How Hawai‘i Musicians Are Trying to Help During the COVID-19 Crisis
Concerts have been canceled, but local entertainers are still making music and finding new ways to reach their audiences.
Kapena hosts livestream concerts every wednesday and sunday at 5 p.m.
Photo: Courtesy of Kapena
When COVID-19 struck the Islands and the rest of the world, people were canceling anything and everything they could. This hit our local musicians particularly hard.
It’s been challenging for many artists who make a living gigging seven days a week to find work and income. Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winner and Grammy nominee Kimié Miner lost all of her appearances that were booked from the beginning of March through September. She’s been trying to brainstorm other ways to earn and partner with different groups. But it’s an unprecedented time for the longtime Hawai‘i entertainer.
“The music is the first thing to get canceled for events,” she says. “When I lost my gigs, everyone on my team lost the gigs, too. We’re all out of a job.”
But despite these tough times, Miner and many other local musicians are still trying to give back. And for the musically gifted, that means through song.
Along with a fully-fledged singing career, Miner runs Haku Collective, a local music and talent production company. She and her team came up with the idea to join forces with other musicians in the Islands to host free livestream concerts, dubbed Mele in the Hale. The goal is twofold: help to uplift the community and hopefully make some money through donations that will support artists featured in Mele in the Hale.
Every Saturday at 4 p.m. Miner invites guests and musicians to chat, joke and sing for about one to two hours or “until who knows when.” Their first livestream concert on March 21 featured Miner, Kalani Pe‘a and DeAndre Brackensick and was hosted by local comedian Pashyn Santos. It ended up generating about 24,000 views on Facebook. The following two concerts were even more of a success with 45,000 and 70,000 people tuning in.
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“This social distancing thing really makes people feel isolated and alone,” Miner says. “Music has always been therapeutic. We understand that we have this gift, not only to share with others but for ourselves, too.”
For the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra, social distancing also meant canceling all of their concerts. Although the musicians are still being paid and are offering virtual private lessons to their students, they’re also trying to make up for that loss of live music.
Percussionist Chris Cabrera helped to coordinate those efforts online. He and a small team are reaching out to all the symphony musicians, asking them to record videos to post. They are also planning to start free livestream clinics and classes showing students everything from how to make a reed to at-home percussion practice tips.
Cabrera also created separate Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages specifically run by the musicians so they can connect with the community. And if you need a dose of music live from the concert hall, Hawai‘i Public Radio is rebroadcasting the symphony’s recent concerts.
“There are so many music students at home. They have their instruments, so we’re trying to say, keep practicing. Keep making music,” he says. “We’re just trying to connect more and more.”
Missing that connection is what led Kelly Boy De Lima and his group Kapena to keep playing even though work “came to a screeching halt with the pandemic.” The popular family band began livestreaming concerts every Wednesday and Sunday at 5 p.m. They also appeared on the third Mele in the Hale show.
Their first virtual show on March 22 featured Josh Tatofi and Roman De Peralta from Kolohe Kai, garnering 206,000 views on Facebook. When the state ordered everyone to stay at home, all guest appearances ended. But the De Lima family continues to post free videos of them singing and playing instruments from their living room.
De Lima also found that the extra time allowed the band to pursue projects they couldn’t before. One of those is the Kapena School of Music, the brainchild of daughter Kalena, the band’s keyboard player and singer. She, her sister and brother and, of course, her dad, will be posting free music lesson videos for fans and just anyone who is missing the music.
“We had 20-plus years being blessed and playing music and making a living doing this,” says Kelly Boy De Lima, co-founder and lead singer of Kapena. “This is our time to stick together and boost morale. We wanted to give them a little dose of our love.”
How to Help
Some musicians and groups are collecting donations to help support themselves during this difficult time. If you’re able to, Miner of Haku Collective says anything helps. You can donate to Haku Collective by clicking here. The Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra is also taking donations here.
Henry Kapono and Alx Kawakami are giving up to $50,000 in Foodland gift cards to musicians, producers, dancers and other industry professionals who have lost jobs because of COVID-19. Although the program is closed as of now, musicians can still apply. The foundation may open another round of giving. Read more here.
Several other local artists are asking for help, too. Visit their social media pages to find out more.
Where to Watch and Listen
Kapena, Wednesdays and Sundays at 5 p.m.
Mele in the Hale, Saturdays at 4 p.m.
E Kanikapila Kakou Hula Hou Live, April 18
*This is a running list, so check back for updates.
If you know of any other local musicians who are hosting virtual or livestream concerts, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more stories by Jayna Omaye