Hawaiian legend Willie K

Hawaiian music legend Willie K dies at age 59 after 2-year battle with cancer


By John Berger ;    May 19, 2020 – Staradvertise , Hawaii


Social media lit up with fond memories and messages of support Tuesday following an announcement late Monday night on Facebook and Instagram that Hawaiian music superstar Willie K — a multi-Hoku Award-winning musician, vocalist, songwriter and record producer — had died at his home on Maui after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 59.

“We are sad to announce that Willie K has passed away on Monday night (May 18th) in his home in Wailuku surrounded by his ohana,” according to an announcement on his Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Willie K was diagnosed with small-cell cancer in his upper right lung in early 2018.

“He fought hard for over 2 years while still performing. In mid-February of this year, he was hospitalized for pneumonia which caused complications with his lung cancer,” his family wrote in the posts. “He was in positive spirits and doing okay, and he was looking forward to performing again. He then suddenly turned for the worse and lost his battle.”

The family thanked everyone “for all the love, support and prayers you have given.”

Many local politicians issued statements honoring Willie K.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz recalled him as a man who had “bridged blues and Hawaiian, local and mainstream, music and culture. Willie K blazed a trail that redefined music in Hawai‘i and helped other local artists succeed. … While he will be greatly missed, his music will live on.”

Gov. David Ige accurately described him as “a unique talent whose huge voice effortlessly ranged from Hawaiian music and the blues to opera — all in one performance.”

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino remembered him as a man who “fought cancer bravely for two years, still choosing to perform and entertain fans even while ill. He was generous with his time and immense talent. … We mourn a great loss for our community. He will truly be missed but never forgotten.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell also hailed Willie K’s commitment to his music and to Hawaii: “What he revealed in his last years was the sheer courage and stamina that it takes to perform while seriously ill. … Honolulu is mourning the loss of a great man, a son of Hawaii, but we are also feeling privileged to have known his grace.”

Two-time Grammy Award winner Kalani Pe‘a described himself as “heartbroken” at the death of a man he described as both a role model and a teacher.

“He always taught me to be authentic, to be real and to be true to myself and others,” Pe‘a said Tuesday on a phone call. “He was very straightforward, but he always taught me never, ever, ever try to please every single person. You’re not going to please everybody; just be you and do what you do best.”

Music historian Harry B. Soria Jr. spoke for many in saying simply, “There may never be another Willie K, with such raw yet polished talent.”

Born William Awihilima Kahaiali‘i on Oahu on Oct. 17, 1960, Willie K grew up on Maui and started working with his father, veteran musician Manu Kahaiali‘i, when he was 11.

By the time he graduated from Lahainaluna High School in 1979, he was playing everything from Top 40 and Latin to American country music and the classic rock of Jimi Hendrix. He spent several years in California where he expanded his musical repertoire further to embrace everything from European-American classical music to acid rock.

Willie K exploded on the Hawaii music scene in 1991 after Kelly “Kelly Boy” De Lima saw him playing in a bar on Maui. De Lima and his manager, Ken “KT” Thompson, signed him to a record deal with KDE Records and persuaded him to move to Oahu.

“What I saw in him was a talent far beyond what you would expect,” De Lima reminisced Tuesday. “‘Incredible’ — I don’t know if that’s a strong enough word, but the versatility that he had — he could do these sweet little Hawaiian ballads and bring the house down with that, and then he could jump on the guitar and do Jimi Hendrix.”

Waikiki entertainment scene veteran Jack Law brought Willie K to Waikiki when he booked him for a weekly engagement at Malia’s Cantina on Lewers Street. Playing Malia’s launched Willie K as an island superstar. The release of his debut album, “Kahaiali‘i,” increased his star power and won him his first of five Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.

Law remembered him as “the most talented person to come out of Hawaii since Bette Midler.”

“He had a great sense of humor. When he was nominated for his first Hoku Awards (in 1992), he asked for me to come along, so I was sitting with him and his parents at the table. After that, whenever he performed for the LGBT community — and he performed in public a lot for the LGBT community — he would always say that I had been his ‘date’ at his first Hoku Awards.”

Pierre Grill, the veteran studio engineer and multi-instrumentalist who co- produced “Kahaiali‘i,” recalled him as “the best musician I ever recorded with.”

Willie K’s next three albums reaffirmed his place as one of the most versatile — and popular — performers in local music. Then, a move to another label almost ended his career as a recording artist.

But he came back in a big way in 1997 when the Mountain Apple Co. retained him to resurrect the career of singer Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom after her first album for the label had gone almost unnoticed.

With Willie K as her producer and mentor, Gilliom switched from singing mainstream pop to traditional Hawaiian falsetto. Gilliom was an instant hit, and a string of Hoku Award-winning albums followed — several of them recorded by the new duo of Amy Hanaiali‘i & Willie K.

In 2000 the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts made a rule change that suddenly defined “Nostalgia,” an album recorded by Hanaiali‘i & Willie K, as the work of a female vocalist rather than the work of a duo; Willie K became the first male performer in HARA history to be one-half of a duo that won an award as a “female vocalist.” (The rule change was later reversed.) That same year, he also received a well-deserved solo Hoku for his imaginative Christmas album, “Willie Kalikimaka.”

Shortly after that he returned to Maui and recorded and released a two-CD live album that captured his roots-rock repertoire. He then established a new record label, Maui Tribe, and released an album of traditional Hawaiian music.

In 2003 he reunited with Gilliom for a concert tour that produced a live album in 2004 and became one of the five finalists for the newly created Hawaiian music category at the Grammy Awards in 2005.

Back on Maui he formed a new duo, Barefoot Natives, with Gilliom’s brother, Eric Gilliom. The duo’s self-titled debut album won a Hoku Award (contemporary Hawaiian album) in 2005.

In the years that followed, Willie K continued to enjoy a prolific and eclectic career as a recording artist, concert headliner, record producer, film actor and event promoter. Another reunion with Hanaiali‘i produced an aptly titled album, “Reunion,” and earned them another Hoku Award in 2015.

Willie K received the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

An important part of his legacy is the example he set for younger musicians as a role model and mentor.

“I saw Willie K once when I was 9,” Hoku Award winner Kamuela Kahoano said. “I knew even back then there was something greater about his performances — and I have been chasing that level ever since. We can’t all rock forever, but what Willie K did — how hard he jammed, with unbridled passion, and his unforgettable local repertoire, that massive contribution and staying power — that’s why he’s a legend to me.”

Willie K is survived by his wife, Debbie Kahaiali‘i, and children, Karshaun, Max, Lycettiana and Antoinette.

A celebration of his life will be announced at a later time, the family said.



Today I am sad to have lost a good friend, Uncle Willie K. My memories come up of how we had discussed and laughed together. I keep your words, your voice and pictures in my memory and you will be eternally remembered for me and all your friends with the great variety of music that was your life. It was always nice to meet you and I am thankful to know you. Thanks Willie for the great time together. Gérard

federal recognition when you can have a free Hawaiian Kingdom?

Today I am starting to post or repost from my friend Poka Laenui, his reports, thoughts, radio shows and interviews . His way of thinking about what’s going on, about the Hawaiian history, about the law, it’s a new way of thinking and philosophy for us all. With a calm, friendly and with a special sense of humor he tells his stories, his thoughts, which fascinate me so much that I leave everything else behind and I just have to listen to him. I would like to share his impressive, grandiose, exciting stories with a larger readership and give him, Poka, another platform in the wide world:


This is a re-post on another page, (Aha Aloha Aina). I am re-posting believing it important to be shared here as well.

A woman writes, “Why would you choose federal recognition when you can have a free Hawaiian Kingdom with reparations for the illegal occupation?”

1st, she presents the question as either one or the other, i.e. one automatically eliminates the other! Federal Recognition OR Independence. I challenge that limited view of the fight for Hawaiian Sovereignty. As a Hawaiian National, I will not limit my fight for Hawaiian Sovereignty by sticking my head in the sand and pretend that there is no other reality. As I stand in the U.S. Courts and challenge the jurisdiction of the courts over myself or my clients, I also prepare to use the laws of the United States, of Hawaii, of the applicable rules of court, of the U.S. & Hawaii Constitutions, the Ordinance of the various counties, etc. in defense of my clients. I will also use international laws and principles to assert such defense. The fact that I declare myself a Hawaiian national in no way foreclose my right and responsibility to my clients, to raise all appropriate defenses, wherever found.

Of course, those who do not want the Hawaiians to have sovereignty are glad to see this all or nothing approach. It means there will be no trouble with Hawaiian nationals who will not fight but just complain about lack of U.S. jurisdiction as they are marched (defiantly) off to jail!

There is also the other extreme side of Federal Recognition. Those are the folks who do not want Hawaiian independence, wants to stay now and forever, a part of the United States. At most, they can go along with a degree of reparation – ala the Native Alaskan Settlement Claims Act, or the Aloha bill with an attached extermination clause! They see Hawaiian rights only to the extent of Indigenous people’s rights to autonomy within a U.S. colonial regime.

As for me, I choose to use whatever tool, weapon, device, tactic, or advocacy that is appropriate to the fight for Hawaiian sovereignty. As I’ve said before, “The quest is not to walk the straight path, but to learn to walk the crooked path straight!” To the extent Federal Recognition can provide advantages which can be used to advance our education, the protection of Hawaiian trusts, loan programs, etc., I say use those advantages. To the extent Federal Recognition will give greater assurance to the protection of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, to the protection of the Hawaiian Homestead programs, to the protection of and recovery of Native Hawaiian burial and other sacred sites, to the protection and practice of our traditional religious forms, to secure the perpetuation of our environment, I believe we should champion those provisions.

Any time any program within Federal Recognition calls for the extinguishment of our right to self-determination or any other right established in international law, we should fight against it and always stand firm that any declaration of such extinguishment made by the colonial administration is legally and morally invalid. We need not wait to see that call for extinguishment when Federal Recognition comes into effect. Even today, without Federal Recognition, the State and Federal government’s agents carry on a pretense that we must accept extinguishment of our National claims in order to work within the U.S. systems. We need to be vigilant to those attempts and stop it in its tracts.

An example of this practice was employed against me by Federal Judge Sam King who insisted that I could not practice law in the Federal Court if I refuse to say I was a U.S. citizen. He found me in contempt of court. I challenged that determination and the result is that I continue to be authorized to practice law in all the Federal and State courts in Hawaii, without having to declare U.S. citizenship. There are many other examples of such tactics to erase our identity as Hawaiian nationals. Many of our public schools continue to practice the morning American pledge of allegiance as part of the school day. My daughter, when in the 1st grade at Wai`anae, told her teacher she would not join in because the American government stole the Hawaiian nation from our Queen. The next day, a boy in her class said that if Pua`Ena need not say that pledge, he was not going to say it as well. Within a month, the full class refused to join in that pledge. Our vigilance in protecting our national identity must be a constant alert, regardless of whether Federal Recognition is accorded us by the U.S. government.

Progress has been made. You may recall the State/OHA attempt to call a Native Hawaiian Convention, sometimes called the Na`i Aupuni convention in 2016. Three significant things occurred there. 1 – the State/OHA did not require one be a U.S. citizen in order to be nominated or vote for delegate in that election process. 2 – the U.S. government’s Department of the Interior changed course in its final rule, dropping the requirement that a member of a Federally Recognized Hawaiian nation must be a U.S. citizen! 3 – the members of that congregation agreed that we should continue to strive for our full rights of self-determination as understood in international law! The failures of that gathering were numerous but let us not also observe those positive aspects of that aha. (My full evaluation is scheduled to be published soon.)

Hawaiian Independence and Federal Recognition contain numerous common attributes. We need to see the potential for both pathways to unite our people as we continue to strive to bring about our sovereignty. A nation divided against itself cannot stand.

A hui hou. Poka Laenui

Ke Aupuni Update – May 9, 2020

In our last update, we pointed out a stark contrast in styles of governance… how we expect the soon-to-be restored Hawaiian Kingdom to operate differently from the current US/State of Hawaii, by using Kapu Aloha… treating everyone with respect and aloha …even if we do not agree with them.

When Gov. Ige visited the Mauna Kea puʻuhonua last July, all the news media reported on how he was received by the kupuna and the kiaʻi. Hawaii News Now said: “The governor received a remarkably warm welcome ― with lei, chants and embraces … in his first visit to the TMT protest.” It was essentially the same in all the news accounts as well as the live-streamed and eye-witness postings.

In spite of the fact that the two “sides” were diametrically opposed on the TMT project, Kapu Aloha prevailed and was maintained by the kiaʻi all the way to the successful suspension of the TMT project and the noa (ending, putting to rest) of the puʻuhonua.

This was the peaceful and orderly narrative at the ʻofficialʻ levels — government, developers, protectors, community, media.

But in the arena of public opinion, it was harsh… and some people — on both sides — got completely out of hand… especially on social media… making accusations, recriminations and threats. Definitely not Kapu Aloha.

This is the area that really requires our personal, individual attention. Each of us in the nation, if we are to be a lāhui that governs with Kapu Aloha, we have to be people who strive to live by Kapu Aloha… personally… and in a culture that upholds Kapu Aloha.

The current crisis over the coronavirus has caused Gov. Ige to adopt draconian measures, shutting down practically everything. Even those that donʻt present any health hazard. Everyone his hurting. It is already an economic disaster. Those demonstrating for re-opening certain activities and businesses are being arrested and villified in social media. (Sound familiar?). This crisis is an opportune to take Kapu Aloha to the next step… making it personal in your own life and putting it into practice!

This crisis will pass, but what will be on the other end? What kind of a people will we be? What kind of a nation will we model? If not one showing Kapu Aloha, then it will be pohō, a wasted opportunity.

It is the amazing power of Kapu Aloha that will carry us through the rebirthing and rebuilding of our nation. Eō!

Year of the Hawaiian Kingdom

If you are (or if you know of someone who is) interested in being a facilitator for any aspect of the Year of the Hawaiian Kingdom Celebration, please contact: info@HawaiianKingdom.net

The campaign to Free Hawaii continues to grow … as soon as this pandemic subsides, we expect significant movement in gaining support from the global community. Your kokua is vital to this effort…
Your kōkua, large or small, is much appreciated will help greatly to move this work forward.

To contribute, go to https://GoFundMe.com/FreeHawaii

To contribute in other ways (airline miles, travel vouchers, clerical help, etc…) email us at info@HawaiianKingdom.net

Check out the great FREE HAWAII products you can purchase at…http://www.robkajiwara.com/store/c8/Support_Human_Rights.html

All proceeds go to help the cause.
Mahalo Nui Loa!
Malama Pono,
Leon Siu
Hawaiian National