Willie Kahaiali‘i, the prolific 57-year-old Maui entertainer known as Willie K, has been diagnosed with lung cancer and will curtail his performance schedule on Oahu and the Valley Isle.
“I’m optimistic that we will beat this and be back on stage in no time,” said Kahaiali‘i in a statement today from Maui Tribe, his production company.
Kahaiali‘i will perform Sunday as scheduled at a free Maui Arts & Cultural Center Super Bowl LII party at 1:30 p.m., headlining both the pre- and post-game celebration around the contest between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.
The statement said Kahaiali‘i has completed the first of four rounds of chemotherapy, which is expected to continue over the course of 12 weeks.
Willie K, who can easily belt out an operatic aria alongside reggae, Hawaiian music and funky blues, is a sought-after trouper because of his versatility. He is known for a number of hits, including “Katchi Katchi Music Makawao,” “You Kuuipo,” “My Molokai Woman” and as well as his seasonal favorite, “O Holy Night.” He has performed with a bevy of international stars such as Prince, Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Willie Nelson and Carlos Santana, and has participated in numerous shows for nonprofit organizations.
Colleagues indicated that offstage at the Blue Note Hawaii in Waikiki, Kahaiali‘i had expressed weariness in recent weeks, prior to the cancer diagnosis. His monthly shows at the music club have been sellouts.
Amy Hanaiali‘i, his former partner in song, has agreed to fill in for the next Blue Note slots, Feb. 20 and March 20, according to Cha Thompson, who is a Hawaii talent booker for the club in the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. Thompson also will help plan an Oahu fund-raiser for Kahaiali‘i to help defray anticipated medical costs. A date and roster of supporting entertainers will be announced later.