“Ocean Kaowili is Hawaiian Music”
A firefighter with the Honolulu Fire Department, this musician is versed in Slack Key Guitar, Ukulele, Steel Guitar, Bass, or almost any instrument that has strings. Ocean Kaowili has been performing all of his adult life. His vocal style includes a resonant baritone with a range that soars into the Hawaiian falsetto.
Starting right out of high school, he began his musical “career” on the Hokunani Catamaran as a guitar and bass player. Soon after, he joined the group, The Kipapa Rush Band with Slack Key Artists George Kuo and Wayne Reis. During this time, he received the award for “Most Promising Artist of the Year”in 1985 from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts (HARA).
A few years later, Ocean was asked to join the legendary Hawaiian music group, The Sons of Hawaii, as an upright bassist by leader and creator Eddie Kamae., where he performed alongside legendary composer and guitarist Dennis Kamakahi and original member Joe Marshal. His association with the Sons of Hawaii remains as Ocean’s proudest moment in all the years of playing Hawaiian Music. While he remained a member of the Sons of Hawaii, he was asked to join The Peter Moon Band as a bassist. With the PMB, he recorded a few times and then they were proudly awarded Album of the Year by HARA. Ocean was also a part of the group, The King’s Own, the back up band for another legendary Hawaiian Musician/Entertainer, Palani Vaughn.
In 1989, the seventh and final incarnation of the Sons of Hawaii consisted of Eddie, Joe Marshall, Dennis Kamakahi, George Kuo, and Braddah Smitty; sometimes Gary Haleamau and steel player Paul Kim would join them. When Joe Marshall died, Ocean Kaowili became the bass player. This was the last Sons of Hawaii because Eddie Kamae retired in 1992.
Ocean was one of the original musicians who assisted with the opening of the Koolau Golf Course in 1998. He continued there for years as it went through many management changes. He was the original creator of the Sunday Jam session until, he says, “It was stolen from him by another musician.” The jam continues through today. He, alongside Gary Muranaka, the manager at the time, helped create the walls of Hawaiian musicians in Honey’s today.
Even after all these years of performing, Ocean continues in the Hawaiian Music circle, still entertaining throughout the islands— performing often at the Halekulani Hotel and at the Aulani Disney Resort and Spa. He’d also join other musicians such as Halehaku Seabury and Brian Tolentino at the Kanikapila Grill in the Outrigger Reef Hotel and other venues. Over the years he performed with legendary musicians such as: Barney Isaacs, Sam Aiko, Sonny Chillingworth, Tony Bee, Genoa Keawe, Peter Ahia, John Lino, David Chun, Myra English, Melveen Leed, Don Ho, Gary Aiko, Nina Kealiiwahamana, Mahi Beamer, Gabe Kilakalua, Kuki Among, Danny Kaleikini, and Pat Sylva.
Ocean Kaowili uses intensity and determination as his approach to music, giving way to a firestorm of awe-inspired tunes. He leads the way as one of the best-known bassists in the business and is also an accomplished guitar player. He has an unusual style of playing the upright bass on his lap, something that is rarely seen. His fine baritone harmonies lend a mellow depth to the traditional Hawaiian music he loves to sing. Couple this with an irresistible stage presence and there’s a talent like no other. Ocean’s passion for sharing his cultural legacy through Hawaiian music with kamaʻaina and malihini alike is what drives him to keep performing. He continues the legacy of Eddie Kamae through his music. He says, “You will never find anyone more passionate than Ocean Kaowili, when it comes to playing Hawaiian Music and sharing it with the world.”
He is currently holding court at “The House Without a Key “ in the Halekulani Hotel, with a steel and bass player, every Friday and Saturday.