In the summer of 1988, Reiko Fukino came to Maui from O'ahu to check out the Club Lana'i Dinner Cruise. While on the boat, she sat in and sang with the band led by saxophonist Patrick DeHart, who hired her to work on the boat the following week. Recently divorced and a single parent with four children, that experience inspired her to move to Maui to pursue her dream of a career in music.
Reiko comes from a musical family of eight children, who woke up to classical music daily. She sang in the choir that her father directed, and sang in harmony with her family nightly, while her mother played the piano.
Maui music venues have embraced Reiko. She has performed at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua, Makena Resort, and in all Maui's five-star resorts, in her 25 years experience. Singing Hawaiian, jazz and contemporary music has sustained her and her family since 1989.
What has kept Reiko in demand is having taken the good advice from her sister, Leimamo, to include a Hawaiian repertoire. And her brother, Rockwell, a professional musician on O'ahu, told her that if she wants to keep working, she better play an instrument.
Maui musicians Patrick DeHart, Doug White, Wendell Warrington, Mitch Kepa, John Zangrando, Gene Argel, Brian Cuomo, Jim Downing and Howard Ahia were the first to make Reiko feel welcomed and supported. She has worked with some of Maui's finest and best.
A vocalist first, Reiko sings like an angel with a voice as smooth as honey and perfectly complemented by her guitar accompaniment.
Doug White, Sam Ahia, Shiro Mori, Joel Katz and Gilbert Garcia are a few of her guitar mentors, inspiring her jazzy Hawaiian style, lush chords, alternating bass and finger picking style, and infectious Brazilian rhythms.
Reiko released her first record, "Timeless Classics of Hawai'i," in 1999. She has sung back-ups on recordings by Rockwell Fukino, Amy Gilliom, Eric Gilliom and Warrington.
Warrington passed away 10 years ago. She released a single project, "A Silent Night," featuring a Warrington song, to keep his legacy alive and help raise funds for his children.
She envisions recording with the pianists who have accompanied her over the years. They each bring something fresh to the mix and inspire her to expand vocally.
"I feel so blessed to be doing what I love... music gives back to me; makes me feel more alive," said Reiko passionately.
Hear Reiko at the Maui Coast 'Ami 'Ami Bar and Grill on Thursday nights from 6 to 8:30 p.m., and at the Grand Wailea Botero Bar on Fridays and Sundays from 5 to 9:30 p.m.
A freelance writer, jazz vocalist and pianist, Maui Swing Queen Louise Lambert performs at Three's Bar & Grill on Friday nights, teaches voice, piano and "How to Sing and Play in a Band" workshops, and provides world-class musical entertainment. Visit www.louiselambert.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or (808) 205-3971.