Darren Benitez grew up surrounded by music. In his earliest years, he loved the sound of his mother and uncle’s voices. Growing up listening to Dennis Pavao, Ledward and Nedward Ka’apana – better known as the “Hui O Hana” – he assumed that this was the way that true Hawaiian music should sound. Yet, during that time, he doubted his own singing abilities and did not envision a career in music.
All that changed in 1986 when a neighbor complimented him on his falsetto singing. He was ashamed at first, but in spite of his fears, he left his job as a forklift operator at the old Dole Cannery. Not long after, he bought his first guitar with his last paycheck. Since then, he has been working as a professional musician helping to shine his new light on the unique beauty of Hawaiian falsetto singing.
Darren enjoyed his quick success and his steady rise among professional performers of traditional Hawaiian music. In 1988 he won a music competition at the Jubilee Night Club and it convinced him even more to focus on performing. A year later, while performing on American Hawaii Cruise’s inter-island line, he saw Uncle Johnny Lum Ho and his halau for the first time. The graceful dancers and Uncle Johnny’s pure natural sounding voice captured his heart. Darren went on to perform with Uncle Johnny at the Merrie Monarch Festival in the 1990’s, a tradition that continues until today.
Inspired and constantly discovering more about the music that he loves, Darren continues to grow as a musician. In addition to playing and recording with Uncle Johnny, Darren has also performed and recorded with Ledward Ka’apana as a member of the New I Kona, and established a reputation as a solo artist. His first CD, Broken Hearts, made its debut in September of 1995. In 1996 he was nominated in five categories at the prestigious Na Hoku Hano Hano awards, earning him an award for Most Promising Artist of the Year. Two years later in 1998 he released Mother of the Sea, which garnered three more Na Hoku Hano Hano award nominations the following year.
After a long 10-year break from recording, Darren Benitez has proven the Na Hoku Hano Hano judges right, living up to the promise they saw in those early performances. His latest release, Dear Mama, reflects not only his love for music that he first felt as a child, but also the deepening appreciation that continues to grow within him to this day. .