On Kalapana: Henry Kapono on Kalapana's beginnings and their love for the islands

Closing out our series of questions on Kalapana with local artists and musicians is venerable guitarist Henry Kapono, as interviewed by music writer Jason Black.

Henry Kapono has known the band since its inception — in fact, Henry helped put the band together. 

What is your all-time favorite Kalapana track? Why do you love it?

I like all of their music. It was of the time that we were all growing up. We all hung out together. I don’t know if you know that I put them together. The success of C&K was going so well so the people that were sponsoring us wanted to put together another group that they could have control over because we were signed to Columbia at the time. So this must have been the early 1970s around the time of the first or second C&K album. So I knew of these guys because we hung out in Waimanalo and jammed together before so when they asked me what I thought I said I know of some guys.

So the first one I turned them on to was Mackey Feary and it just so happened that DJ was playing and I was really impressed with his ability. So I said, “I think Mackey’s a good contender for this group you’re putting together.” And in the building next door, a guy came over and said, “Hey you might wanna listen to this guy. I like his music.” So we went upstairs and listened to it and immediately I went, “Yeah, this could work.” And that was Malani. I said, “I think that these guys will work out but you never know.” So I knew them except for DJ. DJ is an amazing guy who just fit right in. And they needed someone like him because of his playing.

They had a good spirit. They were fun guys. Their music represented who they were and where they came from. Their love for the islands. Their love for the people. Their love for the lifestyle. They were out living it. Basically, I think that we all influenced each other during that time.

How has Kalapana and their music influenced you as an artist? 

Ya know, we used to all hang out in Waimanalo and [the band] Country Comfort was out there. Gabby [Pahinui] and his whole family were out there...Olomana, we all hung out there together. And we all got to understand each other and we all jammed together. So we were all in the same space and the same frame of mind. We all loved being in Hawaii and being free together so it was a great opportunity for me to get these guys together because I really thought highly of their talent and their music. But I didn’t know if it could work together and it did. So I’m really proud of that.  

So the people that were handling them built a place called “The Toppe Ada Shoppe.” And it was a cool place and ya know, people were going out a lot back then. When we would play it was packed every night for eight months straight. Nowadays, I don’t even think about going out that much. But it was part of the scene. It was good times. The whole vibe of that era had a lot to do with our music and their music and all the music that was coming out of Hawaii at that time. There was a lot of creativity and music and ideas floating around. It was good and really healthy. We were having fun and I think that's what came out in our music.

Tell us your best classic Kalapana story — whether you knew the band personally, met them in person, or are just a fan of their music.

Well, we did a big concert at Aloha Stadium together [on Dec 26, 1976] and that was pretty remarkable with about 40,000 local people. That was really big for a Hawaii-based band to draw that many people. And it just continued from there. There’s also some funny stuff. C and I were staying at a house in Malibu that Bob Dylan owned. So we were all staying there and they went on their first tour. So we had them hang out with us and stay with us because it was a big place. Right down the cliff from where the house was was a naked beach. And Malani was a funny one. (laughs) He was always a character and he was there every morning with his binoculars checking out the scene. He’s crazy funny. He’s a great guy. I love all of them.

And there was also one time in Japan where we were touring together and Malani wanted to pull a prank by running in the hallway with no clothes on. So he knocked on everybody’s door and we all opened our doors to look. But somebody had closed his door so he couldn’t get back in and we all closed our doors. (laughs) Finally, he talked someone into letting him in. I guess that’s life on tour. We didn’t do anything super crazy but Malani was a crazy guy. He was fun.

Is there anything you want to add?

Ya know, they just got their rights to their recordings maybe a year or two ago. They’ve never been able to benefit from their work which is the sad part. Ya know, we don’t own our first three records either and those albums are still selling really well. And Kalapana’s albums are still selling really well. But they never got anything out of it. The only thing they got was the touring revenue. I’m glad that they finally got it and I know that they’re not here anymore but their families are. So I’m hoping that it can benefit them as well. 

Visit Henry Kapono online.

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