Willie K

willie-kThe release of Awthilima: Reflections, in 2000, marked a return to traditional Hawaiian music by guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Willie K. (born Willie Kahaiali’i). The son of influential Hawaiian musician Manu Kahaiali’i, Willie K. had previously played an essential role in the development of contemporary Hawaiian music. Equally inspired by jazz, blues, and R&B, he had provided a modern twist to the traditional sounds of his homeland. Raised on the island of Maui, Willie K. became a musical veteran at an early age. Performing, along with his brothers, in his father’s band, at the age of ten, he played with a lengthy series of high school groups, often appearing simultaneously with as many as eight bands. Temporarily moving to San Francisco with hopes of launching a career as a musician, he returned to Maui after a few years. Although his first three albums were highly successful, receiving Na Hoku Hanohano awards (Hawaii’s equivalent of a Grammy) from the Hawaiian Academy of Recording Arts, his next two releases on the Round Island label were disappointing. Willie K. was much more successful as a producer on three albums for Amy Hanaiali’i, winning two awards as Producer of the Year and helping Hanaiali’i to win awards for Album of the Year, Best Female Vocalist, Song of the Year, and Hawaiian Album of the Year. During breaks from producing a new album for Hanaiali’i, he worked on his own Christmas album, Willie Kalikimaka. The album, which included a duet with Willie Nelsonof “Away in a Manger,” was the biggest-selling Christmas album in 1999 and topped the worldbeat charts compiled by Billboard. Willie K., who continues to perform every Monday night at Hapa’s Nightclub in Kihei, Maui, released a greatest hits retrospective, The Uncle in Me in 2000.