January 24, 2012 | By Waikiki Magazine Team

The backyard (or beach) jam session is the essence of modern Hawaiian music. And that’s exactly the down-home family vibe of Kaukahi’s weekly Friday evening show poolside at Kanikapila Grill in Outrigger Reef Hotel. (“Kanikapila” literally means “Let’s play together.”) It’s an idyllic island setting to enjoy friends and family, and catch a gorgeous sunset while listening to some memorable local music.

Over the past three years, this talented foursome including Dan Wilhelm (guitar/ vocals), David “Kawika” Kahiapo (guitar/ vocals), Walt Keale (ukulele/vocals) and Barrett Awai (upright bass/vocals) have built up a strong loyal following of visitors and locals alike—and for good reason. Each week, the group presents an infectious mix of classic Hawaiian standards by beloved local artists like Gabby Pahunui and Eddie Kamae, sentimental audience favorites like Credence Clearwater Revival’s Have You Ever Seen the Rain? and even some memorable original material in the form of Life in These Islands. Each song is delivered with their strong four-part harmony blend. It’s intoxicating.

Every show is also special for another reason. It’s always a family affair with a smattering of impromptu hula dancing by relatives and even special guest musicians from time to time.

“It’s always great to see locals come into Waikiki and enjoy themselves,” shares Wilhelm. “And we also want visitors to get a taste of what authentic Hawaiian music is all about.”

Kahiapo, who has collaborated on more than 50 recordings, including Curious George Sing-Along Lullabies with good friend Jack Johnson, agrees: “From day one, we worked with the Outrigger Reef to create a space to showcase Hawaiian music seven nights a week. Now, I think it’s something everyone is proud of.”

The name Kaukahi itself means “Unity of purpose” and looking forward, the guys have some tangible goals.

“We’ve set some goals for the new year including heading into the studio to record,” says Willhelm. “I believe 2012 is our year.”

As the night rolls on, there’s plenty more singing, dancing and merriment. The tip jar placed at the front of the stage starts to fill up. And a resounding “Hana Hou!” ripples through the crowd. One more time…

Friday evening show at the Kanikapila Grill in the Outrigger Reef Hotel
Outrigger Reef Hotel
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