Hawaii’s heritage of musicians begins with traditional innovations like slack-key guitar playing and the ukulele, and stretches all the way to several headlining acts and performers today.
These include names like Jack Johnson and James Mercer of The Shins, who were born in Oahu and Honolulu. Before perfecting the laid back style that still has a bit of the Hawaiian touch, Johnson briefly pursued a career in the classic Hawaiian activity of surfing. Johnson also directed several award-winning documentaries on the sport—their soundtracks would showcase his music to local audiences years before the rest of the country caught on. Johnson continues to make stops in Hawaii, including a special acoustic tour of the islands in 2012.
Other iconic Hawaiian musicians have found the same kinds of success without leaving the sound—or the area—of their homeland. Israel Kamakawiwoole, also known as Iz, recorded Facing Future, the state’s first platinum-selling album. It continues to remain the bestselling album of all time by a Hawaiian artist, helped by the rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, remade into a glorious slice of Hawaii’s special sound with Iz’s pitch-perfect vocals and ukulele playing.
Other Hawaiian musicians have become trailblazers in their own right, changing the way America as a whole relates to its musical history even today. The Kingston Trio, who would prompt the 1960’s folk music revival, also has two members from Hawaii: guitar and banjo player Dave Guard learned to play a ukulele during a music class first. His bandmate Bob Shane would develop many of the same influences. It is likely that their first gigs together took place at parties and variety shows on the Big Island.
Their paths would continue to cross with more traditional Hawaiian artists: Dave Guard would later organize the sessions that would make up Pure Gabby, one of the later albums of singer and slack-key guitarist Gabby Pahinui. Known for his mastery of the slack key guitar, Gabby had learned and played music in Honolulu since the 1940’s, and would later become an important part of the 70’s Hawaiian Renaissance.
Musicians from Hawaii can be found contributing to other eclectic corners of music all over the world: Japanese singer-songwriter Yuna Ito was raised in Oahu, Bekah of the South Korean girl group was also born in Hawaii, as was melody, a Japanese pop artist.
Even more recently, at least two Hawaiian singers have made it into finalist positions on the show American Idol. Jasmine Trias of the Big Island reached third place in 2004—a run of popularity that has led May 14 to be officially declared “Jasmine Trias Day”. In 2003 and 2004, Camile Velasco reached even higher heights of popularity, drawing a larger number of votes from our state than any performer had before.
In quite a contrast to its size, Hawaii has contributed an enormous amount to music in the United States and beyond, while continuing to maintain and develop a unique musical tradition of its own. From the composer John Kameaaloha Almeida to the steel guitar innovator Lani McIntyre, there are always more Hawaiian musicians to discover and explore—and new names are coming to the forefront all the time.
Kauai live music can be found throughout many venues near Hanalei Colony Resort. Our concierge staff would be happy to assist you in planning your stay to find the perfect live music event during your visit to Hanalei Colony Resort.
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