kani ka pila grille talent search - outrigger reef waikiki beach resort

8th Annual Kani Ka Pila Grille Talent Search Down to Five Finalists

Brandon Suyeoka


kani ka pila grille talent search - outrigger reef waikiki beach resort

Since its inception in 2008, Kani Ka Pila Grille in the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort has hosted a talent search featuring some Hawaii’s most up-and-coming musicians. Winners of this year’s competition are awarded a one-month paid contract to perform at Kani Ka Pila Grille throughout the month of September during their Island Music Series held on Saturday’s from 3-5 p.m. The winning talent also receives personalized promotions at the restaurant and a marketing plan, which consists of a studio recording and electronic press kit from the Honolulu Community College’s Mike Curb MELE (The Music & Entertainment Learning Experience). For any emerging artist in the local music scene, this is a coveted event to participate in for the experience alone. Of course winning the competition obviously has its perks!

After a heated battle back on one hot summer night in July, five finalists have emerged after being selected by quite a prestigious panel that included:

• Bobby Moderow, Grammy-nominee and Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner
• Pali Kaaihue, president, Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts
• John Vierra, MELE program coordinator and audio engineering instructor at Honolulu Community College
• Luana Maitland, music director for Kani Ka Pila Grille and events and activities manager for Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort

The finalists have their work cut out for them this year as all of the competitors are worthy winners of the competition. This year’s line-up of musicians who have made the final round will showcase both traditional and contemporary local music. They are:

• Aja Gample, a Hawaiian slack key guitarist, Aja not only composes some of her own pieces, she hopes to perpetuate the Hawaiian language and culture through her music.
• Naehu, a two-man group comprised of Ronson Asuncion and Given Yagi, the pair started Naehu in 2014. Together armed with their ukuleles, the talent group has performed at events throughout Hawaii Japan.
• Hoonanea, formed in 2015 with band members, Owali Littlejohn (lead vocals, ukulele and guitar), Lani Littlejohn (bass and backup vocals), Kevin Bechayda (lead guitar) and Joseph Peneku III (percussion and lead/backup vocals). The majority of the band’s music is traditional and contemporary Hawaiian.
• Puuloa, this two-man show formed after a year of campfire and garage jam sessions, “Mareko” Medeiros and “Moon” Kahele decided that it was time to share their music with the world. The Mz’ reside in the City of Kapolei and perform original island contemporary and standard island music.

Traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music will fill the Pikake Room at the Neil Blaisdell Center from 3 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20, as the talented musicians perform in front of friends, family, fans and the panel of judges. Any fan of local artists and music should be sure to mark this date on their calendar. Last year’s winner, The Waiminalo Sunset Band, will also be on hand to open the show’s entertainment followed by an autograph session. 

We look forward to seeing you at the Kani Ka Pila Grille Talent Search!

Brandon Suyeoka is an advertising and marketing professional with nearly 20 years of experience working with brands and creating strategies for them to better engage their customers. If you are active on social media in Hawaii you may remember him from his LinkedIn/Twitter posts on industry related topics. He also has background on developing synergies with traditional marketing campaigns and social media to extend “conversations." Currently, he is the Marketing Brand Manager at ALTRES as well as an independent marketing consultant through his company SoComm Marketing. When he's not working, he's either out surfing, hanging out with friends or filling his belly with local cuisine. Find Brandon on LinkedIn. Follow on Twitter.

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