Mento Mele on the Mic
Years ago, when Mele Apana was just a toddler growing up on Kaua‘i, she was already singing and dancing at every lū‘au show her family produced. From Waiohai Po‘ipū and Kaua‘i Resort to Coco Palms and SS Constitution, Apana spent her childhood performing throughout the island.
“That’s all I knew growing up,” she says. “I danced, I sang and I played every instrument. I loved the stage because it was my happy place. We always had hula dancers and entertainers come to tūtū’s house behind Coco Palms on Apana Road, where we grew up.”
One of the island’s most renowned entertainers and kumu hula was her Aunty Lovey Apana. From the time she was able to walk, Apana would tag along with Aunty Lovey to the KUAI studio to promote the family’s music and hula events.
She would sit in the studio with a pencil in her hand pretending to be a radio DJ and mimicking everything Uncle Mo Keale would ask the entertainers.
“As a child, I was always intrigued with anything and everything to do with radio,” she says.
Today, Apana is a renowned radio and television entertainer. It was in 1998 when she was first approached by the program director for KCCN FM100 to be a part of its radio family. Since then, she has also had stints on Power 104.3 and Island 98.5.
In addition, her work has included several TV projects, including as an entertainment reporter for Hawai‘i News Now.
Apana is currently one half of the popular “Da Kolohe Krew” on Hawaiian 105 KINE.
She hosts the show with one of her best friends, Shannon Scott, and together, they have created one of the top morning shows in the state.
Da Kolohe Krew perpetuates the artists of the past, celebrates the present and introduces listeners to those who will be the future of Hawaiian music.
Apana’s favorite artists over the years include a diverse group that ranges from legends to up-and-comers: Aunty Genoa Keawe, The Brothers Cazimero, Kalapana, C&K (Cecilio & Kapono), Mākaha Sons, Willie K, Keali‘i Reichel, Fiji, Kapena, Brother No-land, Robi Kahakalau, Jeff Rasmussen, Amy Hānaiali‘i Gilliom, Kalani Pe‘a, Keauhou, Nā Hoa, Natalie Ai Kamauu and Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole.
Apana and Scott have been especially pivotal for many of Hawai‘i’s up-and-coming artists.
“We always believe that everyone needs support, a chance and a breakthrough,” she says. “So we try our hardest to help everyone in our Hawai‘i music industry. I believe we are one — the champions of the music industry today, somewhat pioneers of today’s music business.”
In fact, their radio show has introduced to the world Grammy Award winners like Pe‘a and multi-Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award stars like Keauhou.
Apana describes Hawaiian 105 KINE radio station as “the hub of Hawai‘i” for its work in continuously intertwining integral components of local music — harmony, hula, language and culture — to make sure it remains relevant and that the music is carried on throughout the world.
Yet, for Apana, the best part of her show is the personal connection with her listeners. She speaks lovingly of being able to put a smile on people’s faces every day and making people laugh.
“Whether we are on the air or on social media, I know we are touching people’s lives, one heart at a time,” she says. “Our show is special. With our listeners, we laugh, we cry, we inspire and we empower.”
Along with her popular radio show, Apana already has a full plate for 2019.
Some of her notable engagements include Merrie Monarch Festival, her Mother’s Day show at Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikīkī, Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, Waimea Valley summer concert series on O‘ahu, various events for Kamehameha Schools and Aloha Festivals parade — just to name a few. Apana is also working on possibly doing a network TV show and Hawaiian Airlines’ Island Favorites music show with Billy V.
No matter how much Apana’s career has flourished, perhaps her greatest accomplishment has been her ability to remain humble and grounded to her roots. She credits being raised well in a modest family for never letting her forget where she comes from and where she calls home.
Out of all the upcoming events Apana has planned, the one that gives her voice pause is the legacy concert she is producing to honor Aunty Lovey, slated for Aug. 1, 2020, at Kilohana Plantation.
“She raised me to become who I am today,” Apana says. “Those years of growing up on stage groomed me to become who I am today.
“My work is my kuleana,” she continues. “Whether its music, hula, culture or philanthropy work, I want to continue to inspire and empower the multitudes of people worldwide to do great work for their community and families. All in all, we echo our kūpuna and our ‘ohana, so whatever we do in life, we all have to make sure we are grounded.
“I always tell everyone, I cannot do what you do, you cannot do what I do, but we do together and when we do together, we create a synergy, and we rise by lifting each other up.”