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Lifestyle // Old Friends
Nicole Kato

Willie K

Photo from Debbie Kahaiali‘i

Many locals know legendary singer Willie Kahaiali’i, better known as Willie K, for his soothing vocals and fantastic guitar skills.

But these days, Kahaiali’i is doing more than serenading fans around the state, although he still does that.

“I’ve been singing opera with the Hawaii Youth Symphony,” he says. “I love it and I’ve been supportive of it. It’s one of those programs that the state should continue to look into supporting, because they’re on their own now because they’re only supported by the students’ parents.”

Kahaiali’i says Hawaii Youth Symphony is a dying art that is slowly fading away, but he feels it is one program that needs to continue.

“We need this program,” says Kahaiali’i, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover June 17, 1992 and June 17, 2001. “We have so many talented kids.”

He also has had parts in two movies: You May Not Kiss The Bride and Get A Job, in which he starred. It was named Best Hawaiian Feature at the Big Island Film Festival.

Currently he’s celebrating his newest album Warehouse Blues, which features songs with a blues rock genre.

“I’ve been into rock ‘n’ roll since I could walk,” Kahaiali’i explains. “Everyone thinks I was born with Hawaiian music, but that came later in life, close to my early teens. But rock ‘n’ roll was the very first thing I listened to.

“I moved outside the koa box, playing beyond the hula skirt.”

It is evident that music runs deep in Kahaiali’i's veins, and he enjoys owning his own record company, Maui Tribe Records.

Earlier this month, May 5, the ninth annual Willie K Charity Golf Tournament took place at Kaanapali Golf Resort in Lahaina, and this tourney is one of Kahaiali’i's greatest achievements.

“I have been involved in many charities,” he says, “and this one is sold out every year. It’s so much fun. It’s not your normal charity golf tournament. You get to eat, drink and play. Just have fun.

“I’m at hole four, and I’m barbecuing ribs waiting for you to come over, take a swing at the ball, and feed and give you something to drink.”

Besides the golf tournament, Kahaiali’i recently joined the Hawaii Kidney Foundation as its spokesman.

Don’t worry, though. Despite his busy schedule, he still takes time to relax and enjoy life.

“I’ve traveled around the world,” says Kahaiali’i, who has been everywhere from China to Europe to the South Pacific and Israel. “Every culture that I visit is close to a lifestyle that I was brought up with – the ohana and aloha (aspect). It was welcoming everywhere I went.”

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