Though now living in beautiful Waimānalo, Kawika grew up in the small town of Kane`ohe on the windward side of O`ahu. One cannot think about the windward side without images of the breathtaking Ko`olau mountain range, lush, green valleys and the magnificent ocean views. Born to Samuel (Uncle Sam) and Josephine (Aunty Jo) Kahiapo, Kawika is the 5th of 6 children. Kawika's interest in music began at an early age, when, inspired by his father, he spent many hours alone in his room strumming along. Some of his fondest memories are of their "garage" jam sessions, when "Pops" Gabby Pahinui would show up with his guitar and bottle of vodka. This is what inspired Kawika's passion for ki ho`alu (slack-key guitar). Today, Kawika continues to perpetuate the art of ki ho`alu in his sound recordings and annually at Slack Key Festivals. He was honored as the 2007 Na Hoku Hanohano Slack Key Artist of the year.
At the age of 17, Kawika entered the professional music scene, joining Chucky Boy Chock and O`ahu Brand, then soon thereafter found himself on stage as a member of Palani Vaughan's Kings Own. He married his high school sweetheart, Laurie Yano, and they have been blessed with five children and three beautiful grandchildren.
Over the years, Kawika has contributed his musical talent to some 108+ recording projects and has collaborated or performed with artists such as Jack Johnson, Kaukahi, Palani Vaughan, Melveen Leed, Brother Noland, Leon and Malia, Kawehi Lindsey, Jesse Rivera, Kapena, Pierre Grill, Na Leo Pilimehana, Kelly Boy Delima, Del Beazley, Native Hawaiian Band ,Cyril Pahinui, Amy Gilliom, Dennis Kamakahi, Daniel Ho, Paula Fuga, Martin Pahinui, Rene Paulo, and Walt Keale.
Besides being a recording artist and an ordained minister, Kawika is also on the Kokua Hawai'i Foundation board, a non-profit organization that supports environmental education in the schools and communities of Hawai'i. This is the reason many of you may have seen Kawika emceeing the Kokua Hawai'i Festivals and jumping on stage with Jack Johnson at some point during the concert. This is one of the ways Kawika is able to be a blessing to the community and our 'aina.
Kawika's first solo recording project, "ALANA", emerged in 1996 and continues to captivate many with it's soothing combination of contemporary and traditional Hawaiian tunes, along with ki ho`alu. Through the years, hula halau have been dancing to the music on this recording, as well as his second solo release, "ONE HEART/ONE VOICE", which was released in 2000. Both projects share his mana`o (feelings) in Kawika's unique way. Kawika was then a member of "Kaukahi", who received three awards at the prestigious 2007 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. They were awarded Group of the Year, Song of the Year for Kawika's "Life in These Islands", which is the title cut and name of their debut CD, and Kawika's son, Dalen Kahiapo, and Todd Schlosser of Worldsound, were presented the Award for CD graphics! Kawika was also been honored to be featured on Grammy Award Winning CD, "Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key." He also was awarded with two more Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in 2015 for his all slack key, mostly instrumental CD, "Ho'omaluhia", and his "Ku'u 'Aina Aloha" CD, which features his song titled "Waimanalo."
Aloha Autism is another of Kawika's CD projects dear to his heart, as his son, Jeremiah, has autism. This CD features the talents of 14 artists, including Jack Johnson, Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom and Jake Shimabukuro. Proceeds from this CD and related fundraising events are donated to organizations that serve the autism community well.
Serving Ke Akua and others are a priority, and is reflected in Kawika's lifestyle and music. "Love for the islands, it's people, `ohana, and Ke Akua (God), are what inspires him, while staying committed to perpetuating Hawaiian music, the culture, and the the art of ki-ho`alu". His passion for music lives on, as a day rarely goes by without picking up his guitar.
Kawika Kahiapo is featured of three tracks on Love is the Conqueror Album. Slack Key guitar and vocals on Mahalo Nui Loa Faʻafetai and Dayne Kawika Ortiz as well as Doube Mandolin Slack key and harmonies on Ku I Ka Pono.