Makaha Sons Paves The Road For Kaukahi

An Album Release Event That Felt Like A Family BBQ

A few weeks back we were invited to a special event -- something we couldn't pass on sharing with our devoted readers.

The Outrigger Waikiki hosted an exclusive media-only release party for a brand new CD that will undoubtedly take the air waves by storm over the coming months. The band is Kaukahi -- and their debut album, "Life in These Islands," is a pleasantly haunting compilation of gentle strumming, layered with harmonic melodies that echo tonalities made famous by Makaha Sons. Kaukahi members Barrett Awai, Kawika Kahiapo, Walt Keale and Dean Wilhelm joined forces on stage to showcase what a years worth of noodling, writing, playing and sharing surmounted to: A glorious album, whose melodies will, with certainty, be heard streaming out of topless automobiles on their way to a favorite surf spot, or from boom boxes set up at an ohana BBQ in the local park.

The name "Kaukahi" translates literally to "singleness of purpose," and it's this sentiment that spans definition from religious beliefs (which ring clear in certain tunes performed by the quartet) to the musical melding of voice and string instruments. Albeit the name was conceptualized by someone outside the group, it is not difficult to understand how the members all agreed upon its relevance. During the performance, which included various special guests, an MC that delivered an endless tirade of quips, solo performances by friends and more, a river of beautiful children flowed to and fro in front of, and even on, the stage. Between the four members, there were "I don't know, like what, 45 children?" asked guest Jack Johnson. Perhaps not quite, but we could understand how he might have thought so.

Johnson fits in to the picture in a rather interesting light. Growing up with the sounds of performances by many of Kaukahi's parents, who are musicians, Johnson became very interested in the progression of the group from the first day he heard about them. In his words, Johnson -- a double platinum album songwriter and performer, not to mention Kahuku native -- decided the only way he was going to be able to play with the group would be to invite them to use his North Shore studio for the recording of thir album. The group snapped at the opportunity, and the result was Johnson's lead vocals and strumming on "Constellations," the album's third track.

There were many who were invited on stage that Monday evening in Waikiki, including a pair of songs sung by Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom, who can be heard on the track entitled "Lei Ho'okahi." Perhaps the most stunning non-member performance was by Na Leo members Nalani Choy and Lehua Kalima Heine, who belted out a gorgeous version of their own "Poetry Man," which paid tribute (as far as this writer's ear was concerned) to the harmonies etched prior by Joni Mitchell. [Note: Choy's "One Hawaii Music" record label produced Kaukahi's debut album. Visit for more information.]

It wasn't difficult, sitting there in the Outrigger's "Society of Seven" Showroom Theatre, to imagine the quartet seated in a palm-lined park, waves lapping in the background, a giant grill emitting the scents of huli huli chicken and kalbi through the air, while four uncles strum and harmonize from the comfort of their lawn chairs. Children dart back and forth, playing tag, the eldest carrying the youngest on their shoulders, and picking them up when they fell. There is much giggling. There's a lot of smiling. These are the true sounds of Hawaii. This is the sound of Kaukahi.

Visit for more information, where to buy the album, and a detailed history of the band and its members.