Remembering Malani Bilyeu, founding member of the iconic Hawaiian band Kalapana

1970's Kalapana album cover - L to R: Mackey Feary, Malani Bilyeu, D.J. Pratt and Kirk Thompson

1970’s Kalapana album cover – L to R: Mackey Feary, Malani Bilyeu, D.J. Pratt and Kirk Thompson

Malani Bilyeu, who co-founded one of Hawaii’s top musical groups, Kalapana, has died

Aired on NPR’s Newscast,” December 28, 2018, 11pm Eastern time
By Heidi Chang

In Hawaii, music fans are mourning the loss of an artist who performed with one of the state’s iconic music bands. Singer and songwriter, Malani Bilyeu, was 69. Heidi Chang has more from Honolulu.

Listen to the story (47 seconds)

(Music from “Naturally” by Malani Bilyeu)

For years, Malani Bilyeu, performed with the group, Kalapana, creating their own style of contemporary Hawaiian music, combining soft rock, pop and jazz. Bilyeu was a Vietnam Vet when he co-founded the group in the early 70’s. While touring the U.S. Mainland and Japan, they often played hits by the singer and songwriter, including “Naturally.”

(Malani Bilyeu singing) “A natural high makes him sigh to know that he’s so free. And he’s smiling down on me.”

Bilyeu died on Thursday on the island of Kauai, where he lived. 

Bilyeu’s longtime friend and former Kalapana band member, Kimo Cornwell, who’s now based in Los Angeles, shared this remembrance on Facebook.

“I’m in shock and disbelief and just heartbroken to hear of the passing of my dear dear childhood friend, Malani Bileyu. We played in a band from middle school thru high school, then reconnected in Hawaii’s own Kalapana. The guy had a natural gift for songwriting, and a voice from heaven…he was a poet…I just can’t believe he’s gone…he was like a brother to me. I will miss him deeply…nobody like Malani. The nice thing is that he leaves behind a legacy of classic songs for generations to remember him by. Rest in Paradise brahduh, see you on the other side…Aloha Oe!!!”

A Japanese promoter took this photo of Kalapana, when they we based in Malibu, CA., for a concert tour in Japan in 1978.

Kalapana ’78 top row: Malani Bilyeu 2nd row: L to R: Alvin Fejarang, D.J. Pratt, Kimo Cornwell and Randy Aloya 1st row: L to R: Michael Paulo and Brian Davis. Photo courtesy: Kimo Cornwell

Hawaii musician Audy Kimura also reflected on the loss of Bilyeu. “Not only did Malani leave a rich musical heritage but he also inspired countless other local composers, singers and musicians by showing them what was possible.” Kimura added, “His beautiful music and voice came from a heart of gold.”

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