In the Mix

VIDEO: Ke’Oahu wins Kani Ka Pila contest

August 21st, 2011

Ke'Oahu performs after winning the 2011 Kani Ka Pila Grille Talent Search. (Star-Advertiser photo by FL Morris)


Hawaiian music is alive and well in Waikiki, thanks to the ongoing efforts of Kani Ka Pila Grille at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach. The poolside venue is one of the few left that features live entertainment daily, providing gigs for a number of local recording artists and lounge acts.

On Saturday, Aug. 20, during the second day of the 2011 Made in Hawaii Festival, five bands showed up at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall to take part in the Kani Ka Pila Grille Talent Search Finals. Yours truly was asked to judge the event, along with the legendary Cyril Pahinui and Honolulu Community College's MELE Program coordinator Keala Chock. Up for grabs was a month's worth of Thursday night gigs at Kani Ka Pila Grille, plus studio time at HCC's Mike Curb MELE Studios.

Ke Kani Nahe, Ke'Oahu, Kaiholu, the Honolulu Lounge Lizards and Li'inui all brought their best effort to the finals, with each group getting 20 minutes to impress the audience and judges with their musical abilities. The competition was close — any of the five could easily hold down a regular gig in Waikiki — but in the end, it was Ke'Oahu who was awarded top honors.

While the name may be unfamiliar to most, Ke'Oahu is comprised of family members with deep musical roots in the islands. Led by sisters JoAnn Iwalani Maio and Leilani Vaka'uta, the quartet of children of Maui's Joseph Kalanipi'i Maio and Oahu's Maude Leialoha Ke'Oahu has a musical lineage that goes back five generations. The lineage was evident while watching them perform; despite the pressure to win, they exhibited the skill and professionalism necessary to not only play a gig, but to also educate visitors and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture in an effective manner.

Ke'Oahu will now be scheduled to play on Thursdays in September at Kani Ka Pila Grille. Call 924-4992 for more information.


Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at

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