The Music Issue

Island rhythms include more than Hawaiian music. In fact, there’s a world of music right outside your door.


This is the third year that we’ve devoted our June issue to Hawai‘i music, so this time, we thought we’d change the tempo a little.

For the past two years, our focus has been mainly on Hawaiian music, naturally enough, since it’s an art form that was born here. “The 50 Greatest Hawai‘i Albums of All Time” in 2004 and last year’s look at the statewide music industry had us featuring everyone from Aunty Genoa to Raiatea Helm.

Of course, really passionate music fans don’t confine themselves to one genre, they listen to a little bit of everything. Fortunately, the Island music scene reflects that, and so this year we set out to find musicians who are undeniably local, but not necessarily creating Hawaiian music. Rock and rap, classical and jazz, you name it and someone’s playing it.

For instance, we met Jacob Kaio, a Hawaiian man who plays bagpipes with such proficiency that he competes on the Mainland, complete with kilt. We found Sugahdaddy, a hard-rocking band that proves that an electric guitar is just effective as a slack key one when addressing Hawaiian political issues.

By coincidence, as we were embarking on this issue, I had the privilege of being an award presenter at the ninth annual Hawai‘i Music Awards, where more than a dozen acts in almost as many genres performed. One of the bands that night was Sugahdaddy, singing “Suffereignty,” an out-and-out rock song that yearns for Native Hawaiian sovereignty while criticizing Hawaiian in-fighting on that issue. I couldn’t help but notice that the lone ‘ukulele player joining the band that night, way off on stage right, was a haole guy who looked as if he would’ve fit right in with a heavy metal band. Something about the wholly good-natured inclusiveness of that sight made me smile and think, “Now that’s Hawai‘i!”

The band Mabanzi Marimba plays high energy, polymelodic rhythms that showcase Zimbabwean style. photo: Olivier Koning

One of the other performances that blew me away that night was by the group Mabanzi Marimba, whom you’ll also meet in this issue under the World music genre. When 12 people take the stage with marimbas the size of refrigerators, all of them jumping and bumping to a Zimbabwean beat, while a trio of female singers throw out some high-wattage Cape Verde singing—well, you don’t soon forget something like that.

Some of the artists we feature this month you may already know, many will be new to you, but all of them are among the most talented and interesting acts to be found in Hawai‘i. We hope that you’ll sample their music, buy their CDs, maybe even dust off your dancing shoes and check them out live. To help make that possible, we’ve provided information on where you can see them perform and, for instant gratification, posted samples of their music.

Who knows, somewhere in here may be your next favorite band.

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Honolulu Magazine June 2019
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