Harry Kalapana

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Harry Kalapana was born in the early 1930s in the Balkans -- an unlikely place to learn Hawaiian guitar. Nonetheless, after hearing a recording of the newly popular style while in boarding school, he…
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Harry Kalapana was born in the early 1930s in the Balkans -- an unlikely place to learn Hawaiian guitar. Nonetheless, after hearing a recording of the newly popular style while in boarding school, he picked up a Yugoslavian guitar and started practicing. After seeing a young Tau Moe perform in Belgium, his pace quickened considerably to complement the inspiration. Moving to Paris allowed him further development, which eventually led to an ongoing gig in Madagascar in 1952, perhaps one of the only places less likely to embrace Hawaiian guitar than the Balkans. He spent some four years performing in Madagascar and around the Indian Ocean rim (as well as making a few recordings on the side) before returning to Paris after a divorce in 1956. Between 1956 and 1967 Kalapana made some 200 records under a variety of names and styles, paying the bills as a sideman and/or a novelty act, in large part. He spent another ten years as a bartender, performing intermittently until a car accident in 1976 and an eventual musical retirement in 1980. Recordings are abundant throughout Europe and the US, with the most recent being 2003's Hawaiian Guitar on ARC records.