The Sound and the Fury

September 6, 2018

Islands in the Sun

HK Red White Guitar CROP DANA 2018 - Cropped

After a refreshing swim, you can towel off, don your sandals, and enjoy  some of Waikiki’s hometown talents, like Henry Kapono

I GO TO HAWAII FOR THE SUN, THE SURF, the mai tais — and the music. Here’s a look at some artists I caught during my last excursion to Waikiki:

Henry Kapono hosts the best weekly (and free!) beach party in Honolulu. Unless he’s traveling, you’ll find him grooving with his band every Sunday afternoon at Duke’s Waikiki, outside on the patio, with a stunning backdrop of Diamond Head behind him. “You can’t get a better location than that!” says Henry, and he’s right. Just think; after a refreshing swim, you can towel off, don your sandals, and join the crowd dancing in front of the stage, carefully holding their beers so they don’t spill (a quick-serve beer stand is outdoors during the set). If you aren’t fortunate enough to be in Waikiki, you can bring the party to your own home; the show’s live-streamed from Henry’s Facebook page.

It’s hard to escape Henry if you’re in the islands. In addition to Duke’s, he has regular gigs at Tropics Bar & Grill at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki, and Duke’s Beach House in Maui. If there’s a local festival featuring music, he’s likely to be there. Heck, a video of him performing “Home in the Islands” is even part of the in-flight entertainment on Hawaiian Airlines. The video shows him beaming as he strums his guitar, knee deep in the water at Kaneohe sandbar off Oahu’s windward coast.

Henry Kapono Hosea Ka’aihue grew up in the Kapahulu neighborhood, bordering Waikiki. “If the waves were big, you could smell the ocean from where I lived,” he says. “School was out, and then surfing was in!” After a possible football career was sidelined by an injury, he went into music. In the ’60s, he toured Vietnam and Thailand with a rock band: “It was supposed to be six weeks but it ended up two years!” In the ’70s, he was one half of Hawaiian pop duo Cecilio & Kapono with Cecilio Rodriguez, who signed with Columbia Records. “It was pretty amazing,” he says of his time with the label. “We were working with the best musicians [top session musicians like Leland Sklar and Russ Kunkel], the best studios, everything was first class. It was like being in toyland.”

He fused Hawaiian chant and rock music on the Grammy-nominated The Wild Hawaiian. And he’s been playing what he calls “contemporary island music” at Duke’s Waikiki for a quarter century now. It’s where he recorded the live albums Duke’s On Sunday and Duke’s On Sunday 2; his pal Jimmy Buffett recorded the title track on his Take the Weather with You album.

But Henry tours as well, most recently to promote his latest album Welcome 2 My Paradise, a laid-back collection of sweet love songs, life on the road, and the spirit of Aloha. And that’s not all; he’s also just released The Songs of C&K, featuring 11 of duo’s songs as performed by interpreted by a stellar cast of musicians, bringing new life to some
old classics.

As in his song “Long Train,” Henry plans to keep on keepin’ on. What’s in his future? “More music,” he says. “More fun.” (More at

HALEKULANI (“HOUSE BEFITTING HEAVEN”) is one of the world’s top hotels. There’s live music nightly at the outdoor House Without a Key restaurant, with a lap-steel trio and graceful hula. But tucked inside the hotel’s original lobby building is the Lewers Lounge, an upscale, sophisticated venue with live jazz seven nights a week. In the prime spot of Wednesday to Saturday, you’ll find Maggie Herron at the piano.

Maggie grew up in Muskegon, Michigan, studying classical piano. She began her professional career in Seattle, playing in the lounges of tony hotels like the Camlin and the Sorrento, and, in a foretaste of her future, the Tiki Hut in neighboring Lynnwood. Then the islands called; a trip to Hawaii in 1976 led to her landing a residency at a hotel lounge on the Big Island (the nickname for the largest of Hawaii’s islands). “I didn’t have a return ticket, and I had already fallen in love with the Big Island, so that gig made it possible for me to stay,” she says.

In the years since, Maggie’s worked with both Henry Kapono and Cecilio Rodriguez in their solo careers, was the vocalist for a Top 40 band on Oahu, and had a 13-year residency at a lounge on Lanai, one of Hawaii’s least populated is-
lands. In her thirties, she discovered jazz. “I didn’t really grow up hearing jazz in my house,” she explains. Now she began listening to to the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Bill Evans, teaching herself the intricacies of the genre. “Anything jazz, I’m completely self taught,” she says.

Maggie landed the Lewers Lounge gig six years ago. Her sets include jazz standards and classics from the Great American Songbook. But she writes songs as well. “I love playing the standards,” she says. “But writing and recording original material is seriously important to me. And everything I write is like my baby!” Her latest album is the just released A Ton of Trouble, which she describes as having “a little more bluesy, a little more horn-driven, guitar-driven kind of feel to it” than her previous albums. You’ll find the lively zip of “Red Hot Jazz” and the title track, the sultry “Perfect Specimen,” and a great cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love,” well suited to Maggie’s
smoky voice.

That voice is deeper on this album, the result of “a very extreme flu. It took me a full year to settle into the new range.” She also points out that many of her songs are co-written with her daughter, Dawn. “I do write lyrics. But I really encourage my daughter to be the lyricist. Because I think she’s an exceptional lyricist. And because I want this to our legacy. It’s important to me.” (

Turner, he was dressed as Elmo. As one of the many street performers on Kalakaua Avenue (the main thoroughfare in Waikiki), you might find Marshall dressed as Elmo, making animals out of balloons, selling wallets made of duct tape — or, more recently, shredding on his guitar.

The Long Beach, California native arrived in Hawaii in 1994. He picked up a guitar in his teens (“When I started high school, I had to start rockin’”), teaching himself hard rock and metal licks. In Hawaii, he played with alternative hip-hop band S.P.U.N.N. until the early 2000s. But not having a band hasn’t stopped him from making music; he’s simply taken it to the streets.

“It’s challenging,” he says. “On the street, you’ve got just a second or two to try and catch people’s attention as they walk by. It can be frustrating, getting drowned out by a loud car.” He describes his music as “Contemporary blues rock, combining old school guitar techniques with a Jeff Beck/Van Halen/Hendrix kind of modern approach.” He always has CDs to pass out, and he’s always thinking about the next number he’ll record. “Music allows you to express your soul and create. And if it’s in you, it’ll come out.” (,


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