In a dispute that shows just how complicated things can get when a performing artist packs up and leaves his group, members of a popular island reggae band have asked the group’s former lead singer to quit playing the band’s music.

In a letter sent earlier this month to Hawaii reggae singer Peni Dean Puaauli, an attorney for his former band, Natural Vibrations, asked Puaauli to quit singing tunes from the band’s catalog and to quit performing under the “purported auspices” of the band.

“It has come to my client’s attention that over the past seven (7) years, you and your band have been scheduling and performing various shows under the purported auspices of Natural Vibrations when, in-fact, you left the group in 2014,” James DiPasquale, the band’s attorney wrote. “During these shows you consistently, and without authority, played several songs owned by Natural Vibrations LLC.”

Natural Vibrations
Members of the island reggae band Natural Vibrations have asked former lead singer Peni Dean to quit playing the band’s songs in public, alleging Puaauli is violating the band’s copyright and confusing the public into thinking Puauali’s band is Natural Vibrations. Courtesy: Natural Vibrations

Although DiPasquale noted that Puaauli wrote many of the songs at issue, the lawyer also asserted the songs were written when Puaauli was part of Natural Vibrations and are thus the copyrighted property of Natural Vibrations LLC.

The cease and desist letter lists dozens of songs from six albums the band recorded between 1996 and 2011, plus a handful of singles.

The letter accuses Puaauli of copyright violations for performing the songs without the band’s permission. It also asserts that Puaauli playing the songs without the band’s permission is a trademark violation because it’s likely to confuse the public into thinking PeniDean is affiliated with Natural Vibrations.

One of the big name acts in Hawaiian reggae, “Natty Vibes” as the band is nicknamed, played together with Puaauli for more than a decade, won several Hawaii music awards and once jammed with Prince, according to a Hawaii News Now story. But the band broke up in 2014, according to DiPasquale’s letter, and except for a reunion in 2018 have parted with Puaauli, the charismatic frontman.

In happier days, with Peni Dean Puaauli singing lead vocals, Natural Vibrations became one of Hawaii’s top reggae bands. Now Puaauli has left the band, and the band has asked him to quit playing the group’s songs, including some tunes Puaauli composed while a band member.

Puaauli’s new band, PeniDean, did not respond to a request for comment sent to its website, and neither did PeniDean’s record label, Hawaii’s Finest Records, an arm of a local clothing brand.

DiPasquale said the band members were reluctant to talk about the dispute. However, he provided a statement from guitarist and vocalist Wayne Enos.

“Natural Vibrations’ music was always known for their message of love, harmony and unity,” Enos said. “Now it feels like the opposite of harmony and more like division.”

While music venues are finally starting to reopen after a painful hiatus for artists, Enos added, “one of our business partners (Peni Dean) has made himself our direct competitor by selling the same show for pennies on the dollar, often tricking customers in the process. He is quite literally stealing the show of Natural Vibrations LLC and selling the performances as his own.”

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