Tuesday, Jun 20, 2017 9:00 PM HST
(8:30 PM Doors)
Blue Note Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
When the Honolulu Pulse said, “Willie K can play or sing almost anything an American audience might ask for,” that wasn’t hype, it was the literal truth. The Hawaiian phenomenon Willie K is undoubtedly the only artist in the world who can go into an Irish pub in the middle of Maui and play anything from indigenous acoustic Hawaiian music to jazz, reggae, rock, country and even opera—and not only get away with it but leave everyone within earshot slack-jawed in astonishment. No less than Prince is a huge fan, calling Willie K a “funky mother#%@&er,” while another avowed fan is a fellow Hawaiian who goes by the name Barack Obama.
“When you come to the Willie K experience you leave knowing who Willie K really is,” says Willie K himself, and now, with Warehouse Blues—the long-awaited album that returns the Grammy nominee and winner of multiple prestigious Na Hoku Hanohano awards to his roots—those fortunate enough to bask in the glow of that experience will discover another side of this multi-talented singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and all-around riveting entertainer. “Playing the blues makes me happy,” says Willie K, “and everybody loves it when I do.”
For Willie K—born Willie Kahaialii and known affectionately as Uncle Willie in the islands—playing the blues marks the completion of a full circle. Although he has built a reputation as one of the foremost practitioners of native Hawaiian music over the years, it was the blues that Willie first learned from his dad, himself a highly respected musician. “My father was a great influence,” says Willie K. “He groomed me to be where I am today. He was just as diverse as I am—the guy knew how to play everything: jazz, blues and Hawaiian.”
Of course traditional, indigenous Hawaiian music has always been at the core of the Willie K experience too, and it’s important to him to dispel misguided notions about what exactly Hawaiian music is. When Willie K plays Hawaiian, the beauty that emerges from his instrument and his mouth is as far from the stereotypes as Maui is from the North Pole.
But no matter what kind of music he plays, it all comes out Willie K music—even when he sings opera. “Three or four years ago I decided to try out some operatic tunes, some Italian arias, just to see how the audience would take it,” he says. “And it goes over very well. You’ll never find that in any other pub throughout the country, I can guarantee you that!” he says with a hearty laugh.