Songs & Stories Podcast: Talking Story with Kainani Kahaunaele


Songs & Stories: S2, Kainani Kahaunaele (Bonus Episode)

Show Notes: Kainani Kahaunaele is a mele (Hawaiian song) enthusiast, singer, songwriter, teacher, and musician. She was born and raised in Anahola, Kauaʻi, and has lived in Hilo, Hawaiʻi for 27 years as an advocate for Hawaiian language revitalization and the perpetuation of Hawaiian music through education and performance. 

This episode was recorded at a fundraiser concert for the Kahilu Theatre at the Mauna Lani Resorts on October 25, 2020. In my interview, I spoke with Kahaunaele about her new album Waipunalei, and the backstory for two of her songs. In addition to the interview, you’ll two songs from this concert.

You can find Songs & Stories on all major podcast platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts. It also airs weekly on KONA 100.5 FM in Kailua, Kona. You can also read an excerpt from the podcast’s transcript below.

If you have a podcast show suggestion or guest interview recommendation, give Big Island Music Magazine a call at (318) 500-3582, and leave us a message on the request line. If we like what we hear, we might air it on a future podcast episode. Thanks for listening and Aloha!

Connect with Kainani Kahaunaele on the web and Facebook.

Order new album Waipunalei on November 27 here:

Steve Roby: Local folks are familiar with your music, but for our listeners around the world, can you give a brief overview of your music background and how you got started?

Kainani Kahaunaele: I was born and raised on the island of Kaua’i in a small town called on the. My family is very musical, and I was raised with my parents’ generation, my grandparents and great grandparents’ generation of music.

Music was a normal part of our life, whether it be our family parties, in church, in school, and as a profession for a lot of members of my family. Hawaiian music was the main kind of music that we listen to. But when the radio was on, we were excited to listen to all the Top 40 songs. I was in a ukulele band when I was in the fifth grade and in the choir as a high school student.

My mother, Lady Ipo, was a career entertainer, but she never took me under her wing to train me in those kinds of things for music and entertainment. But after I graduated, I moved to Hilo to go to college and I focused on Hawaiian studies and received a Hawaiian language degree. And so, it was there that music, language, and education all became the same kind of work for me.

And since then, I’ve become a Hawaiian language instructor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, at our Hawaiian language college. I also teach Hawaiian music and Hawaiian music research. And within that time, I’ve also become a recording artist as well. And I have three children of my own and I definitely train them in the Hawaiian language, Hawaiian music, and performance. So music, Hawaiian language, and Hawaiian education are all rolled up into one, whether it’s my day job, my night job, or my weekend job.

Roby: When was the moment you realized that you’d like to make it a career of music?

Kahaunaele: I was working on a Hawaiian language degree, and we had students coming in from all the different islands and we would get together every weekend, of course, on school days, too. But every weekend we would get together and play music over a little bit of time and people started asking us to play at their parties. Or the Hilo community was very accepting of young Hawaiian musicians. And so that’s where we really got our professional music, beginning with this. And since then, we’re on our second generation already.

Roby: Can you speak about your Hawaiian poetry?

Kahaunaele: I was very fortunate to grow up with a lot of Hawaiian music, and I wasn’t very familiar with the finer things about our language. And so, when I was going to school to learn more Hawaiian language, I found that I took a liking to taking the Hawaiian language songs apart because I already had a background in what the songs were, and how to sing them. And so, getting deeper into the language part and into the poetry, that’s where I found a lot of interest and I had lots of great mentors to help me do that. One of my most beloved mentors is Larry Kimura, and he’s one of the founding fathers of the Hawaiian language revitalization movement during the Hawaiian Renaissance period…


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