The future of music

25 Best Hawaiian Musicians of All Time (Most Famous)

December 11, 2023
best hawaiian musicians

I’ve selected the best Hawaiian musicians of all time, artists who have beautifully captured and shared the essence of Hawaii’s rich musical heritage.

This article is a journey through the melodies and rhythms that define the Aloha State’s unique and enchanting sound.

Top Hawaiian musicians of all time

  • Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
  • Keali’i Reichel
  • Jake Shimabukuro
  • Ledward Kaapana
  • Don Ho
  • Anuhea
  • The Brothers Cazimero
  • Jack Johnson
  • Kalani Pe’a
  • Kuana Torres Kahele

1. Israel Kamakawiwoʻole

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole is a singer and activist who also goes by the stage name IZ.

He is one of the most famous Hawaiian musicians ever, and has been coined “The voice of Hawaii”.

His recording “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” has over a billion views on YouTube and is his most well-known song.

It topped charts in various different countries and has since been certified double platinum.

2. Keali’i Reichel

Carleton Lewis Kealiʻinaniaimokuokalani Reichel, better known as Keali’i Reichel, is a popular Hawaiian singer, songwriter, and personality.

He has eight studio albums, and each proved very successful around the world.

He has won twenty-nine Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, including Favourite Entertainer of the Year in 1995, 1996, 2000, 2007, and 2015.

3. Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro is a ukulele star from Hawaii and is thought to be one of the best players of all time.

His career took off when he recorded the soundtracks for two Japanese films.

He is the recipient of countless awards, including Favorite Entertainer of the Year multiple times and Best Album of the Year. 

4. Ledward Kaapana

Ledward Kaapana is a talented Hawaiian musician who plays steel guitar, bass guitar, and ukulele.

He has won numerous awards and also holds four Grammy Awards nominations in the Best Hawaiian Music Album category.

He comes from a family of greats, with his uncle and cousin also being famous Hawaiian musicians.

5. Don Ho

Donald Tai Loy Ho, who goes by the stage name Don Ho, was a Hawaiian musician in the genres of Traditional pop and Hawaiian music.

He is best known for “Tiny Bubbles”, a 1966 hit single that is considered his signature song.

“Tiny Bubbles” has been covered around 34 times, as well as being used extensively in TV and media.

It reached number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 14 on the Easy Listening charts.

6. Anuhea

Rylee Anuheakeʻalaokalokelani Jenkins, known simply as Anuhea, is a Hawaiian musician, singer, and songwriter.

She’s also the second runner-up and Miss Congeniality in the 2006 Miss Maui Pagaent.

Her self-titled debut studio album was released in 2009 and caused her initial rise to fame, followed by five other studio albums.

She grew up in a musical family, with her Aunt being a member of Hawaii’s most successful female group, Na Leo Pilimehana.

7. The Brothers Cazimero

The Brothers Cazimero were a musical duo from Hawaii, comprised of brothers Robert Cazimero and Roland Cazimero.

They were inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 2006, and have received numerous awards.

They were nominated for Grammy Award in 2005 for Best Hawaiian Music Album for their work Some Call It Aloha…Don’t Tell.

They have received twenty-five other awards as a duo, and have each received soloist awards too.

8. Jack Johnson

Jack Hody Johnson is a former professional surfer who broke into the music scene.

He quickly became very popular, topping the New Zealand charts with five of his studio albums.

Four of his albums have been certified quadruple platinum!

His most popular album is In Between Dreams, which topped the Australian, British, and New Zealand charts.

Johnson also has lots of successful singles, including his most recent hit “One Step Ahead” which topped the Australian charts.

9. Kalani Pe’a

Kalana Pe’a is a critically claimed Hawaiian musician and the winner of three Grammy Awards!

He won the Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Music Album for his albums E Walea, No ‘Ane’i, and Kau Ka Pe’a in 2017, 2019, and 2022 respectively.

He also has two singles, “Kanakaloka” and “O Holy Night”, which both proved successful and won him further awards.

Pe’a is well known for being an educator and avid charity worker.

10. Kuana Torres Kahele

Kuana Torres Kahele is a Hawaiian musician who shot to fame upon the release of his debut studio album Kaunaloa, which reached number two on the Top World Album Chart.

He has since released twelve other studio albums.

In 1995 he helped to start up the music group Nā Palapalai, which went on to win lots of awards including Group of the Year.

Kahele also broke into the acting scene, becoming a voice actor in Pixar’s animated short film Lava.

11. Taimane Gardner

Taimane Tauiliili Bobby Gardner is a Hawaiian composer and ukulele player.

She has released a total of six studio albums, earning her a few awards and nominations.

In 2019 she was named Favorite Entertainer of the Year at the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards.

Her career took off when she was just thirteen years old after being discovered by Don Ho when she was studying at Roy Sakuma’s ukulele school.

She even earned herself a place on the Top 10 Ukulele Moments list in Guitar World Magazine.

12. Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars is a Hawaiian musician who has become a legend around the world.

His three studio albums each got certified 3x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, with his debut Doo-Wops & Hooligans being awarded 7x platinum.

With 180 award wins and 484 nominations, he is untouchable as the most famous Hawaiian musician.

He has fourteen Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Record of the Year, among others.

See also: Best-Selling Music Artists of All Time

13. Yvonne Elliman

Yvonne Elliman is a talented Hawaiian musician who also performed in stage musicals.

She has released seven studio albums, with 1978’s Night Flight being the most popular.

It charted at number 40, 88, and 39 in the US, Australia, and Canada charts respectively.

Elliman also has numerous number-one singles, including “Hello Stranger” from the album Love Me and “If I Can’t Have You” from Yvonne.

14. Amy Hãnaiali’i Gilliom

Amy Hānaialiʻi Gilliom is a respected Hawaiian musician who is known for reinstating the traditional female falsetto singing in Hawaii.

She has been nominated for six Grammy awards.

She won four Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards for her album Generation Hawaii.

She teamed up with Willie K. in 2013 to perform “Imagine” at the signing of the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act and later October 15th became Amy Hanaialiʻi and Willie K. Day in Hawaii.

15. Bette Midler

Bette Midler is a Hawaiian superstar singer, songwriter, and actor.

She has fourteen studio albums, with her most popular being Some People’s Lives which was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

She holds three Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist in 1974, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “The Rose” in 1981, and Record of the Year for “Wind Beneath My Wings” in 1990.

She has 34 other award wins in various countries worldwide.

16. Paula Fuga

Paula Fuga is a Hawaiian musician, famous for her singing and songwriting in the music genres of Hawaiian, reggae, pop, and folk.

She has two studio albums, Lilikoi and Rain on Sunday, released in 2006 and 2021 respectively.

Her most successful single was “If Ever” with Jack Johnson featuring Ben Harper, from the album Rain on Sunday.

The single charted at number 24 on the US Adult Alternative Airplay chart and number 40 on the official New Zealand Music Chart.

17. John Cruz

John Cruz is a Hawaiian musician who performs in the genres of Hawaiian, blues, folk, and R&B.

He is the winner of multiple Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards and also contributed to the Grammy Award-winning album Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2.

His album Acoustic Soul has become one of the best-selling Hawaiian albums of all time, and he has earned over one million yearly listeners on Spotify.

18. Makana

Matthew Swalinkavich, better known by the stage name Makana, became well known after his slack-key guitar playing was featured on the soundtrack to the film The Descendants.

He has also been featured on three Grammy-Award-winning albums.

Makana has released seven studio albums, with his self-titled debut winning the Best World Music Album award at the Hawaii Music Awards.

19. Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu

Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu is well-known for his contributions to the film Lilo & Stitch and has released three studio albums.

His debut Poʻokela Chants was released in 1999, followed by Call It What You Like… in 2003 and TraditionaLimits in 2018.

In 2003 he founded the Academy of Hawaiian Arts, which helped him rise to fame.

20. Hapa

Barry Flanagan founded the Hawaiian band Hapa, taking on partners such as Keli’i Kanaeali’i, Nathan Aweau, and Ron Kuala’au.

They are known as the ‘sound of Maui’, and one of the most popular music acts to come from Hawaii.

Their self-titled debut studio album reached sales of over 100,000 and caused Hapa to become a household name.

Hapa soon became the best-selling CD in Hawaiian music history!

21. Fiji

George Brooks Veikoso, best known by his stage name Fiji, moved to Hawaii for his career in 1987 due to the Fijian coups d’état.

Twelve years later he won the Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Favorite Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year.

He has also won a People’s Choice Award and helped toward a Grammy Award nomination for his contribution to Island Warriors, a reggae album. 

22. Jeff Peterson

Jeff Peterson is a Hawaiian musician who is known for his slack-key guitar skills.

He was a professor at the University of Hawaii, and dedicated much of his life to teaching. 

Peterson has contributed to many popular albums, such as the Grammy-winning albums Slack Key Guitar Volume 2, Slack Key Guitar: The History of Jeff Peterson, and Maui on My Mind.

23. Rebel SoulJahz

Rebel SoulJahz is comprised of four friends who began singing in high school, and ultimately teamed up.

Michael Maglinti, Will Sua, Andrew “Bubba” Hodges, and Tunez Moananu from this reggae group, which is also heavily influenced by R&B.

Some of their most popular songs include “The One”, “Herb, Whiskey & Reggae”, “Ms. Beautiful”, “Irie Beach Party”, “Nothing To Hide”, and “Darling Angel”.

24. Charles K.L. Davis

Charles Keonaonalaulani Llewellyn Davis is a Hawaiian musician, known for being a talented opera singer.

In 2006 he was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame.

He has released twelve studio albums, teaming up with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra many times.

25. Keola Beamer

Keolamaikalani Breckenridge Beamer is a slack-key guitarist better known as Keola Beamer.

His discography is comprised of eighteen works, with his best-known being “Honolulu City Lights”.

The single won several Na Hoku Hanohano Awards and became known as one of Hawaii’s most popular songs.

Best Hawaiian Musicians of All Time – Final Thoughts

The musicians in this article have reached amazing feats in their careers, becoming known as some of the best of their time.

These are the Hawaiian musicians you should know about and are definitely worth checking out.

We hope you enjoyed reading it!

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