What’s Your Favorite Hawai‘i Artist/Band/Song from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s?

We could go on for dayz, but our short answer: “Ku‘u Home o Kahulu‘u,” Na Leo Pilimehana, “Honolulu City Lights,” Cecilio and Kapono, Glenn Medeiros and Bruddah Iz. All legends.


Old cassette tapes featuring classic Hawaiian musicians and music.

Cassette tapes of classic Hawaiian music from Aloha Got Soul. Photo courtesy of Stacey Makiya.


I used to groove to the reggae tunes of Natty Vibes. Crack up singing “Mr. Sun Cho Lee” with friends. Drive around the island with John Cruz on repeat. And when I hear these bands/songs now, 20 years later, nothing’s changed. Same energy. Music from Hawai‘i gets everyone up on their feet, evokes nostalgic memories and brings family and friends together. Case in point, the Kalapana pop-up event held in January at Sig Zane’s Kaiao space.


SEE ALSO: Sig Zane’s New Chinatown Shop Fashions New Opportunities for the Hilo-Based Brand


From what I heard, the event was off the charts. Collaborative merchandise (sold out in a flash), rereleased music from Aloha Got Soul and the after-party at Manifest was a mayjah rayjah throwback—karaoke songs from iconic Hawai‘i bands got the all-generations crowd moving. Wish I was there. However, after hearing about it, my co-worker and I started chatting about what songs from hanabata days would make it on our karaoke playlists.


“Way too many to choose from,” she said. “Ten Feet’s “Islands in the Stream” and The Mana‘o Company’s “Roots Rockin’” would be up there.” Personally, “Blue Light” from Ho‘onua, Glenn Medeiros’ “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You” and “Honolulu City Lights” by Keola and Kapono Beamer would be on my list. The latter brings back memories of phone commercials and seeing people off at the airport—back when you could see the plane take off. Tear.


On another music note, Keahiwai is taking the stage at the Blue Note on March 16. I had one of their first CDs and would blast it in my teal Honda Civic. (And that car was cherry. Kidding, kinda.) Kalapana is also performing at the concert venue on March 26 and 27; it would be an honor (and hellah cool) to listen to these bands play in person, again.


As more events showcasing iconic Hawai‘i artists and bands arise, I believe more music and memories will be shared. Our Hon Mag crew contributed their significant connections to local music (see below), which ignited entertaining conversations reminiscing about our younger days. We bonded, even though we’re all different ages. That’s the power of Hawai‘i’s music.


SEE ALSO: The History of Hawai‘i From Our Files: The Rise of Hawaiian Music


“Hi‘ilawe” always takes me back to younger-day summers when we’d spend time there with our Hawai‘i Island uncles, aunties and cousins, including trips to stunning Waipi‘o Valley. We’d eat guava and banana, ride horses and gaze up at the twin waterfalls of Hi‘ilawe and Hakalaoa. This classic Hawaiian song, written by Sam Li‘a Kalainaina, is even more memorable because it was recorded by two of Hawai‘i’s best-loved musicians: Gabby Pahinui and Israel Kamakawiwoole. What makes it even more special is knowing that the next generation of our family loves it, too. When my youngest daughter was selected May Day queen in school in eighth grade, she danced to “Hi‘ilawe.”

—Robbie Dingeman, Editor at Large


“Bruddah Iz for his one-take studio recording of “Over The Rainbow,” which blew Judy Garland’s earlier version out of the sky. “Ooooh ooooh ooooh oooh ooooh, eh ah eh ha eh ah eheheheh.”

—James Nakamura, Creative Director


“The Rev. Dennis Kamakahi was a major player here and nationally. He wrote 500 songs, with classics like “Pua Hone,” “Wahine ‘Ilikea” and “Koke‘e.” Never more to say goodbye rivals “Aloha ‘Oe” for pure tear-jerking gravity.”

—Don Wallace, Freelance Writer


“’Goodtimes Together’ by Cecilio and Kapono. Reminds me of concerts at the Shell and graduations.”

—Donnie Ford, Advertising Executive


Things To Do This Weekend August 5 Teacher Concert Robi Kahakalaupg

Photo: Courtesy of Robi Kahakalau


“I remember jammin’ out to Robi Kahakalau’s “Pi‘i Mai Ka Nalu” and then crying to Na Leo Pilimehana’s “Flying with Angels.” I used to go to Borders Bookstore and get my CDs signed. These songs bring back so many memories, me and my friends would sing their songs all day long!”

—Kayla Rivera, Art Director


“’Ku‘u Home o Kahalu‘u” reminds me of growing up in Hawai‘i in the ’70s, when life was a lot simpler. I loved this song then, and then when I lived away for 20 years, it made me so nostalgic to hear it because it reminded me of being a Honolulu kid in the late ’70s, early ’80s.”

—Diane Seo, AIO Digital Director


“Pure Heart! I think they were my first ‘concert’ that I remember at Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park. I was 6.”

—Katrina Valcourt, Executive Editor


Weekend Picks Credit Courtesy Kalapana Music

Photo: Courtesy of Kalapana Music


“Kalapana. Their music brought warmth to chilly nighttime rides home in my brother’s truck on the dark winding road from a full day at my grandparent’s house in Waialua.”

—Christine Labrador, Art Director


C&K’s my favorite, but Kalapana is a close second. I remember one concert at the Shell, when the original band was still intact, and Michael Paulo was just going off on his saxophone in the middle of the crowd during “Naturally.” It musta been a 15-minute solo—maaaan that guy can blow!

—Elroy Garcia, Copy Editor