“Kaleo’s music stands on its own merit.”
John Berger, Honolulu Star Bulletin

“He’s different, he’s yesterday … he brings pleasure to the ears.”
Wayne Harada, Honolulu Advertiser

“His style is reminiscent of some of the great music of Hawaii’s past.”
John Kitakis, Ko’olau Guitar & Ukulele Co.



1. How did you start playing music?

One night at home, when I was a kid, my dad whipped out his guitar and started serenading mom. He played a few songs he learned back in his high school days. I asked him for his autograph, and he gave me my first lesson the next day.


2. What do you remember most about growing up in Hawaii?

Always wanting to have a family BBQ at the beach. When I knew we were doing a beach day, I would ask my mom all day the day before, “What are we doing tomorrow?” just so I could hear her tell me and I could go to bed happy thinking about it.


3. What does your artist name Kaleo Vai mean?

It’s a shortened spin on my Hawaiian middle name Kaleowai’olu, which means “the voice/sound of sweet water”. Also,  vai in Brazilian Portuguese means “go” or “you go”. Beyond the Brazilian influences in my music, I feel like I’m in a “go” phase of life. Now’s the time.


4. Why do you dig Brazilian bossa nova?

The rhythm seems really complex, but its complexity isn’t a technical complexity. You have to feel it Essentially, you play bossa nova like you ride a wave: anticipate the moment in front of you and appreciate the moment you’re in. Then every once in a while, do something fancy.


5. Where do you draw inspiration from?

The style of music on this record is a representation of the things we already love about Hawaii, just coming from another angle. Old-timer musicians have often told me they look forward to what’s next for Hawaiian music. I imagine the yearning is similar to what parents of young married couples feel, you know, when they ask about when they’re gonna get some grandbabies. The birthing of something new is only natural, and I hope to be a part of it.

Q&A by Anna Harmon