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Hawaiian Music Icon Peter Moon Passes Away

March 12, 2018, 11:59 AM HST (Updated March 12, 2018, 12:42 PM)
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Beloved musical artist and composer Peter Moon, who helped inspire a renaissance of Hawaiian music for a generation of followers in the 1970s, passed away on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, at the age of 73.

PC: Frank Isahara

Moon had not performed or been in the public eye since 2005.

A private funeral service has already been held by the family, according to a press release by Anthology Group.

A hapa mix of Korean and Chinese ancestry, Moon was a full-blooded Hawaiian in heart and spirit. He was a naturally gifted artist with the ‘ukulele and slack key guitar, learning to play both by ear and with remarkable expertise. He would develop a unique style of contemporary Hawaiian music, while also providing opportunities and encouragement to young musicians to seek their own brand of artistry.

Moon once described his love of Hawaiian music by stating, “When something touches your soul, you cannot verbalize it. To let it touch your soul, you must be open to it.”

Range of Musical Influences

Moon had a strong, innate interest in music beginning as a young child, recalling that he put classical music on the turntable whenever taking naps. His talents blossomed as a teen and, during that time, he credited Gabby Pahinui, Les Paul, Leonard Kwan, Laurindo Almeida, Lyle Ritz, Harry Kalahiki (“Mungo”), Nelson Waikiki, Eddie Kamae, Genoa Keawe and his older brother, Patrick, for inspiring him to develop a style of music and composition that would become his own.

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In 1967, fellow artist Palani Vaughan put Moon on the track to popular acclaim, asking him to join in a Hawaiian music recording project that produced the album Meet Palani Vaughan and The Sunday Manoa, released in 1968. A year later, The Sunday Manoa album Hawaiian Time was released.

From the start, Moon was clear about his self-identity on stage. “The first thing I learned is that there are two animals: an entertainer and a musician. I chose to be a musician. There’s a difference, a big difference. Some musicians entertain, some musicians are musicians. That’s very important as far as I am concerned.”

Moon later recalled how hard the band worked in those early years. “We held jobs at so many places, I can’t count how many times I’ve passed a place and thought, I played there.”

Hawaiian Music Renaissance: 1970s

From 1970 to 1974, the renaissance of Hawaiian music came to the fore and The Sunday Manoa, now comprised of Moon, and Robert and Roland Cazimero, led the way with the release of three iconic and critically acclaimed albums of contemporary Hawaiian music titled Guava Jam (1970), Cracked Seed (1971), and The Sunday Manoa 3 (1973).

Moon recognized the significance of the times as The Sunday Manoa grew in popularity. “When The Sunday Manoa first entered Waikīkī, it was when the youth grassroots movement began,” said Moon. “There weren’t very many local acts for the locals. This was also the time of resurgence in local recordings, a renaissance and revolution of Hawaiian culture and arts. Most of all, this renaissance brought forth roots and identity and a burning desire for locals to learn about their heritage. There was a mass of people who supported this renaissance.”

The significance of The Sunday Manoa was noted in the book Hawaiian Music and Musicians: An Encyclopedic History, which stated, “Most objective observers—musicians, local music historians, and Hawaiian music fans alike—agree that the Hawaiian Renaissance in music kicked off with Guava Jam.

Kanikapila: A Showcase of Hawaiian Music and Dance

In 1970, Moon, at age 26, along with Ron Rocha, launched Kanikapila, a Hawaiian music concert in the intimate setting of Andrews Amphitheater at Moon’s alma mater, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Kanikapila quickly became the premier Hawaiian music concert event of its time and was held annually through 1995.

Most important to Moon, Kanikapila was a showcase for Hawaiian music, dance and culture, especially for up-and-coming artists who benefited from the exposure and experience of performing in a concert setting. One of Moon’s primary objectives for holding Kanikapila at Andrews Amphitheater was that it would be more effective in attracting a younger audience to embrace contemporary Hawaiian music, while also keeping the event affordable.

The bands and musicians that performed at Kanikapila over the years included The Sunday Manoa, Gabby Pahinui, The Sons of Hawai‘i, Genoa Keawe, Marlene Sai, Nina Keali‘iwahmana, The Makaha Sons, The Peter Moon Band, Hoaikane, Manao Company, Olomana, Ka‘au Crater Boys, Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole, Brother Noland, Dennis Pavao and Robi Kahakalau.

Among the hula hālau, kumu hula and cultural groups that performed at Kanikapila included Hālau Waimapuna (Kumu Darrell Lupenui), Halau Na Wai Eha O Puna (Kumu Thaddeus Wilson and O’Brien Eselu), Aunty Iolani Luahine, Hoakalei Kamau‘u, Maiki Aiu Lake, Frank Hewitt, Chinky Mahoe, Sonny Ching, Edith Kanaka‘ole, Mapuana de Silva, the Kamehameha Schools Concert Glee Clubs and Prince Kūhiō Hawaiian Civic Club.

Kanikapila Records became the name of the company that Moon formed in 1982 to hold the rights to his musical recordings and compositions.

PC: Brett Uprichard

Emergence of the Peter Moon Band

In the last half of the 1970s, Moon put more time and emphasis into the business side of the recording industry for Hawaiian music, which included becoming a principal with Hailona Distributors. Thankfully for audiences throughout Hawai‘i, Moon began performing as the Peter Moon Band coupled with the release of the group’s debut album, Tropical Storm, in 1979. The album earned five Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, including “Album of the Year” and “Group of the Year.”

Fueled by Moon’s desire to expand creative boundaries of contemporary Hawaiian music, the band began infusing elements of rock, reggae, swing, jazz and Latin music in a string of albums through the mid-1990s: Malie; Cane Fire, Harbor Lights, Spirit Lover, Chinatown, Black Orchid, The Guitar Man, Full Moon, Dance with Me, The Music Makers, Heat Wave, Midnight Sun, Oasis and Iron Mango.

Moon explained his thought process in how he created and presented contemporary Hawaiian music, observing, “The image of the band was never as important as the quality of the music.”

Blue Hawaiian Moonlight, Japan Tours, Teaching Music

From the 1980s to early 2000s, Moon continued to branch out and find new purposes to produce his music and entertain fans abroad. In keeping with his spirit of generosity in helping others others, he helped establish the annual Blue Hawaiian Moonlight fundraising concert to support the O‘ahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association (OHCRA).

Moon’s objectives were two-fold: He wanted to help OHCRA raise the funds needed to help cover expenses for the racing season, while also elevating awareness among people about the cultural and educational importance of Hawai‘i’s canoe racing heritage. The concert was held annually for 17 years through 1998.

In the first two decades of his career, from the late-1960s to the late-1980s, Moon was a popular performer in Waikīkī and on the Neighbor Islands, and frequently toured the West Coast, building loyal followings in all three areas.

Starting in 1989 and over the next decade, Moon began touring in Japan on a regular basis, helping to spark interest in both Hawaiian music and Hawai‘i as a travel destination. Moon commented, “Hawaiian music brings the Japanese closer to an image of hopes and dreams and being able to escape to paradise. The music strengthens the bond between Japan and Hawai‘i.”

In the early 2000s, Moon added the teaching of music to his regular schedule, showing students ranging from keiki to kūpuna how to play the ‘ukulele and slack key guitar. The title of his workshop and accompanying video, The Magic of the ‘Ukulele, was perfect in describing Moon’s lifetime as a musician, composer and undeniable influence of Hawaiian music in the past 50 years.

A Dynamic Influence in Hawaiian Music History

Although he has been out of the limelight for the past 13 years, Moon’s legacy in the history of Hawaiian music will never be forgotten.

The book Hawaiian Music and Musicians: An Encyclopedic History offered the following observation in summarizing the impact of Moon’s artistry. “No individual made a bigger individual contribution to the music of the Hawaiian Renaissance than Peter Moon. If Moon’s career had ended with the demise of The Sunday Mānoa, his contribution would be significant. If his career had consisted only of his leadership of The Peter Moon Band, he would still be a major figure in the history of contemporary Hawaiian music. As the leader of both groups and for his additional contributions as a composer, record producer, concert promoter, and as a principal in Hailona Distributors in the mid-1970s, Moon is all that and more.”

Peter Moon: Aug. 25, 1944 — Feb. 17, 2018

Peter Yuan Ho Moon was born in Honolulu to Wook Moon and Shay Young Zen on Aug. 25, 1944. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1962 and from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 1968, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. He is survived by his son, Peter W. K. Moon, and extended family members.

Among Moon’s many accomplishments and accolades as a musical artist are the following:

Audio Recordings

1968 Meet Palani Vaughan and The Sunday Manoa (Hula Records)
1969 Hawaiian Time – The Sunday Manoa (Hula Records)
1970 Guava Jam – The Sunday Manoa (Hula Records)
1972 Cracked Seed – The Sunday Manoa (Panini Records)
1973 The Sunday Manoa 3 (Panini Records)
1974 The Waimea Music Festival – Featuring The Sunday Manoa, Gabby Pahinui, Genoa Keawe and other artists (Panini Records)
1979 Tropical Storm – The Peter Moon Band (Panini Records)
1980 Malie – The Peter Moon Band (Panini Records)
1982 The Best of Peter Moon (Panini Records)
1982 Cane Fire – The Peter Moon Band (Panini Records)
1983 Harbor Lights – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1984 Spirit Lover – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1986 Chinatown – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1987 Black Orchid – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1988 The Guitar Man – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1988 Greatest Hits Collection I – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1989 Full Moon – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1989 Dance With Me – Peter Moon (Instrumental) (Kanikapila Records)
1990 The Music Makers – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1991 Heat Wave – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1992 Midnight Sun – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1993 Oasis – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1994 Iron Mango – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1995 Backbone – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
1995 Hoi Hou – Peter Moon (Kanikapila Records)
1998 The Path – Peter Moon (Kanikapila Records)
1999 Greatest Hits Collection II (1988-1994) – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
2005 Instrumental Hits – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)
2005 Greatest Hawaiian Hits – The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records)

Video Recordings

1999 The Magic of ‘Ukulele – VHS Video

Awards by Year

1980 Tropical Storm – Panini Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards for Album of the Year, Contemporary Hawaiian Album of the Year, Group of the Year, Engineer of the Year (to Lee Herschberg), and Single of the Year for “Island Love” backed with “Tropical Storm”
1983 Cane Fire – Panini Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards for Album of the Year, Group of the Year, Engineering (to John Kahale Chang), Haku Mele (to composers Larry Lindsey Kimura and Peter Moon for “E Pili Mai”), Contemporary Hawaiian Album of the Year, Single of the Year for “Cane Fire,” Song of the Year (to composer Leo Anderson Akana for “Cane Fire”)
1983 The Best of Sunday Mānoa – Hula Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Anthology Album of the Year
1984 Harbor Lights – Kanikapila Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Group of the Year
1985 Spirit Lover – Kanikapila Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Graphics (to Brian Onaga and Phyllis Fukumitsu)
1987 Chinatown – Kanikapila Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Contemporary Hawaiian Album of the Year
1988 Black Orchid – Kanikapila Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Album of the Year
1989 The Guitar Man – Kanikapila Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards for Engineering (to John Kahale Chang), Graphics (to Brian Onaga and Phyllis Fukumitsu), Haku Mele (to composer Larry Lindsey Kimura for “Tou Hei Ahiahi”)
1990 Full Moon – Kanikapila Records: Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Engineering (to John Kahale Chang)
2001 Special Hōkū Award: Ki Hoalu (Slack Key)
2004 Recipient, Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement Award
2007 Inductee, Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame

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