Oiwi takes to the EKK stage Monday

  • Photo courtesy Anne O’Malley

    ‘Oiwi will perform Monday, week four, of the 36th season of E Kanikapila Kakou. From left are John Kepa Mahi, Kawaiola Yaris and Bronson Aiwohi.

    Photo courtesy Anne O’Malley

    Oiwi performs Monday during week four of 36th season of E Kanikapila Kakou. From left are John Kepa Mahi, Kawaiola Yaris and Bronson Aiwohi.

It’s the fourth of 10 Monday nights in the heritage Hawaiian music program, E Kanikapila Kakou, now in its 36th season. This Monday’s guests at EKK are local boys, known as the group Oiwi, or “native sons.”

John Kepa Mahi, born on Hawaii Island, the son of a Hilo musician and a mother also musically inclined, took to the ukulele at age 8, after his father died. A move to the Westside of Kauai landed him next door to a family from Niihau, where all sorts of musicians, including the Sons of Niihau, gathered to play Hawaiian music and sing.

Mahi pursued music and began to play in local venues. Sometime in high school, his leo kiekie, or falsetto, broke out. Be warned: Mahi’s singing is chicken-skin time.

This man, who wanted to be a Hawaiian-language teacher, has instead brought the language wrapped in beautiful Hawaian music to thousands of people over the years, from venues large to small.

It’s just about a year since Mahi began gigging with Kawaiola Yaris, son of deceased kumu hula Doric Yaris.

“Kawaiola can play anything,” says Mahi, and he includes in that statement not only musical styles, but also numerous instruments. “Hands down, he is one of the best talents I have met in my life.”

Bronson Aiwohi, the youngest member of Oiwi, plays rhythm guitar and has clean vocals.

“He has the true new-age style of singing contemporary Hawaiian songs, like John Kruse, the Opihi Pickers — and he plays Makaha’s songs,” Mahi said.

Oiwi’s playlist will follow the theme of EKK for this season — “Our Music is Our Moolelo.” Adds Mahi, “We’ll play a lot of songs that mean a lot to us, and share stories behind the songs, where they come from, who wrote them.”

He says they’ll also play songs they’ve written. Their first CD will be available later this month.

EKK gigs are 6 to 9 p.m. in the Jasmine Ballroom of the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort, near Hanamaulu. A suggested donation in the calabash of $10 to $15 or more treats you to an unforgettable evening of aloha from the heart.

A no-host bar and food concession in the ballroom will be open. All EKK events are open to the public.

The E Kanikapila Kakou 2019 Hawaiian music program is funded in part by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, supported by the County of Kauai Office of Economic Development, Aqua Kauai Beach Resort, and Garden Island Arts Council and EKK supporters.

Garden Island Arts Council programs are supported in part by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts through appropriations from the state Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Next Monday at EKK, Week 5, Feb. 18: Malie Foundation presents a community hula night and Ukulele Paradise, a nine-member troupe from Japan.

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