The Father of Hawaiian Music
“Pops”, they called him. Phillip Kunia “Gabby Pops” Pahinui was his full name, and they called him “Pops” because he led a revival of Hawaiian music in the 20th century. Pops was at the forefront of the Hawaiian Renaissance. Gabby Pahinui was an icon not only for his generation but for the young musicians that followed. Today, Gabby is still considered one of the masters of Hawaiian music, a major source influence that continues to permeate the musical culture of these islands. But before all of Hawaii and the world looked to Gabby as the leader of Hawaiian folk music, Gabby was a young man who mastered slack key, steel guitar and just about every other musical instrument he picked up—without a single lesson. He played his first bar gig at 13. Over the next few years Pops would perform at over 200 nightclubs in Honolulu and play alongside famous Hawaiian artists of the time: Andy Cummings, Sol Ho’opi’I, Charley “Tiny” Brown, John Puni Paulia, and many more. His biggest influences outside of Hawaiian music were jazz greats:
- Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton and Django Reinhardt
- Eddie Kamae, David Rogers, Moe Keale, Dennis Kamakahi, and Joe Marshall.
Scholars of Hawaiian music cite him as a major influence. Yet rather than seek commercial success, he played music out of pure love. Instead of compromising his music, he supported his family by driving a City & County of Honolulu refuse truck for much of his life, until he had an accident on the job. In the last few years of his life he taught Hawaiian slack key guitar to the youngsters of the community for the County’s Department of Parks and Recreation. – gabbypahinui.comPops passed his musical legacy to his sons when he asked them to perform on his album, “Gabby” (1972). The album was and still is a milestone in Hawaiian music that transcends all efforts attempting to achieve what Pops accomplished. More interestingly, most of the musicians on the album were his sons, including:
- Bla Pahinui, Cyril Pahinui, Martin Pahinui and Phillip Pahinui.