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Lifestyle // Old Friends
Nicole Kato

Dennis Kamakahi

Photo from Dennis Kamakahi

Although the holiday busyness has died down, Grammy- and Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winner Dennis Kamakahi is still keeping busy.

Since being featured on the cover of MidWeek March 7, 2001, Kamakahi has been taking the stage at performing arts centers, music festivals and concerts around the nation, as well as in Canada.

And if he’s not performing, he’s recording and teaching music classes.

“I have now been a full-time professional musician in the Hawaiian music field for 45 years,” says Kamakahi, who worked on the movie soundtrack for The Descendants, which was nominated for a 2013 Grammy Award.

He also has three Grammy-winning CDs, produced two records that won Na Hoku Hanohano awards and has worked on Disney Studio’s Lilo and Stitch II soundtrack with his son David.

“Music has always been my profession and has given me the opportunity to play Hawaiian music all over the U.S., Canada and Japan,” Kamakahi explains. “I haven’t been to Europe yet, but working on it.”

Although the performing aspect of music is exciting, Kamakahi finds that teaching is the most-satisfying, and he enjoys seeing his students excel.

In addition to his music career, Kamakahi became a grandparent in 2009 with the birth of his granddaughter Michele, and again in 2011 with the birth of Ariana, whom Kamakahi and wife Robin adopted.

“Being a grandfather is most satisfying – watching both grandchildren grow and to know that you can never love them enough,” he says.

Kamakahi wanted to continue the Hawaiian practice of hanai, as he was adopted by his grandfather, David Nao’o Kamakahi, who taught him the Hawaiian language, culture and family roots in Molokai.

He wants to pass down the knowledge he received as a child to his grandchildren in the hope they will carry it on to their own mo’opuna (grandchildren) one day.

“Ariana is the daughter of my daughter Marlene. She has brought my wife and I renewed life,” he says.

This means he had to learn how to change diapers again, but says he now has the experience of more than 32 years of being a wiser father.

He’s still playing music today, but with a big difference.

“Now, at my age, I can pick the performances,” Kamakahi says. “If I feel like taking a month off, I take a month off. No more six nights a week playing in nightclubs or restaurants.

“I only do concerts, no casual gigs. I like it that way.”

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