HONOLULU (KHON2) – February is Black History and Hawaiian Language month and a singer is meshing the two cultures together through music.
Kamakakehau Fernandez has a passion for perpetuating the Hawaiian language and music, but his story didn’t start here in the islands.
“I am African American exterior so my saying is I’m African American exterior and Hawaiian interior,” said Fernandez, a recording artist.
The Arkansas native made the journey from one little rock to another.
“I was actually adopted at six weeks old from Little Rock, Arkansas and both of my parents are from Hawaii, my mother being from Maui my father from Lanai.”
Fernandez quickly adopted the Hawaiian culture from an early age. He was enrolled in Olelo Hawaii classes since kindergarten.
After mastering a new language, Fernandez later decided to tackle falsetto Hawaiian music.
“As I graduated and discovered this gift of music I understood the importance of perpetuation and that’s what led me to keep Hawaiian music alive if you will.”
Fernandez impressed Hawaiian music fans with his ability to hit every note. He even won multiple singing contests early in his career.
“After winning that contest I realized it’s more than just winning it was the appreciation that people had to see someone of color singing Hawaiian music.”
Fernandez has become an accomplished recording artist with one Na Hoku Hanohano award on his resume.
Now, he’s helping the next generation adopt the culture that took him in. The musician is keeping the Hawaiian Language alive as an Olelo Hawaii teacher.
“You don’t have to look a certain way in order to learn the language especially if you’re living out here.”
DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Kamakakehau Fernandez belts out falsetto melody.
This is the sixth installment in a month-long series for Black History Month, about Black history and identity in Hawaii. The other stories are linked below.
A word, a plant, a group of people: unpacking “pōpolo”
The Pōpolo Project: building a space to ask questions and challenge ideas
Black History in Hawaii: from whaling ships to royal courts
Black History in Hawaii: visible and invisible Blackness
Black music in Hawaii: reggae grows Hawaiian roots
Black music in Hawaii: hip-hop’s Hawaii connection
Black identity in Hawaii: the conflicting experiences of being Black and local
Black futures in Hawaii: envisioning a beautiful, equitable horizon for everyone