Grammy-nominated band inspired by '60s-era Indigenous Hawaiian music

Members of the Hawaiian band Nā Wai 'Ehā believe they were destined to play music together. The band, based in Wailuku on the island of Maui, is made of two sets of brothers with a surprising family connection.
Nā Wai 'Ehā consists of two sets of brothers: Gregory Kahikina Maxwell Juan (top left) and Edward Kalanikini Maxwell Juan (top right), and Kamalei Kapualana Hanamaikaʻi Kawaʻa (bottom left) and Kamaehu Kamauliola Hālaulani Kamālie Kawaʻa (bottom right). (Submitted by Nā Wai 'Ehā)

Members of the Hawaiian band, Nā Wai 'Ehā, believe they were destined to play music together. 

The band, based in Wailuku on the island of Maui, is made of two sets of brothers: Edward Kalanikini Maxwell Juan and Gregory Kahikina Maxwell Juan, and Kamalei Kapualana Hanamaikaʻi Kawaʻa and Kamaehu Kamauliola Hālaulani Kamālie Kawaʻa.

A few years ago, when the brothers formed their band, they discovered their mothers danced hula together before they were born. 

"It was really meant to be for us to cross paths and form this type of bond with two sets of brothers," Gregory Kahikina Maxwell Juan said.

The band name translates to "The Four Waters" in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, a reference to the four waters on Maui, with each brother representing one of the rivers or streams. The waters influences their music, along with the Hawaiian language and culture.

Another inspiration for their latest album, Lovely Sunrise, comes from an earlier era. Lovely Sunrise was inspired by the 1960s music of the Hawaiian band, Billy Gonsalves and his Paradise Serenaders. 

Samuel Kalani Ako, a member of the Paradise Serenaders, guided the brothers as they created their now Grammy-nominated album. Nā Wai 'Ehā band mates refer to Ako as "Uncle Sam."

There was an urgency in recording Lovely Sunrise when they did, explained Edward Kalanikini Maxwell Juan. 

"Uncle Sam is going through dementia," he said. "We wanted to capture their style of music and their sound before it was too late."  

Passing the torch 

When Nā Wai 'Ehā held an album release party for Lovely Sunrise  on the island of Oahu, they were told that members of the Paradise Serenaders were in attendance. 

"I was thinking to myself, 'Oh no. We need to get all of our notes, all of our keys, all of our harmonies,'" Gregory Kahikina Maxwell Juan said. 

"We need to pray that we don't screw up, because if we screw up, then they're going to definitely know that we screwed up. Because they know all the parts and all the harmonies."

The Paradise Serenaders visited with Nā Wai 'Ehā after their show, and they even sang one of their songs for the brothers.

"They're very old. And when they're singing to us, we still could hear that same sound as if they were young and they were back in their day," Edward Kalanikini Maxwell Juan said. "It was a thrilling experience."

"They [The Paradise Serenaders] were really thrilled that we were able to keep their music alive, kind of like passing the torch to the next generation," Gregory Kahikina Maxwell Juan said. 

Nā Wai 'Ehā dedicated Lovely Sunrise to Ako. 

Produced by Zoe Tennant. Written by Kyle Muzyka.