The Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts presented the 2021 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Awards and honored PIDF’s very own Hawaiian Cultural Specialist, Aaron Mahi.
From the first year of the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards in 1978, recognition has been given to individuals whose lifetime achievements and contributions to Hawaiian music and Hawaiʻi’s recording industry set them apart from their peers and colleagues. Alongside Aaron Mahi who received the Lifetime Achievement Awards were Jeff Apaka, Patience Namaka Bacon, Jay Larrin, and Dr. Puakea Nogelmeir.
Throughout his time with PIDF, ʻAnakala Aaron is sure to be seen with his ukulele. He has produced music for read-along CDs in PIDF books like My Kalo has Lau, Big and Green and Noa the Puhi Learns to Let Go. His ʻike in Hawaiian culture during staff professional development trainings or program huakaʻi shares the charisma of people and place through mele, oli, and moʻolelo.
“Aaron Mahi is a man for all seasons and all reasons,” said Billy Richards, Hui Nohona Manager. “I have known him for more than a few years, but even before we made our acquaintance I knew “of him” as he rose to prominence in the early 1980’s as the Royal Hawaiian Band Master. We at Partners in Development Foundation have a living treasure in our midst; a talented individual in many aspects of music, theology, and Hawaiian Culture. We are blessed to have him as a part of our PIDF ‘Ohana.”
Congratulations Aaron! This latest of your many awards and recognitions is well deserved— Eo!
Read more about Aaron Mahi shared by the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts.
From a very humble beginning, a young Hawaiian rose to become a linguist, a composer, a kahu and one of Hawaiʻi’s foremost conductors.
Aaron David Mahi was born on July 9, 1953, and from early on gravitated to music. At age 14, Aaron was selected as one of only 37 students to receive a Honolulu Symphony Orchestra mentored scholarship. He graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1971, and from Connecticut’s Hartt School of Music in 1975. He also studied at the Herbert Bloomsted Institute of Conducting in California.
By 1976 Aaron was headlining concert billings with the new Windward Symphony Orchestra and as a jazz and rock bass guitarist. But he also focused on cultural perspectives in music sparked by the Hawaiian Renaissance of the time. As a member of Hui Aloha ʻAina Tuahine, UH Mānoa’s Hawaiian club he appeared on the Nani Award winning album Ka Leo Hawaiʻi released in 1977. At that time he joined the group Kaimana – Haunani Apoliona, Haunani Bernadino, and Eldon Akamine – on their second album Nalani – Nālani Olds with Kaimana (Pumehana Records). In 1978 Aaron was commissioned to create string arrangements for Kanaka – Captain Cook, A Bicentennial Tribute 1778 – 1978 (Pumehana Records) a recording commemorating the bicentennial arrival of Captain Cook.
By 1979 Aaron joined the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra as a bassist and began a stint conducting. Newly elected Honolulu mayor Aileen Anderson appointed Aaron bandmaster of the Royal Hawaiian Band in 1981, the first native Hawaiian bandmaster since Charles E King in 1933. His tenure would continue for the next 24 years.
Under Aaron’s direction highlights of the Band included a seven-nation European tour in 1983. The Royal Hawaiian Band was presented a shellenbaum, a band instrument, and a replica of one presented to King Kalākaua in 1881. Aaron was awarded the Golden Ring of Honor by the Association of German Musicians. Another milestone was a Carnegie Hall concert in 1988. The Friends of the Royal Hawaiian Band released The Royal Hawaiian Band Live at Carnegie Hall to commemorate the concert Part I (FRB 002) and Part II (FRB 003).
Over the years Aaron has participated in more than 20 recording projects performing and contributing liner notes. He continues to chart new musical arrangements for the Royal Hawaiian Band and for the Kamehameha Schools annual song contests. Aaron was awarded the German Order of Merit in 2003 and given the title, “Bundesverdienstkreuz.”
His service to the community includes his work as a kahu. Aaron has served as the kahu of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and currently serves as head kahu of the Makiki Community of Christ Church. From 2009 to present, Kahu Aaron Mahi is a part of the Hui Nohona culture team for Partners in Development Foundation.
One definition of mahi is to cultivate; Aaron Mahi has cultivated much in the music annals of Hawaiʻi. For his outstanding work as a maestro, for his contributions to Hawaiʻi’s recording arts industry and for his unwavering dedication in community service, the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts presents its Highest Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award to Maestro and Kahu Aaron David Mahi.