Mele Memories

May 6, 2014 | By Yu Shing Ting

Experience storytelling through Hawaiian music across Waikiki.

For true Hawaiian music, stop in at Kani Ka Pila Grille at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach where you’ll hear phenomenal island music by award-winning musicians every night of the week from 6 to 9 p.m.

Since opening five years ago, the casual, poolside restaurant has become a popular spot for both locals and visitors to hang out, meet with friends, listen to great music and enjoy tasty food.

On stage is a rotating lineup of legendary musicians, including Sean Na‘auao, Weldon Kekauoha, Cyril Pahinui, Kawika Kahiapo, Kaukahi and Manoa DNA.

“True Hawaiian music, a lot has to do with the song,” explains Luana Maitland, entertainment director for Kani Ka Pila Grille. “They talk about a time and a place. Sometimes they go way back, and sometimes they will make you aware of a place that we never knew existed.

“Hawaiian music truly comes from the soul of the writer. It’s not always sung in Hawaiian, but it’s about Hawai‘i and the Hawaiian people.”

While Kani Ka Pila Grille has provided a venue for some of our veteran local musicians who often draw a loyal following from all over the world, it also is very supportive of up-and-coming artists. Each summer, a talent search is conducted with five finalists selected to perform in front of a panel of judges at the Made in Hawaii Festival in August. The winning prize: a one-month paid contract to perform at Kani Ka Pila Grille.

“It was uncle Cyril (Pahinui) who helped us name the restaurant Kani Ka Pila, which loosely translated means let’s play music,” says Nancy Daniels, director of public relations. “It celebrates and comes from his father-Gabby Pahinui. It was known people would just go to Gabby’s house and bring their instruments and drink beer, have food and anybody who wanted to would just play. It went on all day, and that was the feeling, the concept that we wanted to showcase.”

Across the street, at Waikiki Beach Walk, Outrigger’s commitment to Hawaiian culture continues with more music, hula and entertainment at its Plaza Stage.

Every Tuesday from 4:30 to 6 p.m., enjoy a free hula performance featuring adult and keiki (children) dancers. Led by kumu hula and Waikiki Beach Walk cultural advisor Blaine Kamalani Kia, the dancers are from the women’s group Halau Ka Waikahe Lani Malie, the men’s group Halau Kahulaliwai and the children’s group Na Keiki ‘O Ka Waikahe Lani Malie. It’s a casual, outdoor setting with mats provided for guests to use and sit down on the lawn. Also, on the third Sunday of each month, it’s the Na Mele No Na Pua Sunday Showcase from 5 to 6 p.m. featuring some of the islands’ top musicians.

Developed by Outrigger about seven years ago, Waikiki Beach Walk spans a nearly eight-acre open area with retail stores, boutiques, restaurants, art galleries and more. The Plaza Stage and grassy lawn area also host various events throughout the year, including the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival in July. There also are Hoopdance Fitness classes on Thursdays at 10 a.m. and Saturdays at 4 p.m., and a free yoga class presented by the Shiatsu & Massage Center every Wednesday from 4 to 4:45 p.m.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Down the street in the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel is the iconic Duke’s Waikiki restaurant and bar, where you’ll also find live music daily from 4 to 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to midnight. Musicians vary, but on Friday afternoon Maunalua usually takes the stage, Vaihi on Saturday afternoon and Henry Kapono on Sunday afternoon.

“People can now hear real true Hawaiian music in Waikiki,” Daniels notes. “The great thing is not only does it help celebrate and offer visitors the opportunity to experience a really spiritual and special part of what the Hawaiian culture is, but it also provides opportunities for our local musicians to make a living and share their love of their music and culture.” At Outrigger, we’re a local company, island-born and bred, and we’re a values-led company that reflects our host culture. As island people we want to really celebrate and share what is very special about this place we call home that is Hawai‘i. I always say music reflects the soul of a place, of the people, and this is our way of being able to share that soul, the beauty of what Hawai‘i is all about through music.”