Singer-songwriter Ydine and her band AnOtherEvolution made its Kahilu Theatre debut April 16 on the venue’s new livestream platform. The evening was filled with socially conscious themed songs sung by one of the island’s most powerful performers and thought-provoking writers.
AnOtherEvolution is a five-member band featuring Mitchell Ruggles (guitar), Ka‘ahele (harmony vocals), Erik Avery (bass), Kristin Johnson (drums). The group has taken on various incarnations and once featured 12 members. They’ve played local music and art festivals like MAnafest, which highlights women artists and ‘Aina Fest, whose major theme is food sovereignty.
The set began with the moody “God of My Afflictions,” a slow rocker, in the style of Patti Smith and Lou Reed, which touches on various religious deities who preach a common message: “Love is the remedy!”
For songs such as “Virunga,” Ydine was joined on stage by her decade-long music partner Ka‘ahele. The two sat side-by-side at the Steinway piano, singing in perfect harmony on this touching song. “I was inspired to write this song after watching a Netflix documentary about this animal sanctuary in the Congo,” Ydine said. “It tells the story of how money and greed played a part in the disappearance of wildlife in the past fifty years.” The tune has a rap cadence with the piano accenting dramatic pauses.
One of the highlights of the night was “Wander.” With the majority of the band temporarily leaving stage, Mitchell Ruggles switched to acoustic guitar and backed up his sweetheart Ydine for this heartfelt love song. The singer planted a kiss on his cheek after the number finished.
Ydine ended her sixty-minute set with the title track from her debut album Belly of the Whale. In 2020, she was nominated for a Na Hoku Hanohano award for this amazing masterpiece.
Using their voices or instruments, each band member contributed their version of ocean sounds. Drummer Kristin Johnson replicated crashing waves on her cymbals, while Avery and Ruggles used effects pedals to reproduce the range of underwater whale sounds.
In a post-show interview, Ydine discussed her hesitancy at an early age to start playing music. “I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was twenty-seven,” revealed the singer. “My father encouraged me when I was younger, but then I gave it up. At 33, I started playing piano, and grew serious about writing and performing.”
Ydine found her musical path on the Big Island when she started hanging out with the alternative World Music group Medicine for the People. Ten years ago, Ydine formed her own globally inspired fusion band known as AnOtherEvolution.
Ydine says she feels lucky to have grown up in the ‘90s with so many female singer-writers around like Jewel, Alanis Morrissette, Tori Amos, and Sarah McLachlan. “It was important for me to see those women and their power,” recalled Ydine. “It was inspiring! I think that I absorbed their energy from that time and decided that it was a route I wanted to take.”
Missed the show? Don’t despair. You still can catch Ydine’s livestream concert and interview on Kahilu.TV.
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.