I write songs about my friends, my experiences, the places that I go, the feelings I have felt. I love to share my music with everyone. I love to share my ALOHA. That is how we stay connected.

—Kyla Uilaniokekaimalie Maunakea (Miss Killa)

For many immigrant communities, a sense of home and familiarity is very much welcome to ease feelings of homesickness and displacement. Even with the early fur trade newcomers, there are accounts of music being played at the frequent lūʻau held by the Salt Spring Island Kānaka and those employed at the Hudson’s Bay Company forts further south. Kanikapila (live music sessions) lasted for hours as workers and families shared music, food, and stories with each other. Gatherings such as these helped build camaraderie and establish community dynamics that mirrored traditional social structures in Hawaiʻi.

Today, musicians in the Hawaiʻi-to-Pacific Northwest diaspora still play an important role in creating common spaces of connection through familiar songs and sounds. A simple mele (song) has the power to transport a listener to a different time and place, and it is no different for those who have found a place to share their music on the continent.

A modern, color photograph of a man sitting on a bench, holding an acoustic guitar, and smiling. He is wearing a bright pink patterned button-down shirt with a collar and a beaded necklace.

Image courtesy of Uaia Keola Napoleon.

Musician Uaia Keola Napoleon, originally from Molokaʻi, performs live music at local restaurants and gatherings in the Portland area. Closely tied to his roots and identity as Kanaka Maoli, Uaia also teaches ukulele classes and shares his music with local hula hālau (hula school), Ka Lei Haliʻa O Ka Lokelani.

A modern, color photograph of a woman sitting on a wooden stool against a white backdrop, holding a ukulele and smiling. She is wearing a black and white dress with a plant print, a jean jacket, a long necklace with a pendant at the end, and a gold ring on her right hand.

Image by Mario Galluci.

Kyla Uilaniokekaimalie Maunakea (Miss Killa), hailing from Moku O Keawe, has roots on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. Born into a family of multigenerational Hawaiian musicians, her music honors these connections and ties to her communities even on the continent.

Kyla Uilaniokekaimalie Maunakea (Miss Killa) Family Story

Keʻaliʻi Puna Vai O Lehua (K-Boy) Family Story

A modern, black and white photograph of a man holding an acoustic stringed instrument in one hand and playing an electric keyboard with the other. He is wearing a black beanie-style hat and camouflage print hoodie. In the background there are two other people, one of which is holding a string instrument.

Image courtesy of Keʻaliʻi Puna Vai O Lehua.

Keʻaliʻi Puna Vai O Lehua, or K-Boy, began drumming at a young age and grew up surrounded by Hawaiian music and hula hālau. With family roots in Haleʻiwa, Oʻahu, K-Boy goes back and forth between there and Portland, Oregon, maintaining his connections to both places.

A modern, color photograph of a four-person family standing in front of a white backdrop. In the back row is a woman with curly brown hair, wearing glasses and a flower in her hair, and her hand is on her daughter's arm. Next to her is a man wearing a purple polo shirt. He has his hand on his daughter's shoulder. The two girls are smiling at the camera and have matching flowers in their hair.

Image by Mario Galluci.

Remos-Cabral ʻOhana with Roots, Maria “SongBird” Remos, and Damon Cabral.

Remos-Cabral ʻOhana with Roots Family Story


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