Generous, gentle, gifted: loved ones remember Cyril Pahinui


Na Hoku Hanohano award-winning recording artist, slack key master and Hawaiian musician Cyril Pahinui died Saturday at the Queen’s Medical Center at 6:00 p.m. at the age of 68. 

A family spokesman said Pahinui had been hospitalized since February 16, 2016, when he was admitted for a collapsed lung. He also had complications from pneumonia and other medical ailments during hospitalization. 

Pahinui came from a family of musicians who all learned from the great Gabby Pahinui, Cyril’s father. Growing up in Waimanalo, the home often became the place where many entertainers and musicians gathered. 

“He listened to his father and after they were just jamming in the backyard and he fell in love with the music and he started to cry as a young boy. He said that is what I’m going to do with my life and his first love always is his music,” said his wife Chelle Pahinui. 

It wasn’t long until Cyril found his own voice and unique style, mastering the 12-string guitar.  

“You know I have a saying that I live by: if it’s from the heart, it reaches the heart. That is exactly what he did to all of us. He played and he sang. He reached our hearts because we knew it was from his heart,” said close friend and musician Melveen Leed. 

His gift and passion launched an admirable career of album records and collaborations with many well-known artists. Family members say the slack key master spread Hawaiian music throughout the nation, and he’s been recognized for it with Grammy and Na Hoku Hanohano awards.

“Whenever he sang you can tell he was singing about what he believes in and not very many people have that spiritual way of expressing yourself. Everyone can sing the same song, but you can’t sing it the way Cyril sings it,” said friend and musician Henry Kapono. 

Loved ones will remember him as a gentle man, who loved his family and making others happy through his music.

“He teaches. Many of his students he teaches with no charge and we’ve raised funds for five years to teach,” said Chelle. “He’s always shared aloha with the people, gained support for the culture, for the music, by sharing and being generous and open. And he’s carried the music around the world, literally.”

Cyril Pahinui was about to release a brand new CD in the next two weeks. We’re told the CD will be released as scheduled. 

Pahinui is survived by wife Chelle, daughters Amber Pahinui – Stevens & Andrea Pahinui as well as Carrie McBurney Wright, Elizabeth MacDonald, Anne Shand. Brothers James “Bla”, Phillip and sisters, Madolyn & Margaret & 19 grandchildren. 

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