Henry Kapono Ka’aihue made a major contribution to the evolution of contemporary Hawaiian music in 2006 with his Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning album, "The Wild Hawaiian." He presented the music in concert at the Hawaii Theatre that year, then released a DVD album documenting the concert.
His new Hilton Hawaiian Village show is a variation on that groundbreaking Hawaii Theatre show—Hawaiian-language music performed as contemporary rock, with slam poet Kealoha as a featured guest. It’s a gamble in comparison with most tourist-oriented fare, but that makes the show an important step forward for the visitor industry as well as Henry Kapono.
Kapono is an articulate cultural ambassador. He explains early into the show that although he is 100 percent native Hawaiian, he is also a contemporary recording artist who has decided to play Hawaiian music but to play it in his own contemporary style.
‘THE WILD HAWAIIAN EXPERIENCE’
Featuring Henry Kapono
Where: Hilton Hawaiian Village, 2005 Kalia Road
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturdays
Cost: $20 and $35; $8 validated parking available
Info: 947-7877, hiltonhawaiianvillage.com/wild
He does an excellent job introducing each selection—"Na Ali’i," "He’eia" and "Hi’ilawe," to name three. He explains the general meaning of the lyrics and also reveals why they are personally important to him. All of this information is important when entertaining visitors and new residents who don’t speak Hawaiian, and who may be hearing the songs for the first time.
Diplomat that Kapono is, there’s nothing in his introduction to "The Queen’s Prayer" that would make visitors uncomfortable or visitor industry executives nervous. Moreover, in talking about some of his family experiences, Kapono describes relationships that transcend cultural barriers.
Two veterans of the 2006 Hawaii Theatre concert, Lopaka Colon (percussion) and Jonathan Hawes (electric bass), are joined by Ethan Capone (keyboards) and Konrad Kendrick (drums) in performing as the Wild Hawaiian Experience Orchestra. The quartet gives Kapono solid support throughout.
The audience watches the "wild Hawaiians" from the far side of the pond-sized hotel pool. The only close-up experiences occur when a torch-bearer jogs through the crowd before the show, and then when two Chinese lions make their way through the audience en route to the finale.
A pair of wahine dancers on several numbers provides a taste of the choreography seen in the Hawaii Theatre concert.
Other elements of the show have nothing to do with Kapono’s "Wild Hawaiian" concept. Adding a fire knife dancer works only because it gives visitors something they’ve come to expect to see in "Hawaiian" shows, but grafting lion dancers and taiko drummers on to the concept is a bit too much.
Kapono and his musicians, Kealoha and the two wahine dancers are all that’s needed to tell the story—and pahu drums would be a much better choice for a "Wild Hawaiian" percussion segment.
With a minimum $20 cover, $8 for parking and Waikiki resort prices for drinks, the show seems aimed at adventurous hotel guests already on property who are ready to experience Kapono’s vision of contemporary Hawaiian music. They won’t be disappointed.
Residents who are open to Kapono’s concept of Hawaiian-language rock should consider the show when entertaining out-of-town guests. It is unlike anything previously presented for visitors in Waikiki—and, hopefully, not too far ahead of what the visitor market is ready for.