Ukulele player gets legal break to perform with reggae star
HONOLULU (AP) — A Maui ukulele player who unwittingly sang a duet with reggae artist Matisyahu will be performing with the singer in Hollywood.
But making the opportunity happen required help from Maui's top prosecutor and public defenders. A judge is allowing Clint Alama to fly to Los Angeles and back while temporarily released from jail, where he's being held on a probation violation after convictions for assault and other charges.
Matisyahu and his bassist Stu Brooks were at a Maui coffee shop recently when they heard Alama strumming the singer's hit "One Day." Matisyahu sang along, while Alama seemed oblivious to his singing partner's identity. Brooks filmed the impromptu duet.
The musicians later invited Alama to perform the song at their concert Friday at the Hollywood Palladium. There was one problem, Alama revealed: A warrant was out for his arrest because of the probation violation.
Brooks posted that conversation on Facebook. Maui County Prosecuting Attorney John "J.D." Kim saw the video and looked into Alama's case. Kim said he had watched the earlier coffee shop video while on vacation in Atlanta, and enjoyed seeing a local guy get some positive attention.
So Kim got in touch with Alama's public defenders and probation officials to come up with an arrangement. Meanwhile, Alama turned himself in earlier this week, was arrested and remains jailed at Maui Community Correctional Center.
A judge agreed to temporarily release Alama, allowing him to take a red-eye flight to Los Angeles Thursday night, perform "One Day" at the Hollywood Palladium on Friday and then return to Maui, Kim said.
"The court has allowed him this one opportunity of a lifetime," Kim said. He warned that if Alama gets into trouble or doesn't return, a judge could send him to prison.
Alama is excited and optimistic about the opportunity, Deputy Public Defender Danielle Sears said. "I think it's going to be a good influence on him," she said.
Sears said she's happy to have played a role in the unique arrangement. The judge's order is titled "Order granting temporary release to perform at the Palladium at Los Angeles," she noted.
Records show Alama is also known as Clint Alama-Barido. After the concert, he must remain in jail unless he can post $50,000 bail. A court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 16.
Brooks said he and Matisyahu don't know the details that led to Alama's convictions, but are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. "It seems like everyone is supporting him," Brooks said. "He seems to have a lot of fans (in Hawaii)."
The musicians are handling Alama's travel arrangements, including having him picked up from the airport.
"He's been given an opportunity to showcase his talent. We decided far be it from us to hold him back," Kim said. "That's the true meaning of aloha— to give these guys a second chance, to understand their circumstances. Now it's on him."