I first met singer/composer Henry Kapono at the Polynesian Palace after the release party for his album, Spirit Dancer. We were to work together on several interactive multimedia projects, and I was being introduced to him for the first time. We talked a little about my world: computer software, multimedia, bits, and bytes. Kapono was immediately interested.
I was then, and I am now, struck by his relaxed spirit, his willingness to stop what he is doing and actually make time for someone. Even in our first meeting, I realized that the man combines a soft-spoken, gentle spirit with a heart relentlessly in search of innovation; something new, something that communicates timeless messages on new levels, new interfaces and new ways of touching his audience.
It’s no surprise, then, that Kapono has sold more records and performed for more fans in live concerts over the past 20-something years that any other performer in Hawai’i. His music touches people from an unusually broad range of lifestyles, age groups, and backgrounds.
Kapono grew up in Kapahulu, a neighborhood located right outside Waikiki. “We had a lot of friends, played football in the streets, went surfing all the time” he recalled fondly. “We didn’t get out to the country much unless I went with my parents.”
Although he had dreams of playing professional football, Kapono’s gift for music was too obvious to be ignored. “I was just playing and having a good time,” he said. “Then some of my friends started saying, ‘Man, get a job! You can do this for money!’ So it was really my friends who discovered my talent.”
No wonder, then, of all the songs he has written and recorded, one has an especially personal theme for Kapono: “I think my anthem song is ‘Friends’,” he said. “I value my friends, and that’s why that song was written. I think friendship is very important.”
I recently caught up with Kapono and asked him about his music, his career, and his life. “I see it evolving,” he said, “into a one-world idea or formula that incorporates the rhythms of the world, that incorporates the concept of a one-world culture.”
“It’s a big dream,” he said with a smile, “but somebody’s got to do it.”