Ledward Kaapana: slack key, Hawaiian guitar, open tunings, guitar duets, ukulele
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Ledward Kaapana

The year 2002 marks Ledward Kaapana's thirty-ninth year as a professional musician. In that time, Led's hard work and easy-going attitude have made him one of Hawaii's most beloved traditional musicians. Born in 1948, Led numbers among the top musical artists in Hawaii and, increasingly, on the world circuit. A master of ki ho'alu (slack key guitar), Led is also accomplished on 'ukulele, autoharp, bass, and steel guitar. His baritone and traditional leo ki'eki'e (falsetto) singing is as remarkable, and he blends his virtuosity with an infectious joy for performing, a generous spirit, and a kolohe (rascally) sense of humor.

Led grew up in the remote village of Kalapana on the Big Island of Hawaii, and was surrounded by music in his daily life. "You could go to any house and everyone was playing music," he recalls. "We didn't have electricity, no television, not even much radio," he says, "So we entertained ourselves. You could go to any house and everybody was playing music. Even today when I play, I picture all the 'ohanas (families) getting together and sharing their songs and their aloha."

Like most Hawaiian musicians, Led learned to play at a young age, by watching, listening, and imitating. Encouraged by his kupuna (elders) and disciplined about practicing, he developed a seemingly inexhaustible ability to improvise. As he sees it, the best improvisation is based on two things: the song itself and the mood of the moment, which changes each time you play the song. "Everything you play, every time you play, has a mood, an energy. If you plug into it, the music just flows. Even in a simple song, there are so many different ways to play the melody, the rhythm, the harmony. It never stops if you stay open to it"

At age fourteen, Led began to play professionally with his mother, Tina Kaapana, and his uncle, the legendary slack key master Fred Punahoa. Despite his hometown's isolation, he also absorbed outside influences. "I've always listened to country, jazz, Latin music, even rock and roll. Sometimes back in Kalapana, I'd sneak a little "Pipeline" or "Walk Don't Run" into the Hawaiian music. My dad would say 'Hey, that's not slack key.' But nobody ever stopped me. They just said to play what you feel and play with aloha."

He relocated to Oahu several years later with his twin brother Nedward and his cousin Dennis Pavao as the popular trio Hui 'Ohana. Through fourteen best-selling albums and countless live appearances, they proudly maintained Kalapana's musical traditions. After they disbanded, Led stayed with the trio format, creating I Kona, who have released six albums to date. He has also shared his talents with a variety of other top Hawaiian performers, including Aunty Genoa Keawe, Uncle Joe Keawe, David Chun, Barney Isaacs, The Hoopii Brothers, Melveen Leed, the Pahinui Brothers, and others.

Led began recording with Dancing Cat Records in 1991. His first album, LED LIVE, was released in 1994. In 1996, Dancing Cat released KIKA KILA MEETS KI HO'ALU, Led and Bob's groundbreaking first duet album, followed by WALTZ OF THE WIND (1998) and BLACK SAND (2000). In 2001, Bob and Led released their second duet album, IN THE SADDLE, on Dancing Cat Records.

Through his thirty-eight years as a professional, Led has steadfastly maintained his family traditions and the aloha for the music that first inspired him to pick up an instrument. He has been richly rewarded for his loyalty. He comments, "It all goes back to the 'ohana. My mom and dad, Uncle Fred, all the musicians back home in Kalapana. They shared the music with me and I've been lucky enough for share it with others all around the world."

Link to info for CD: IN THE SADDLE
Bob and Ledward Kaapana

Link to info about Kika Kila Meets Ki Ho'alu
Bob Brozman and Ledward Kaapana

Link to video info: Ledward and Bob in Concert
Ledward Kaapana and Bob Brozman


More about Bob's work in Hawaii, Led's birthplace

More about IN THE SADDLE, Bob and Led's most recent CD

More about KIKA KILA MEETS KI HO'ALU, Bob and Led's 1st CD

More about LED KAPAANA & BOB BROZMAN IN CONCERT, Bob and Led's In-Concert video

More about Cyril Pahinui, also from Hawaii

More about the Tau Moe Family, also from Hawaii