’s reunion presents an opportunity for fans to take the messages from his band’s music and apply it to their own lives.

“To see our music on a lot of wedding slide shows and to see how some of our songs (have) brought people together makes us feel proud to be a part of their lives,” he said. “We hope to be an influence and see the joy that music brings to others … to see the young ones use music as a tool to change the world.”

For now, the “MayJah RayJah” is the only gig the Opihi Pickers have scheduled.

“For now we’re just rehearsing for this show, but I don’t even know what might happen,” Garza said. “I know I enjoy playing with the Pickers.”

For more information about the concert, visit or
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.

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