Power of Palehua: How IZ got his inspiration for ‘Hawaii ’78’

‘Itʻs exactly what I want. Exactly.’

WATCH: How IZ got his inspiration for 'Hawaii 78'

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - “Hawaii ’78” is one of Israel Kamakawiwoole’s most important and powerful songs.

And the inspiration for its unique sound came from a very special place: Palehua, in Leeward Oahu.

The song was originally written by Mickey Ioane and performed by IZ’s former band, the Makaha Sons of Niihau.

But for “Facing Future,” which was released 25 years ago and remains Hawaii’s most successful album of all time, IZ had his own idea for how it should sound.

IZ and Mountain Apple Company CEO Jon de Mello crafted their take on the anthem at Palehua.

“Itʻs 3,000 feet up in the mountains, up in the Waianae range," De Mello said.

“Itʻs a very sacred spot, a very Hawaiian spot.”

“‘Play it again. Rewind it play it again.’ We played it 50 times, if we played it once,”
Jon de Mello, Mountain Apple Company

De Mello pieced the song together on his computer using IZ’s voice, clips from an old chanter and a large collection of sampled Hawaiian instruments.

And that single session led to a key contribution in Hawaiian music history.

De Mello says it was nearing midnight up in misty, chilly Palehua, when the pair crafted the new version of “Hawaii ’78.”

“We opened the doors and you could see the city lights going out all the way to Diamond Head, but every now and then it would just get hazed up and youʻd lose the city and the clouds would be glowing,” de Mello said.

As the clock inched towards midnight, De Mello remembers IZ was getting tired as he sat beside the fireplace and gazed out at the beautiful view of the city.

“I looked up towards the end of the song and he was just sitting there like this and I was going ‘Oh my gosh.' He said ‘Play it again. Rewind it play it again.' We played it 50 times, if we played it once," de Mello said.

“I said ‘What do you want to do – change it? Do you want to change it?’ And he said, ‘Itʻs exactly what I want. Exactly.’”

Thus, the song was reborn.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.