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Hawaiian Music Icon Peter Moon Passes Away

March 12, 2018, 7:05 AM HST · Updated March 12, 1:23 PM
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Peter Moon. Photo credit: Brett Uprichard

Peter Moon, the beloved musical artist and composer who helped inspire a renaissance of Hawaiian music for a generation of followers in the 1970s, passed away on Feb. 17th, at the age of 73.

A private funeral service has already been held by the family.  Moon had not performed or been in the public eye since 2005.

Moon is remembered for his role as the leader of the Sunday Manoa and The Peter Moon Band.  He made additional contributions as a composer, record producer, concert promoter, and as a principal in Hailona Distributors in the mid-1970s.

 

A hapa mix of Korean and Chinese ancestry, Moon was a full-blooded Hawaiian in heart and spirit. He was a naturally gifted artist with the ‘ukulele and slack key guitar, learning to play both by ear and with remarkable expertise. He would develop a unique style of contemporary Hawaiian music, while also providing opportunities and encouragement to young musicians to seek their own brand of artistry.

Moon once described his love of Hawaiian music by stating, “When something touches your soul, you cannot verbalize it. To let it touch your soul, you must be open to it.”

Peter Moon. Photo credit: Frank Isahara

Range of Musical Influences

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Moon had a strong, innate interest in music beginning as a young child, recalling that he put classical music on the turntable whenever taking naps.

His talents blossomed as a teen and, during that time, he credited Gabby Pahinui, Les Paul, Leonard Kwan, Laurindo Almeida, Lyle Ritz, Harry Kalahiki (“Mungo”), Nelson Waikiki, Eddie Kamae, Genoa Keawe, and his older brother, Patrick, for inspiring him to develop a style of music and composition that would become his own.

In 1967, fellow artist Palani Vaughan put Moon on the track to popular acclaim, asking him to join in a Hawaiian music recording project that produced the album Meet Palani Vaughan and the Sunday Manoa, released in 1968. A year later, the Sunday Manoa album Hawaiian Time was released.

 

Hawaiian Music Renaissance: 1970s

From 1970 to 1974, the renaissance of Hawaiian music came to the fore and the Sunday Manoa, now comprised of Peter Moon and Robert and Roland Cazimero, led the way with the release of three iconic and critically acclaimed albums of contemporary Hawaiian music, titled Guava Jam (1970), Cracked Seed (1971), and The Sunday Manoa 3 (1973).

 

Kanikapila: A Showcase of Hawaiian Music and Dance

In 1970, Moon, at age 26, along with Ron Rocha, launched Kanikapila, a Hawaiian music concert in the intimate setting of Andrews Amphitheater at Moon’s alma mater, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Kanikapila quickly became the premier Hawaiian music concert event of its time and was held annually through 1995.

Most important to Moon, Kanikapila was a showcase for Hawaiian music, dance and culture, especially for up-and-coming artists who benefited from the exposure and experience of performing in a concert setting. One of Moon’s primary objectives for holding Kanikapila at Andrews Amphitheater was that it would be more effective in attracting a younger audience to embrace contemporary Hawaiian music, while also keeping the event affordable.

Among the bands and musicians that performed at Kanikapila over the years included the Sunday Manoa, Gabby Pahinui, the Sons of Hawaiʻi, Genoa Keawe, Marlene Sai, Nina Kealiiwahmana, the Makaha Sons, the Peter Moon Band, Hoaikane, Manao Company, Olomana, Kaʻau Crater Boys, Israel Kamakawiwoole, Brother Noland, Dennis Pavao, and Robi Kahakalau.

Among the hula hālau, kumu hula and cultural groups that performed at Kanikapila included Hālau Waimapuna (kumu Darrell Lupenui), Hālau Nā Wai ʻEha O Puna (kumu Thaddeus Wilson and O’Brien Eselu), Aunty Iolani Luahine, Hoakalei Kamauu, Maiki Aiu Lake, Frank Hewitt, Chinky Mahoe, Sonny Ching, Edith Kanakaʻole, Mapuana de Silva, the Kamehameha Schools Concert Glee Clubs and Prince Kūhiō Hawaiian Civic Club.

Kanikapila Records became the name of the company that Moon formed in 1982 to hold the rights to his musical recordings and compositions.

Emergence of the Peter Moon Band

In the latter half of the 1970s, Moon put more time and emphasis into the business side of the recording industry for Hawaiian music, which included becoming a principal with Hailona Distributors. Thankfully for audiences throughout Hawaiʻi, Moon began performing as the Peter Moon Band coupled with the release of the group’s debut album, Tropical Storm, in 1979. The album earned five Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, including “Album of the Year” and “Group of the Year.”

Fueled by Moon’s desire to expand creative boundaries of contemporary Hawaiian music, the band began infusing elements of rock, reggae, swing, jazz, and Latin music in a string of albums through the mid-1990s: Malie; Cane Fire; Harbor Lights; Spirit Lover; Chinatown; Black Orchid; The Guitar Man; Full Moon; Dance with Me; The Music Makers; Heat Wave; Midnight Sun; Oasis; and Iron Mango.

Peter Moon: August 25, 1944 – February 17, 2018

Peter Yuan Ho Moon was born in Honolulu to Wook Moon and Shay Young Zen on August 25, 1944. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1962 and from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 1968, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. He is survived by his son, Peter W. K. Moon, and extended family members.

Among Moon’s many accomplishments and accolades as a musical artist are the following:

Audio Recordings
1968    Meet Palani Vaughan and The Sunday Manoa (Hula Records)
1969    Hawaiian Time – The Sunday Manoa (Hula Records)
1970    Guava Jam – The Sunday Manoa (Hula Records)
1972    Cracked Seed – The Sunday Manoa (Panini Records)
1973    The Sunday Manoa 3 (Panini Records)
1974    The Waimea Music Festival – Featuring the Sunday Manoa, Gabby Pahinui, Genoa Keawe and other artists (Panini Records)
1979    Tropical Storm – The Peter Moon Band (Panini Records)
1980    Malie – The Peter Moon Band (Panini Records)
1982    The Best of Peter Moon (Panini Records)
1982    Cane Fire – The Peter Moon Band (Panini Records)
1983    Harbor Lights – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1984    Spirit Lover – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1986    Chinatown – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1987    Black Orchid – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1988    The Guitar Man – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1988    Greatest Hits Collection I – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1989    Full Moon – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1989    Dance With Me – Peter Moon (Instrumental) (Kanikapila Records)
1990    The Music Makers – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1991    Heat Wave – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1992    Midnight Sun – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1993    Oasis – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1994    Iron Mango – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1995    Backbone – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1995    Hoi Hou – Peter Moon (Kanikapila Records)
1998    The Path – Peter Moon (Kanikapila Records)
1999    Greatest Hits Collection II (1988-1994) – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
2005    Instrumental Hits – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
2005    Greatest Hawaiian Hits – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)

Video Recordings
1999    The Magic of ʻUkulele – VHS Video

Awards by Year
1980    Tropical Storm – Panini Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards for Album of the Year, Contemporary Hawaiian Album of the Year, Group of the Year, Engineer of the Year (to Lee Herschberg), and Single of the Year for “Island Love” b/w “Tropical Storm”
1983    Cane Fire – Panini Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards for Album of the Year, Group of the Year, Engineering (to John Kahale Chang), Haku Mele (to composers Larry Lindsey Kimura and Peter Moon for “E Pili Mai”), Contemporary Hawaiian Album of the Year, Single of the Year for “Cane Fire,” Song of the Year (to composer Leo Anderson Akana for “Cane Fire”)
1983    The Best of Sunday Manoa – Hula Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Anthology Album of the Year
1984    Harbor Lights – Kanikapila Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Group of the Year
1985    Spirit Lover – Kanikapila Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Graphics (to Brian Onaga and Phyllis Fukumitsu)
1987    Chinatown – Kanikapila Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Contemporary Hawaiian Album of the Year
1988    Black Orchid – Kanikapila Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Album of the Year
1989    The Guitar Man – Kanikapila Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards for Engineering (to John Kahale Chang), Graphics (to Brian Onaga and Phyllis Fukumitsu), Haku Mele  (to composer Larry Lindsey Kimura for “Tou Hei Ahiahi”)
1990    Full Moon – Kanikapila Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Engineering (to John Kahale Chang)
2001    Special Hōkū Award: Ki Hoalu (Slack Key)
2004    Recipient, Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement Award
2007    Inductee, Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame

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