Aloha ‘oe, Malani Bilyeu

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Carl James Malani Bilyeau, performer, songwriter and founding member of the band Kalapana, passed on December 27, 2018.

Kalapana formed in 1973, and was a seminal band in contemporary Hawaiian music. Bilyeau was the pen behind such classics as “Naturally,” “You Make it Hard” and “Molokai Sweet Home.” Bilyeau and his music have touched and inspired generations of Native Hawaiians, and influenced countless musicians. Ka Wai Ola put out a call to the larger Hawaiian music ʻohana to share their manaʻo and memories, and the following are some of the tributes we received:

  • Bryan Tolentino: Kalapana, C & K, Country Comfort, Summer were a big part of my introduction to Hawaiian Contemporary music! It was a great time and beginning of an era!
  • John Feary: Since I was a kid, Kalapana has been my family, and have been my uncles all my life! The impact that these men have made in my life, has meant a lot to me, and was more than about music, because it was personal. As for Uncle Malani Bilyeu, what can I say?… He, alongside side my Uncle Mackey, wrote some of Hawaiʻi’s greatest contemporary hits of all times, and to me, these two men in what they achieved and their talents, can never be replaced or duplicated, ever again.
  • Kalani Peʻa: He kanaka hoʻokahi wale nō – ʻA’ohe lua e like ai. Malani was one of a kind. His personality was contagious and his songwriting were amazing-hit the heart. He always told me, “You are Kalani Peʻa – serve it, my brother.” It’s people like him whom I honor-people who “push the envelope” in Hawaiian and Contemporary music! His legacy lives on! His music lives on.
  • Kainani Kahaunaele: His poetry, his leo, and his unique delivery. That is the kind of magical combo that hits us all, and leaves wanting more.
  • Desiree Moana Cruz: In the early ’80s, Mackey and Malani were playing in this cool little hangout on Algaroba St. My brother, Ernie Cruz, Jr., was a huge fan of both, and really held them in awe. We would get there super early and sit in a front booth, just loving the thrill of watching and hearing these two local superstar singer/songwriters. Ernie was just starting out in his professional career. He was so humble and hopeful that they would invite him up to play on their breaks. They did, and he was over the moon happy! I always felt that this acknowledgment from these two fabulous musicians really gave him the confidence boost to keep on keeping on… I will forever be grateful to Malani and Mackey for their generosity and aloha.
  • Kevin Chang: I never met Malani. Always hoped I might. His voice was a part of the soundtrack of my youth. I would hear him on my AM radio tape deck as I delivered pizza in Kahaluʻu. On an old pocket radio in the back of someone’s house in the country. Then I had the CD. As mechanisms for music evolved, Malani’s voice followed with me, as he did for so many others he never met but touched. His voice and poetic sensibility uplifted the creativity of our Hawaiian and local people… When I think of Malani and his contribution to our communities’ contemporary musical voice, I think of a legacy that paved ways and created a culture for people as lyrically talented and gifted as a John Cruz and Jack Johnson. Though I will never meet him, in a small way I knew him.

Note: Quotes have been formatted, edited and condensed for publication.