5 Minutes with… Malani Bilyeu
Original member of music group, “Kalapana”
Oh how the years go by! When this group released their first album that’s what it was: a vinyl album. It was 1973 when Malani Bilyeu got together with 2 friends to become the hit Hawaiian group, ‘Kalapana.’ And just as the music medium changed dramatically over the decades, so has Malani.
Kalapana became world famous, packing the Shell & Aloha Stadium to record numbers and releasing top hits in Hawaii, the mainland & Japan. Their greatest legacy was defining a new sound in island music. One of the men responsible was songwriter Malani.
How he got started
I’m from Kalihi Palama so I went to Farrington H.S. I started playing music in the 8th grade: the Kalihi Phantoms. We were young rascals doing real vanilla fudge kind of stuff. (laughs)
How he got “discovered”
When I got out of the army, I bummed around for a few years playing solo in a pizza parlor in the Hawaii Kai Marina. One night, three local guys came in.
They were going to Chuck’s Steakhouse (downstairs) when they heard me. It turned out that they were C&K (Cecilio & Kapono) managers. They told me they were looking to put together another group. They asked me to be the lead & then found DJ Pratt downstairs. That gelled & then they mentioned Mackey Feary, a 16 year old who toured with C&K. It all just came together!
How he was “found”… by Jesus
I was 9 years old & came home late. It was dark already & my grandmother gave me the strap. I prayed God would save me from my grandmother. I got saved that day! (laughs)
Actually 14 years ago, I left Kalapana for a few months & moved to Kauai. I met a girl who took me to church; it was a tent in a cow pasture! And that’s where I got saved.
Then the Lord started dumping the blessings on me… I married the girl & we had 6 kids!
How he handled Mackey’s death
In February, 1999 group member Mackey Feary died in prison; a suicide after a long battle with drugs, rehab, and relapse. His death impacted Hawaii, especially his bandmates.
Malani remembers: “I was in a hotel room in Japan & the Lord told me to call Mackey & tell him to come & pray. The Lord said he was having problems and kept telling me to call. So I did and said, ‘What you doing? Want to come to my room? Would you like to come pray with me & get saved?’ He said, ‘Malani, I have nothing left.’
“And he went to his knees. He got saved that day. Unfortunately, he couldn’t break away from his bad marriage and too much into drugs.
“Since Mackey passed away, we’ve been trucking along.”
How he mixes faith & his music
My main purpose is to be a witness to my peers in the music crowd, especially the rowdy ones who are hard to get to.
What he wants you to know about Jesus
When you’re serving the Lord you can’t depend on anyone but Him. It’s nice to do good works but watch out that you don’t do more works & forget Who you’re doing it for! That’s been my struggle.
Malani recently sat down to talk story with Pastor Wayne Cordeiro on “Connecting Point.” He shares more about his life as a Hawaii celebrity. Tune in as it airs this week: June 11 & 12. Check your local listings: www.eNewhope.org/nhn.