7 of Hawaii's Best Musicians

The entertainment scene is palpable, thanks to a group of musicians who are committed to keeping the island sound thriving. Here are some of our favorites.

However evocative, Hawaiian music can still be mystifying to the uninitiated ear. Yet it resonates around the world. Today’s artists—from Henry "The Wild Hawaiian" Kapono and Kawika Kahiapo to Taimane Gardner and Paula Fuga—credit their predecessors for perpetuating Hawaiian music tradition.

“Hawaiian music is my culture and the soul of the Islands,” said Kapono, who plays on Sundays at Duke's Waikiki. “Hawaiian music today is inspired by the masters and carried forward by a new generation of talented young artists.”

Hawaiian singer on a stool

Jake Shimabukuro

With all the fame and fortune that the ukulele has brought him, Shimabukuro quips that he literally and figuratively "picked" a good instrument. The ukulele has gained much more street cred and moved light years away from Tiny Tim tiptoeing through the tulips, thanks to the Honolulu native.

"I think, though, I've just scratched the tip of the surface with the ukulele," he said "It's a young instrument in terms of exposure but it's old in age, dating back to the late 1800s; it has tons of room to grow and so much potential."

Taimane Gardner

Taimane translates to diamond in Samoan and perfectly reflects the different facets of this musician's nature. Whether delicately finger-picking through Bach or radically ripping through Led Zeppelin, Gardner has the ability to morph genres—from classical to rock to Flamenco.

Woman on ground holding an instrument

The Brothers Cazimero

A trip to Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without hearing “Home on the Islands” by renowned musicians—The Brothers Cazimero. With Robert on bass and Roland on 12-string guitar, the Cazimeros continue the legacy of contemporary Hawaiian music. They are consummate performers who have attained a level of success unrivaled by any artist.

Brittni Paiva

She picked up her first ukulele when she was 11 years old and has been strumming to success ever since. In Paiva’s hands, the ukulele moves from slow to rapid-fire, jazz to pop and Latin to world beat.

Willie K.

"Uncle Willie K." has been deemed the Hawaiian Jimi Hendrix for his tenacity on stage and extensive influence on contemporary Hawaiian music. Anyone who has heard him live can attest that he’s the chameleon of Hawaii, with a vocal repertoire of blues, jazz, reggae, rock ’n’ roll, country, Hawaiian and even opera.

Man on chair with guitar

Makana

An avante-garde composer known for taking slack-key to the next level, this Oahu native combines jazz, rock, classical, folk, bluegrass and Hawaiian sounds and presents a new genre: slack rock. His remarkable skills on the guitar and personable demeanor have led him to contribute to two Grammy-nominated albums and a stage in front of former President Barack Obama at the White House in 2009.

Paula Fuga

Powerful vocals, meaningful lyrics and lilting melodies have earned Fuga widespread critical praise. She is a musician on a mission to help share the Hawaiian culture, spreading the thoughtful and evocative voice of the Hawaiian people across the world. 

Woman sitting on rocks