HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Even if you don't listen to Hawaiian music, you've probably heard Led Kaapana's sweet melodies.
They’re seemingly everywhere. You’ll even hear them while boarding a Hawaiian Airlines plane ― his tunes are among the songs that greet passengers.
Among those in the know, Kaapana is a legend.
He’s been part of the Hawaiian music scene for more than four decades, and is widely-celebrated for songs like “Slack Key Lullaby,” “Radio Hula,” and “I Kona.”
After all these years, Kaapana says he still makes Hawaiian music because he’s seen the impact it can have on people.
“It talks about us, it talks about our culture, it talks about where we come from," he said. “Some of them cry because of the music."
As part of an ongoing digital series, Hawaii News Now is profiling musicians making a big impact in the Hawaiian music scene. Got a suggestion for a profile? Email us.
Kaapana grew up in the small town Kalapana on the Big Island, where he was introduced to Hawaiian music by his big family.
“Mostly on the weekends my dad, mom, uncles, grandpas, they all played music so this is where the music came for me,” said Kaapana.
For Kaapana, music was a way of life and a way to embrace the Hawaiian culture.
“I grew up in Kalapana where we had no electricity so everything was, you know, the old style,” said Kaapana.
“Living off the land, learning to respect the ocean, and raising animals.”
In the 70s, Kaapana joined his twin brother, Ned, and cousin, Dennis Pavao, to form the band Hui Ohana. The band name means “group of the family,” and the music they created embraced the traditional Hawaiian culture that they all grew up with.
Kaapana later formed another trio, Ikona, which released six albums and won a Na Hoku Hanohano Award.
In 2008, Kaapana formed his own recording company, Jus’ Press Productions, where he would go on to release his Force of Nature CD with musician Mike Kaawa.
The album would earn Kaapana and Kaawa not only a Grammy nomination in 2008, but also a Na Hoku Hanohano award for Favorite Entertainer in 2009.
Today, Kaapana can be seen performing his unique slack key music across the island chain.
He sticks to his roots and performs Hawaiian music that he started playing all those years ago ― as a child in Kalapana.
And he’s hopeful about the future of slack key music in the islands.
“It’s nice to see that this music still continue on," he said. “to the next generation.”