Maui Arts & Entertainment

Kapono, Santos in concert

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Hawaiʻi songwriters Henry Kapono and Jerry Santos talk about their music and perform in concert at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center Saturday, March 19. Photo compliments of the MACC

WAILUKU – Two of Hawaiʻi’s most influential songwriters of the 1970s take to the stage at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center Saturday.

Henry Kapono will be hosting Jerry Santos in this talk-story event. Both will perform Individually and together some of their favorite songs. The event starts at 7:30 p.m.

In a music scene dominated by east and west coast sounds in the 1970s, Kapono and Santos were among the emerging Hawaiʻi artists to tell the story of the islands and helped to reshape its youth culture and identity.

“We were writing about our lifestyle and what we were living,” recalled Kapono.

There were others, of course, including Sunday Manoa with the Cazimero brothers, Hui O Hana, and Keola and Kapono Beamer.

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Out of the political turmoil of the Vietnam War and evictions of Hawaiʻi farmers and Hawaiians arose a thirst for new Hawaiʻi music influenced by the past — a renaissance of Hawaiian music and language.

As part of “Cecilio and Kapono,” Kapono toured beyond the Hawaiian Islands, quite often with the popular duo Loggins and Messina in the 1970s.

Under contract with Columbia Records, Cecilio and Kapono recorded their first album with the same band that backed up James Taylor in his recordings.

“Those guys were so good they just let us play our music. They didn’t overplay. They just let us do it,” Kapono recalled.

“It was a great time for music.”

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Kapono, who has received 20 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, grew up in Kapahulu on Oʻahu and his songs incorporate an island feeling to them that often refers to nature.

He said his favorite song is “Sailing” — one which he dedicated to his father.

The captain of the ship in Sailing is his father who was the captain of his family.

“He was always concerned about everybody… He taught me a lot of things,” Kapono said.

He still recalls how his father would sit down in the house after work and play his ʻukulele and sing to relax.

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Santos, raised in Windward Oʻahu, said he lived in San Francisco in the 1970s, where he composed a number of Hawaiian songs from a contemporary perspective, including “Kuʻu Home O Kahaluʻu,” about holding fast to the spirit of rural Kahaluʻu even as it along with its people changed.”

“The song has a great deal to do with me, my early days in Kāneʻohe and Kahaluʻu,” he said.

“I’m like the child raised by the community.”

Santos remembers being associated with the Kahaluʻu Heʻeia Ecumenical Youth Project and its leader Randy Kalahiki who introduced him to songwriter Liko Martin who co-wrote the song “Nanakuli Blues,” also known as Waimanalo Blues.

It was the first time he had ever met anyone writing songs of Hawaiʻi. 

Upon his return to Hawaiʻi, he partnered with songwriter Robert Beaumont to form the group Olomana.

Santos said his song writing drew him closer to Hawaiian culture and he now composes songs more in the Hawaiian language.

*For events from Thursday through Wednesday, March 17-23, go to Maui Entertainment, Art, Community.

Gary Kubota
Gary Kubota, an associate writer with MauiNow.com, has worked as a staff news writer with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and The Maui News. He lives on Maui. He’s also been an editor/business manager with the Lahaina News. He’s received national and regional journalism awards — a National Press Club Citation of Merit and Walter Cronkite Best In The West, among them.
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