When musician Palani Vaughan was set to be a guest performer before the Royal Hawaiian Band on Saturday, he wasn’t sure his son Kilipaki Vaughan would be there. He had been told the Kauai firefighter might be off-island at a conference in Chicago.
“I really wasn’t expecting him, then I saw him standing in the back,” Palani said.
The proud dad talked about his son and his career, and even pointed him out to the crowd of about 1,000 at Prince Kuhio Park. On the next song, one Palani wrote titled, “Ka Mamakakaua,” Kilipaki joined his father onstage and put on a crowd-pleasing hula.
It was an impromptu performance that delighted the audience.
When it was over, an emotional Palani shared a strong hug with his son.
“He picked up that I wanted him to come up,” Palani said. “He’s a good kid.”
Palani lives in Honolulu, while his son and family live on Kauai. Saturday’s performance was about music, he said, but it was also very much a chance to be with those he loves.
“I haven’t seen him in a long time,” Palani said. “We get really short moments together.”
Kilipaki said taking the stage on short notice comes with the territory when you’re the son of an entertainer. He wanted to be there for his dad, so didn’t hesitate when the elder Vaughan indicated he wanted his son to join him.
“Support each other,” Kilipaki said. “That’s what you do.”
But the Vaughan family wasn’t finished.
Next, Piko Vaughan, Kilipaki’s son, stood next to his grandfather as they sang, “Hi‘ilawe,” while Mehana Vaughan, Kilipaki’s wife, danced. The crowd cheered and clapped and at one point, Palani wiped away tears. When the song ended, Palani and Piko hugged, too.
Later, Palani was filled with pride as he talked about his grandson. It was another impromptu performance to a song 6-year-old Piko had learned on his own.
“I didn’t know if he would get onstage in front of so many people, and he did it,” Palani said, grinning.
Kilipaki said he had talked with his son about singing a different song with his grandfather, but when the opportunity to sing “Hi‘ilawe” came up, Piko was ready and willing.
“He was really happy about that,” Kilipaki said.
Kilipaki said watching his son and father sing together was wonderful, and especially poignant on the day before Father’s Day.
“I was most proud of my son singing with him. As a father that’s a huge moment,” he said. “That was a proud moment for me.”