Bill Kaiwa — Waikiki entertainer, Hawaiian recording artist, conservator of traditional Hawaiian music — died this week in Kaneohe. He was 78 and had been in ill health for some time.
Born William Kaiwa Ani, Kaiwa grew up in Papakolea and showed his musical talent at a young age. However, at 14 he went to Kauai as the hanai son of Garden Isle rancher John T. Waterhouse. It was on Waterhouse’s Kipukai Ranch that Kaiwa acquired the skills of a Hawaiian paniolo (cowboy) and became fluent in Hawaiian — both the standard Hawaiian of the day and also the unique regional dialect spoken in some parts of Kauai.
Kaiwa broke out as a recording artist in the early ’60s when he recorded “Boy From Laupahoehoe.” The song became his musical signature and he was sometimes introduced as “the boy from Laupahoehoe,” but neither he nor his family had ties to the area.
He released what would be his last album, “Na Halia,” a collection of traditional Hawaiian songs, in 2008.
Kaiwa’s fluency and his knowledge of traditional Hawaiian music made him a valuable mentor for Hawaiian songwriters and researchers.
He also contributed to the preservation and perpetuation of traditional Hawaiian music as a judge for Richard Towill’s Ka Himeni Ana Hawaiian singing competition.
Funeral services are pending.