The Lives We Lost: Buddy Jantoc

The Oahu-born musician was a devoted grandfather who played his last show the night before he died.

Stepping into Buddy Jantoc’s apartment in Lahaina was like visiting a music store.

The 79-year-old musician had “every instrument” in his home, his oldest granddaughter said, including a full drum set in his living room.

“Every story that I hear from my dad or aunties and uncles who grew up with him, he always had an instrument in his hand,” Keshia Alakai said.

Jantoc grew up in Honolulu, making his professional musical debut in his early 20s in Waikiki clubs. He traveled the world as the lead guitarist for a series of bands, but he fell in love with Maui, Alakai said, moving there more than four decades ago and making it his forever home.

Jantoc, second from the left in the back, had been a professional musician for more than half a century. (Screenshot/ Screenshot/

Jantoc was a skilled musician who was dedicated to his craft — and could get a bit grumpy if things at a show weren’t up to his standards — but he was also extremely funny and kind, always taking time to joke and laugh with musicians and dancers and put them at ease, said Keoni Manuel, a kumu hula who worked with Jantoc for more than 20 years.

“He spoke through his music. He showed his love through his music, through his playing,” Manuel said. “That’s what made me fall in love with him.”

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Civil Beat’s memorial project aims to tell a meaningful story about every single person who perished in Aug. 3 Lahaina blaze. Click on the image to read more. 

Though a steady stream of gigs on Maui garnered him friends from far-flung places and earned him the nickname “Mr. Aloha,” he always had time to dote on his grandchildren, Alakai said. Jantoc, who lived in a low-income senior housing complex, would call Alakai several times a week, sometimes with something as simple as sharing that he’d seen a sale on gas advertised near her home.

“Everything about him was just bright,” his grandson-in-law Keipo Alakai said. “There was no hate or anger in him.”

Though he was starting to move slower and his hearing wasn’t as good as it used to be, time had not impacted his dedication to music. He played his final show the night before he died in the blaze that consumed much of Lahaina.

Did you lose a friend or loved one in the Lahaina fire? Email to help us tell their story. 

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