Gary Puniwai Keawe-Aiko AKA Gary Aiko
A deep silky baritone singing beautiful Hawaiian, Hapa Hawaiian and popular classic music just melts your emotions in the memories of time gone by. They say that he sounds just like Alfred Apaka. Gary says if he is compared to anyone it’s good to know that he is being compared with the best. Yes, he has no problem when being compared with Alfred Apaka Sr. who was his favorite. Before Na Hoku Hanohano Awards it was called the Nani Awards, Gary was the first Male Vocalist to ever win and was presented the award by Alfred Apaka Sr. .
Gary Puniwai Keawe-Aiko is the son of Edward and the famous Genoa Keawe who is an icon for traditional modern Hawaiian music through out the world. Genoa Keawe is also a 2000 National Endowment recipient and an Honorary Doctorate Recipient from the University of Hawaii. Gary's stage name is Gary Aiko because he says it's easier to write. He is the 1st child of 12 children. Coming from a large family as he grew older he took responsibility to help the family to survive during rough economic times by selling newspaper or shining shoes in downtown Honolulu. He’d give all of his earnings to his mother without complaint or asking for any of it back.
Gary attended Kaimuki High School then transferred to McKinley High School where he graduated in 1953. While at McKinley he was a member of the school choir and was quite a singer, often singing many solo spots. Gary did his first recording when he was 15 years old. His mother Genoa Keawe recorded her first album on 49th State Records, Hawaiian Souvenir. He sang a duet with her called “Ke Kali Nei Au or popularly known as the Hawaiian Wedding Song. His voice yesterday never seemed to have changed if you listen to him today.
Gary began his professional career as a singer in 1957 at the “Waikiki Sand’s Restaurant” doing 4 shows a night for a year. Following, he was invited by his cousin Tony Bee to come over to a small bar in Kaneohe town for a jam session with a guy named Don Ho. Sonny Chillingworth was there also with an occasional Gabby Pahinui. Except for Don everyone was already an established musician in their own right. Gary played upright bass, the group stayed together for a long while in Kaneohe. Later Honey’s made the move to Waikiki where McDonald’s currently is across Waikiki Kuhio Beach where Duke Kahanamoku’s statue stands today. Eventually, Honey’s in Waikiki closed and Don Ho and the crew moved to “Duke Kahanamoku’s” at the Waikiki International Market Place. After 2 years at Duke Kahanamoku’s Gary was the first to leave the group to venture on his own.
In 1966 Gary had the pleasure of singing with the late “Haunani Kahalewai” at the Kahala Hilton in the Hala Terrace. That same year he went on tour for two months in Japan and one month in Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Hilton Hotel. Gary has made many trips to Japan to perform. He also traveled to perform in Brazil for the world prayer event.
Gary’s recent memorable engagements were at New York City’s Carnegie Hall during the years of 1998 and 2004. A special group put together in 1998 included his mother known to everyone as Auntie Genoa Keawe. In 2004 another opportunity arose with Nina Kealiiwahamana, Iwalani Kahalewai and some members from the most recent Hawaii Call’s cast.
Gary is honored to have toured Japan with Nina Kealiiwahamana, Iwalani Kahalewai, Benny Kalama, Sonny Kamahele, Barney Isaac’s, Alan Akaka, Mahi Beamer and the Hiram Olsen trio often produced by Uilani Productions Japan, Inc. owned by Mr. Yasuhiro Ariga who continues to love Hawaiian music to this day.
Gary has been a solo singer with the Honolulu City and County Royal Hawaiian Band since 2004. In 2005 the band did a special tour in Japan for which Gary accompanied them.
Currently Gary performs weekly at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa every Thurs evenings from 6:30 -9:30 PM and continues as a solo singer for the Honolulu City and County Royal Hawaiian Band at various scheduled events and every Friday 12 noon at the Iolani Palace in the heart of downtown Honolulu. During the weekends Gary also sings at 'Dukes Canoe Club' in the Waikiki Outrigger Hotel on the beach as a strolling musician trio with friends and family.
For more information on Gary Aiko feel free to search online. Liner notes for his songs are found on his website.