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Beloved 2000s local music duo Keahiwai returns with sold-out shows

Courtesy Keahiwai
Lei Melket and Mailani Makainai of Keahiwai

Beloved duo Keahiwai was one of the most popular local music groups in the early 2000s. Their debut album in 2001, "Local Girls," was nominated for five Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards, winning two.

Lei Melket and Mailani Makainai released five albums together between 2001 and 2009 before starting on their solo career paths.

Over the last 20-plus years, Melket built her business, Kumon Math and Reading Center of Pearl City, and Makainai continued her music career and started a family.

They reunited for two sold-out shows at the Blue Note Hawaii on Thursday, March 16. The Conversation spoke with Melket and Makainai ahead of their first concert together in years.

"I've been doing Hawaiian music so long that coming back to singing songs that we've written 20-plus years ago has proven to be more challenging than I thought it would be," Makainai said. "I have to get my mindset back into those youthful days."

They remember when their hit song, "Falling," could be heard on every radio station.

"If I think about when I wrote the song and who I wrote the song for, like, that's all just kind of a distant memory for me. So I don't have that emotional connection to that person or anything," Melket said. "Now it's a song that makes me think if I sing it, you're going to be happy, the audience will be happy because this is a song that they love. And I like being able to provide that to an audience."

Keahiwai perform at an Aloha Festivals event.
Courtesy Keahiwai
Keahiwai perform at an Aloha Festivals event.

The duo said it's highly likely they will plan more shows in the future — and a new album could be on the horizon.

"There's a little bit more planning around this time, but yeah, I think it'll definitely happen. We definitely want to do more than just this Thursday show for sure," Melket said.

Makainai said the piko, or the root, of their success is that they're just two friends who love jamming and playing together.

This interview aired on The Conversation on March 13, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation and host of HPR's This Is Our Hawaiʻi podcast. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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