Israel "Bruddah Iz" Kamakawiwoʻole

 

Israel "Bruddah Iz" Kamakawiwoʻole (pronounced ka-maka-vi-vo-ole) was born on the 20th May 1959 to Henry Kaleialoha Naniwa Kamakawiwoʻole, Jr. and Evangeline Leinani Kamakawiwoʻole. He lived the first 10 years of his life in Palolo Valley on O'ahu. Then the family moved to Makaha. He started playing music with his older brother Skippy when he was just 11 years old.

In his early teens, his family moved to Makaha, Hawaii. There, he met Louis "Moon" Kauakahi, Sam Gray, and Jerome Koko. Israel formed the musical group Makaha Sons of Niʻihau with brother Skippy plus Louis "Moon" Kauakahi, Sam Gray and Jerome Koko. They recorded No Kristo in 1976 and released four more albums, including Kahea O Keale, Keala, Makaha Sons Of Ni'ihau and Mahalo Ke Akua, before Skippy's death of a heart attack in 1982. The group became Hawaii's most popular traditional group with breakout albums like 1984's Puana Hou Me Ke Aloha and its follow-up, 1986's Hoʻola. Israel's last recorded album with the group was 1991's Hoʻoluana. It remains the group's top-selling CD.

Izrael's first solo album, Ka'ano'i, released in 1990 won awards for Contemporary Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year from the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts (HARA).  His next album, Facing Future was released in 1993 and featured his most popular song, the medley "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World", along with "Hawaiʻi 78", "White Sandy Beach of Hawaiʻi", "Maui Hawaiian Sup'pa Man", and "Kaulana Kawaihae". Facing Future became Hawaii's first certified platinum album, selling more than a million CDs in the United States, according to figures furnished by the Recording Industry Association of America. In 1997, Izrael was again honoured by HARA at the Annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards for Male Vocalist of the Year, Favorite Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year, and Island Contemporary Album of the Year.  In 2001, his album Alone In IZ World debuted at number 1 on Billboard's World Chart.

As his career progressed, Iz became known for promoting Hawaiian rights and Hawaiian Independence, both through his music (whose lyrics often stated the case for independence directly) and through his life. Throughout the latter part of his life, Iz suffered from severe obesity and sadly passed away on 26th June, 1997 at the age of 38.

On the day of his funeral, 10th July, 1997, the Hawaii State Flag flew at half-mast. His coffin lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu - the third person, and the only non-politician, in Hawaiian history to be accorded this honour. Over 10,000 people attended his funeral. Thousands of fans gathered and cheered as his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean at Mākua Beach on the 12th July, 1997.

On the 20th September, 2003, hundreds of people paid tribute to Israel Kamakawiwoʻole as a 200-pound bronze bust of the revered singer was unveiled at the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center on Oʻahu. The singer's widow, Marlene Kamakawiwoʻole, and sculptor Jan-Michelle Sawyer were present for the dedication ceremony.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was a gentle giant of a man with a little ukulele and the golden voice of an angel. He left behind a deep and profound musical legacy that reaches into the very heart and soul of the listener. He possessed a MANA - an aura and energy - that was quite special and unique which reached out to his audience and brought tears to their eyes. He was definitely one of a kind whose heart was always with his beloved Hawaii and the Hawaiian people. 

Very sadly, Iz has left us and we sorely miss him. He has certainly enriched our lives with a lasting legacy for which we are forever most grateful. His exceptional and rare talent will remain with us always and will never be forgotten.