Musician, composer Peter Moon dies at 73

Moon led renaissance of Hawaiian music

Iconic musician and composer Peter Moon passed away Feb. 17 at the age of 73, his company Kanikapila Records announced Sunday. Moon pushed the creative boundaries of contemporary Hawaiian music throughout his career and helped fuel the renaissance of Hawaiian music in the 1970s. FRANK ISAHARA photo

The Maui News

Musical artist and composer Peter Moon, who helped inspire a renaissance of Hawaiian music in the 1970s, died Feb. 17 at the age of 73.

Kanikapila Records, the company Moon formed in 1982, announced his passing Sunday. The company said a private funeral service has already been held by the family. Moon had not performed or been in the public eye since 2005.

A mix of Korean and Chinese ancestry, Moon was born in Honolulu on Aug. 25, 1944, to Wook Moon and Shay Young Zen. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1962 and from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1968.

Growing up, Moon loved music and would put classical music on the turntable while taking naps. He was naturally gifted with the ukulele and slack key guitar, learning to play both by ear. He started recording in the late 1960s with Palani Vaughan, and would later perform with Robert and Roland Cazimero as part of Sunday Manoa. The group’s albums “Guava Jam,” “Cracked Seed” and “The Sunday Manoa 3,” earned critical acclaim as examples of contemporary Hawaiian music.

In 1970, the 26-year-old Moon and Ron Rocha launched Kanikapila, a Hawaiian music concert at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Kanikapila showcased Hawaiian music, dance and culture, and Moon aimed to draw younger audiences to embrace contemporary Hawaiian music. It grew into the premier Hawaiian music concert of its time and was held annually through 1995.

Moon started performing as the Peter Moon Band in the latter half of the 1970s. The group released its debut album, “Tropical Storm,” in 1979. The album won five Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, including “Album of the Year” and “Group of the Year.”

The Peter Moon Band infused elements of rock, reggae, swing, jazz and Latin music in a string of albums through the mid-1990s.

During the first two decades of his career, Moon was a popular performer in Waikiki and the Neighbor Islands, and he frequently toured the West Coast. In the 1990s, he started touring Japan regularly. He began teaching ukulele and slack key guitar in the early 2000s before stepping out of the limelight.

Moon’s recordings earned nearly two-dozen Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. After “Tropical Storm” brought home five awards in 1980, “Cane Fire” followed with seven more in 1983. In 2004, Moon was the recipient of the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. He was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

Moon is survived by his son, Peter W.K. Moon, and extended family members.