Asa Young

“I love the process of making music…
starting from a single note or lyric, and then, turning that into magic!”

`Ukulele player and guitarist Asa Young grew up in Kane’ohe and ‘Aiea, Hawaii. Motivated by his parents and brothers to pursue music as a young child, he learned Hawaiian music through his family at home as well as close relatives. He began with the ‘ukulele; then pursued the guitar by learning the old style Ki Ho’alu (slack key) from Uncle Earnest Kahaunaele. Through his family’s Christmas Eve “Halawa Jam” parties, he was influenced by his older brother Rowan’s dear friend, Reverend Dennis Kamakahi along with Uncle Eddie Kamae, Joe Marshall and David “Feet” Rogers…all of the infamous Sons of Hawai’i.

As a freshman at ‘Aiea High School, Asa was asked to be a member of the ‘Aiea Swinging Singers choral group that performed throughout the United States and other countries. In 1975, Asa was asked to be part of the Men of Waimapuna Hula Halau under the direction of Na kumu hula Darryl Lupenui, John Kaimikaua, O’Brien Eselu and Thaddius Wilson dancing hula. It was here in this halau, where he was able to learn more about his native culture and heritage.

Asa continued to study hula under John Kaimikaua’s Halau Hula ‘O Kukuna‘okala when John decided to branch out on his own. It was through John, that Asa was able to understand and appreciate the process of what hula was about—not only through dancing, but also through music. This afforded him the opportunity to perform with such Hawaiian stars as Genoa Keawe, Violet Pahu Liliko‘i, Momi Kahawaiola‘a, Kekua Fernandez, and many others.

In 1979, Asa, Bryan Tolentino, Del Beazley and Chris Kamaka formed the group Side Order Band. Asa continues his association with the band as well as with Chris and Bryan, traveling to `ukulele festivals, teaching and performing throughout the United States.

In 1982, Asa landed a contract with American Hawai’i Cruises to perform on both the SS Constitution and the SS Independence with such well known Hawaiian artists as Haunani Kaui, Kawika Trask, Kahea Smith, Gennie Robertson, Aunty Violet Pahu Liliko‘i and many others. It was on the cruise ships that Asa began teaching ‘ukulele to passengers and grew to enjoy the process of teaching and helping people to learn how to play this beautiful instrument.

Asa met his wife Laura on the SS Constitution where she was a beautician working in the salon. They got married in 1986; Laura was hired with American Airlines, and the two found themselves living in New York City. Asa was able to continue his music career in the city, playing with Jimmy Kaina along with Johnny Kai. Because of job transfers for both Asa and his wife Laura, his musical ventures have taken him to New York City, Dallas, Texas and Provo, Utah.

From 1989 to 1998, while living in Utah, Asa continued to perpetuate his love for Hawaiian music and was able to do that with the likes of Bill Kelly, Ned Aikau, Cecil Chang, Charles Nahale, Kekau Arakaki, and Barrett Awai. Another job transfer in 1999 took Asa to Charlotte, North Carolina. He continued to play music as a solo artist and then met up with some local Hawaiians. In 2004, Asa started playing Hawaiian music with Michael Ebalaroza and Greg Torzillo calling themselves the Hawaiian Kine Band.

Asa continues to teach ‘ukulele and guitar in group and private lessons. Doing ‘ukulele workshops with Chris Kamaka and Bryan Tolentino affords Asa the opportunity to grow his skills as an instructor along with rekindling that sound of the Side Order Band. Asa continues to play different genres of music whenever he can as a soloist or as an accompanist with different bands playing ‘ukulele, guitar and/or bass. But his passion for Hawaiian music is strong, and he wants to help anyone who is willing to learn. Throughout his career and travels, Asa has had the opportunity to perform and record with many talented musicians, and he continues to do so on his musical journey.

“I have never looked for a pat on the back, award or any type of accolades in my musical career…I don’t care for that. Don’t get me wrong, every musician wants to feel appreciated when they perform and wants to get paid…but, I’m all about the process…I love the process of making music…starting from a single note or lyric, and then, turning that into magic! And finally, sharing that magic with those that are willing to listen or learn.” Asa