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Kalani Pe‘a: ‘We’re in dire need of help’

Henry Kapono and Stef Mariani set up programs to aid Hawaii musicians

Kalani Pe‘a

Struggling to navigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Maui musician Kalani Pe’a spoke for many Native Hawaiian artists when he said Tuesday that “we’re in dire need of help.”

“We native artists who are full-time entrepreneurs and small business owners need help,” he said. “You don’t need a ‘commercial store front’ business to be considered a small business. Where is our government on this? Where is our government’s help during this crisis? Where is our Hawaii Democratic Party on assisting native artists in Hawaii?”

The Grammy and Hoku winner explained that he has been getting some financial help from outside the state.

“I’m just trying to survive as a two-time Grammy Award-winning, touring full-time musician,” Pe’a said. “I have been getting grants and support for my music endeavors and help to pay my bills since I lost every show/tour this year, immediately after my sold-out Lincoln Center concert on Feb. 27.

“I get support mostly from heavy Democratic states, and support from foundations and coalition partners in performing arts in California, Colorado, New York, Oregon, and Washington. And South Dakota helps out too. There are hundreds of organizations on the continental USA that support artists like myself and provide relief for us cultural bearers.”

HENRY KAPONO, Foundation offered help

Currently working on his third album, Pe’a feels disappointed about the lack of help available for artists from official Hawaii organizations.

“I expect more Hawaii coalition partners and foundations coming together to help full-time artists and cultural bearers, like OHA (Office of Hawaiian Affairs), the Hawaii Tourism Authority, MEO, OED (Maui County Office of Economic Development), etc.,” he said. “Our government is so focused on tourism when we need the help, when we the artists are the culture, identity and heartbeat of Hawaii, and truly what people around the world expect to see when they visit my homeland.”

He said he is grateful for help he has received in Hawaii from the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s Kahiau Community Assistance Program, the Henry Kapono Foundation, the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts, and the PA’I Foundation.

Pe’a is also looking to assist others.

“I want to help people who are in the same boat,” Pe’a said. “I just assisted Maui Coffee Attic and recommended them to apply for the Maui County Small Business Fund. We need to thrive and help each other during this crisis. If foundations across America are assisting Native Hawaiians, where’s the support in Hawaii?”

For grant opportunities available for artists, musicians and others, he suggested contacting HakuHawaii.com or finding information on his website at kalanipeamusic.com.

The pandemic’s impact on musicians in Hawaii prompted Henry Kapono and former Maui musician Stef Mariani to offer help. Through his Henry Kapono Foundation, Kapono set up the “We Are Friends . . . Covid19 Relief Program for Hawaii’s Music Community,” and Mariani launched the “Save Our Artists” initiative through her Stay Gold Hawaii foundation.

Introduced April 1, Kapono reported the “We Are Friends” program assisted around 400 musicians. It closed on Sept. 1, while Mariani’s initiative is continuing.

A Hoku Award winner in 2018 for her “Stay Gold” album, which was composed on Maui, Mariani set up “Save Our Artists” to support musicians and their families who are struggling to find work due to the pandemic. Participants who qualify for funding are tasked with mentoring members of the community through an educational process designed to further develop their innate gifts.

“I am excited to share this program which will not only help musicians in crisis, but it will add value to the community as well,” said Mariani, whose latest album “Highway of Love” is being considered for a Grammy nomination. “Musicians have been mentoring people their whole lives and now we are going a step further and organizing the operation.”

Current and active mentors of the initiative include reggae musician Bruddah Waltah, hip-hop artist Tantra Grillo, drummer Emily Kraus, and Mariani herself.

“It relieved a lot of personal financial burden from us,” Bruddah Waltah told KHON TV. “It came just in time because we were really struggling.”

More information about “Save Our Artists” is available at StayGoldHawaii.com.

Kapono said his “We Are Friends” program raised almost $200,000.

“We put out $500 Foodland gift cards,” he said. “We knew if I was in trouble everybody was in trouble so we started raising money. It was a feel good thing.”

On his Facebook page, Kapono has been posting daily virtue words, like “dignity,” “enthusiasm” and “hope,” and uplifting “Positive World” videos.

“It’s putting positive energy out into the world,” he explained.

Kapono also has been hosting “Duke’s on Sunday” shows from his home.

“With the stay-at-home rule, we do it every Sunday from my house until we get back,” he said. “I have the full band, and we get thousands of people watching.”

Sunday’s show will celebrate the release of new Kapono music. To brighten spirits during this tough time, he will release the six-song EP “Sunny Town” on Monday.

“It’s all positive, happy stuff,” he said.

In the liner notes Kapono wrote: “These songs were written during this crazy COVID-19 pandemic time. They are full of love, hope and friendship. I wanted to go back to the basics, keeping it lean and live, no tricks, no frills . . . simple, fun and organic.”

Songs include “Little Grass Shack” (not the classic), “Beautiful Day” and a tribute to his wife, Lezlee Ka’aihue, on “You Babe.”

“During these times everybody needs a little joy in their life,” he said. “In a couple of months, I’m going to put out another six songs.”

“Sunny Town” is available for preorder at henrykapono.com.

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