Na Hoku award winner Peter "Pekelo" Cosma dead at 51
March 24, 2018 | 70° | Check Traffic

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Na Hoku award winner Peter “Pekelo” Cosma dead at 51

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Peter "Pekelo" Cosma, Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning song-writer and master of Hawaiian slack key, died Wednesday at his home in Makawao, Maui. He was 51.

Cosma’s ex-wife, Robin White, told the Maui News that he died of heart failure.

Cosma won his only Hoku Award in 2007 when "Ni’ihau," co-written with Ileialoha Beniamina, won in the adjudicated Haku Mele category for the best newly written Hawaiian language composition. He received the 2011 Ki Ho’alu Foundation Legacy Award for his lifetime career contributions to the preservation and perpetuation of Hawaiian slack key in May.  

Born and raised in Hana, Cosma graduated from Hana High School and served six years in the Army. Well-known in Hana as a slack key guitarist, Pekelo was discovered by larger audiences with the release of his debut album, "Going to Hana Maui" in 1992. The "discovery" of a young Hawaiian man who played slack-key guitar and sang mostly Hawaiian-language songs at a time when some island radio stations were going 100% Jawaiian made him a welcome newcomer to Hawaii’s music scene.

However, while some hailed him as the "new Gabby (Pahinui)," Cosma never claimed to be more than a Hawaiian musician playing and singing the music he loved.

He released a second album, "Pekelo’s Maui," in 1994.

An anthology of songs from those first two albums was released in 2010. It was a finalist for Best Anthology in May but lost to "The Best of Na Palapalai."

Cosma addressed contemporary issues in 2007 with two of the songs on "Hana by the Sea," his last album of new recordings. "Na Wiliwili Eha" described how an introduced species of gall wasps was devastating indigenous wiliwili trees. "Cry for a Nation" denounced the building of "castles on the beaches" while native-Hawaiians "are left homeless and ignored."  What will happen to the Hawaiian people, he asked, "now that we’re in foreign hands?"

Cosma is survived by five children, Aron Boothe, Nicholas Cosma, Sarah Cosma, Nakama Cosma-White and Ella Cosma-White; four brothers, Patrick Cosma, Steven Cosma, Manuel Cosma and Leroy Cosma, and a sister, Maddie Halekahi.

Services are pending.

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