Patrick Kahakauwila Kamaholelani Landeza
“Aloha! I’m Patrick Landeza, and I’m from the island of Berkeley, California.” Audiences chuckle whenever Patrick introduces himself, in part because it has become an inside joke that he shares with those who attend his concerts regularly – he says it every single time. But the fact that Patrick is from Berkeley is key in how he defines himself and his role in Hawaiian music. Not only is he an exceptional and award-winning slack key guitarist; he has also been producing Hawaiian concerts for over twenty years, and teaches slack key guitar in music camps and classes around the country. He has become northern California’s – if not much of the West Coast’s – go-to man for all things related to Hawaiian music, and he is one of the essential seams binding California’s Hawaiian community together. This didn’t happen overnight. Patrick’s well-regarded status is due to many years of hard work, persistence, talent, and a huge amount of aloha.
Patrick’s father, Danny Landeza, Jr., grew up in in the sugar mill plantation town of Kahuku on the north end of O’ahu. Patrick’s mother, Frances Kawaipulou Kuakini O’Sullivan, was raised in Ho’olehua, Molokai. It was in Berkeley, though, that the two met. They started a family and raised their children with a mix of Hawaiian, Filipino, and Hawaiian “local” cultures. Danny was very involved in the East Bay’s Hawaiian community, and was a founding member of the Kaimanu Outrigger Canoe Club. “My father helped start several Hawaiian organizations, cooked at many luaus, helped those in need whether they were from Hawai`i or not,” Patrick says. It was from his father that Landeza learned the importance of community service. He also learned a good share of his dad’s cooking techniques, and now runs Landeza’s Island Catering. His mom, however, is the source of Patrick’s love for Hawaiian music.
Of the five Landeza children, Patrick was the baby to whom Frances would sing Hawaiian songs. Years later, she would reveal that she did so in the hope that, one day, he would sing those songs back to her. As a child, Patrick remembers listening to his mother’s Hawaiian records, and listening to his uncles play slack key at yard parties in Castro Valley. As he grew older, Patrick became increasingly interested in learning how to play ki ho’alu himself. After learning what he could from his uncles, he began to seek other sources of instruction, including Uncle Saichi Kawahara, who has long been a prominent figure in the Bay Area’s Hawaiian community. As Patrick’s guitar playing progressed, though, he began to feel as if he’d never be able to master the style as long as he was limited to northern California’ few arenas for learning slack key. When he was 18 years old, in fact, he announced to his mother that he was giving up. He was in his room, sulking somewhat, when his mom walked in with a concert flyer. Raymond Kanē would be appearing at the Freight and Salvage, a well-known folk music venue just two blocks from their apartment. Patrick attended the concert and met Uncle Raymond, who agreed to take the young musician under his wing. From that point on, Patrick travelled to Hawai’i on a regular basis to study with the master.
They say that when you’re following the right path, obstacles are removed and doors open before you. Good fortune continued to smile on Patrick, who soon met George Winston, the producer of Dancing Cat Studios’ Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters series. Patrick became a fixture at the studio, fetching food and coffee for the slack key masters. Dennis Kamakahi, Cyril Pahinui, and George Kuo began to mentor Landeza, and this is how a Hawaiian boy from Berkeley, California managed to learn slack key guitar from the giants of the genre.
From Student to Teacher
Patrick’s difficulty in finding slack key teachers in the Bay Area left a lasting impression on him. He realized that he was not alone in his frustrations, and that there were people across the continent – Hawaiian by blood and by heart – who wanted to learn Hawaiian music, language, and other aspects of the culture, but had few if any resources to do so.
As Patrick had begun producing mainland concerts for “the uncles,” he began to incorporate teaching workshops into the tours. “This would allow the Hawaiian music enthusiasts to get up and personal with the musicians,” he explains. Expanding on this idea, Landeza established the Institute of Hawaiian Music and Culture in 2004. “It was a traveling workshop or mini camp where you would learn Hawaiian language, culture, slack key and `ukulele,” Patrick says. “The instructors included Cyril Pahinui, Dennis and David Kamakahi, Keoki Kahumoku, Herb Ohta, Junior and me for the music. We also had teachers for Hawaiian language and falsetto singing. We covered the Bay Area, Seattle and Los Angeles.” In this way, Patrick planted seeds that sprouted into vibrant musical communities up and down the West Coast.
In 2004, Landeza also released his first instructional DVD, Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Made Easy (Lamb Productions). He has also taught at workshops around the country, such as the prestigious Swannanoa Gathering in North Carolina, the Healdsburg Guitar Festival, and the FAR-WEST folk alliance. In addition, his lessons were published in Acoustic Guitar Magazine, for which he served as a guest clinician.
Patrick’s early training paid off. When he was 34, he became the youngest recipient of the prestigious Kapalakiko Aloha Spirit award. His 2010 release, Ku`u Honua Mele, received the 2010 Hawaii Music Award in the slack key category, and was nominated for Nā Hōkū Hanohano award (Hawaiian music’s equivalent to the Grammy), being the first release by a mainland artist to make it on the final ballot. His 2012 release, Kama`alua, was also nominated for Nā Hōkū Hanohano award. In January 2012 Landeza performed at Carnegie Hall in Listen for Life’s Power of Eight concert, and the Listen for Life organization awarded him with their Musician of the Heart award in 2014. In 2015 Patrick was awarded and recognized by the Hawai’i Chamber of Commerce in Northern California, with a special recognition from San Francisco’s mayor, Ed Lee.
Of Patrick’s many awards, the most meaningful is his 2013
Nā Hōkū Hanohano for his album Slack Key Huaka’i – not because the award is the most prestigious, but because it signified a sea-change in how the Hawaiian music industry regards mainland Hawaiian musicians. Never before had a mainland-based musician won the award and, as he accepted it, Patrick stated that “Just because I was born and raised in Berkeley, California, it never made me any less Hawaiian.”
And this is why “the island of Berkeley” is the key to understanding Patrick Landeza. Because he was born and raised as a Hawaiian in Berkeley, he had to beat the cultural odds in order to learn slack key guitar, much less to become a nationally-recognized master of it. Patrick not only maintained but strengthened the Hawaiian roots that his parents planted and nourished, and he spread those roots to establish and feed Hawaiian culture in northern California and along the West Coast. Indeed, the issue of cultural identity for mainland Hawaiians was one that Landeza addressed when he wrote and published the children’s book Danny’s Hawaiian Journey in 2013.
Patrick Landeza continues to spread aloha with concerts throughout the country and, now, Japan. His latest CD, Nahe’olu, was released in 2015. He is in his 18th year as an educator, now teaching at Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward, California. He is married to Jennifer, and they have four children and one on the way. He continues to run his catering business, and has a line of clothing that, quite fittingly, promotes Aloha Everywhere.