I was blown away the first time I heard HAPA 20 years ago when I was living on Oahu. I grew up in the islands listening to a lot of Hawaiian music, but never anything like HAPA’s. It was rich and authentic, but also hip and modern. Those wonderful original instrumentals captivated me immediately, and before I knew it, I began to hear HAPA's music played all over the islands, and I can’t count how many weddings I attended where the brides walked down the aisle to "Lei Pikake."
As I began playing and teaching guitar, my appreciation for HAPA grew. I noticed how the non-Hawaiian songs they chose to record coincided with my own musical influences—songs like Joe Satriani's "Always With, Always With You," Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" (one of the first guitar riffs I figured out on my own) and Earl Klugh's "Debra Anne."
I remember one evening in 1999 when I was at Ward Centre Borders checking out their just-released Namahana CD and listening to their cover of John Williams' "Cavatina," especially unusual for a Hawaiian act to record. It was then I felt such a kindred spirit in Barry Flanagan, chief composer and arranger of the group. I wondered if we’d ever meet in person and if we did, I imagined we'd have in common to talk about.
Fast forward to 2009 and the opening set of the Second Annual Southern California Slack Key Festival that brought together Barry, Jeff Peterson and Jim "Kimo" West together for the very first time (read about it here). This opened the doors to conversations about presenting a true HAPA showcase right here in Los Angeles, one that was long overdue. Barry loved my idea of adding a live string section to some of their songs, and we put our heads together to come up an evening to include all their biggest hits, along with top-notch hula performances by Edieann Heali'i Stanley, Hula Hālau a Kawika laua ' Leinani and Hālau Hula Lani Ola and special guest ukulele whiz kid Aidan James, appearing for the first time on the mainland, Redondo Beach being the perfect spot. You can see some highlights from that show here.
For those of you who weren’t able to make it last year to what Barry called "the best HAPA show EVER," please accept this invitation to be part of something unlike anything you’ve experienced before, no matter what kind of performance.
To help familiarize you with HAPA, here's a great story written by Mark McDermott that appeared last year in the Easy Reader.
Come early to the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center for some delicious Hawaiian food by the Sam Choy truck, authentic Hawaiian shave ice and malasadas (Portuguese donuts) and more!
Aloha and "a hui hou"! (until we meet again)
HAPA will perform at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on Nov. 10 at 6 p.m.