HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For Kapena frontman Kelly Boy De Lima, Hawaiian music isn’t just about the vocals, the bass or the strings.
It’s about something much more.
“Hawaiian music is just its own genre, its own entity," he said. “It’s the culture, it’s the essence, it’s the mana inside of there.”
On a recent Thursday evening in Waikiki, the iconic band took the stage at the Outrigger Reef Resort’s Kani Ka Pila Grille in front of a capacity crowd of locals and visitors.
Before long, they had spectators swaying to the music and tapping their slippers along to the beat, their tunes filling the outdoor venue and wafting out into the hotel’s corridors.
Kapena has been on the island contemporary music scene for more than 30 years, producing more than 20 albums and racking up multiple Na Hoku Hanohano awards along the way.
Among their hits: “Don’t Say Goodbye,” “Blue Darling,” “I Am Queen,” and “My Everything.”
So how do they keep going strong?
As part of an ongoing digital series that profiles some of Hawaii’s best-known musicians, Hawaii News Now caught up with the band to find out.
Kapena’s story begins in the 1980s, when Kelly Boy De Lima started playing with brothers Timo and Tiva Tatofi. In 1985, they made their debut at a Brown Bags to Stardom event at Kaimuki High School.
The event was a competition, with the finalists moving on to a final Brown Bags event at the Waikiki Shell.
Although Kapena never made it to the Shell that year, they began to practice more together and were given more gigs as time went on. Kapena’s music captured the language and rhythmic tunes of the Hawaiian culture.
“It’s music that has been passed down from generation or something that has touched somebody from their past or their culture and their generations, and they’re putting it out in the music form and sharing it with the world,” said De Lima.
The band did go through some changes over the years, though. In the early 2000s, Kapena split due to the band members’ busier schedules.
That wasn’t it for Kapena though, as De Lima added some new members to the band ― his family.
“You know my dad taught me, I taught my kids, and now my kids are teaching my grandkids,” De Lima said. “People often come up to me saying it’s an amazing thing to see you and your kids up there.”
The De Lima family keep Kapena alive today, playing at venues across the state.
De Lima says that performing Hawaiian music for visitors is especially important for the Hawaiian culture.
“You feel like you are doing it all over again … it’s falling on fresh ears, you know what I mean, and people eat it up, they just love it,” De Lima said.
“You know people often tell me when they come up to me, thank you for the background of the song and what you guys are singing about because it really gives us an insight, the depth of what Hawaiian music is really about.”
That commitment and passion has translated into accolades.
The dynamic group won four Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in May 2018 for their album “Palena Ole,” including album of the year and group of the year.
The album was their first full-length album as a family band.
“We are so thankful that we have been in this business for so long, and we have people that just support us, and support our music,” De Lima said. “I’ve had people who’ve come up to me and go, ‘Kapena is the playlist of my life,’ and I’m forever thankful, forever grateful.”
Stay tuned! This is part of a digital series of stories featuring today’s biggest Hawaiian bands.