Musician was key to old-style revival
By John Berger
Nedward “Nicky Boy” Kaapana, fraternal twin brother of slack-key master Ledward Kaapana, died April 3 in Honolulu. He was 66.
Ledward Kaapana announced his brother’s death on Facebook.
“It is a sad time for me since I’m on tour and far away from my family,” Kaapana wrote. “I just want all my ohana be strong and support each other. It is sad when you lose someone in the family … RIP brother Ned. Mahalo Ke Akua God is love.”
The twin brothers spent their early years on Hawaii island apart. Nedward Kaapana was raised by their grandfather in Pahala. Ledward Kaapana grew up with their parents in Kalapana. They worked together as professional musicians in their midteens and played at the Islander Inn in Hilo and at the Kona Inn Hotel. They also lived for a while in California and played music with their cousin Kalei Kaluna in Los Angeles.
Back in Hawaii the brothers teamed up with another cousin, Dennis Pavao, and a new trio jelled. They called it Hui ‘Ohana (“Family Group”). Hui ‘Ohana spent several years working in Waikiki and recorded seven albums between 1972 and 1977. Hui ‘Ohana broke up in 1978 but reunited for a series of concerts and two additional albums in 1987.
Lea Uehara, a record company executive and Hoku Award-winning record producer, described Nedward Kaapana as “the quintessential Hawaiian musician.”
“In its heyday Hui ‘Ohana was in the vanguard of the revival of old-style Hawaiian music. Ned’s steady and distinctive bass line and his soulful baritone was integral to Hui ‘Ohana’s music, as was Dennis’ falsetto and Led’s guitar. He was largely missing from the music scene in recent years, but our memories and his musical contributions live on.”
Kaapana released a solo album in 1996 and an album with his oldest brother, George “Keoki” Kaapana Jr., in 2002. Nedward Kaapana played bass with Hui Ohana and played guitar and ukulele as well on his solo albums.
Slack-key guitarist Makana recalled him as “one of the Hawaiian music greats.”
“Mahalo for your unique, crazy finger style that always made for fun listening. I’ll always remember you with joy and gratitude.”
Dennis Pavao died in 2002.
Hui ‘Ohana received the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 for the group’s achievements between 1972 and 1978, and for their 1987 reunion.
In addition to brother Ledward, Nedward is survived by wife Lianna Kaapana, son Kalae Kaapana and sisters Lei Kaapana Aken, Lehua Kaapana Nash, Trudy Kaapana Kuilipule and Rhoda Kaapana Kekona.
George Kaapana, two other brothers and another sister predeceased him.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.