Concert Review: Ka Himeni ‘Ana 2008

Event: Ka Himeni ‘Ana 2008
Concert Date: Saturday, August 30, 2008
Venue: Hawai’i Theatre
Genre: Traditional Hawaiian Music

The 25th Ka Himeni ‘Ana took place this past Saturday, August 30, 2008 at the Hawai’i Theatre. Dedicated to perpetuating traditional Hawaiian ensemble music in an unamplified form, Ka Himeni ‘Ana has served as the launching pad for many of today’s top Hawaiian music acts. This is an annual competition with the winner securing a recording contract. Some of the luminaries of the past to have gotten their start at Ka Himeni ‘Ana reads as a who’s who of the Hawaiian music industry. Winning groups of the past include: Ho’okena (1986), the Kanile’a Collection (1993), Kanilau (1995), Ale’a (1998), Pai’ea (1999), Holunape (2004), and Pilioha (2006). Other stars who’ve won as members of groups include: Del Beazley and Ku’uipo Kumukahi (1988), Pekelo (1990),

The Rules of the competition are simple:

  1. Bands can not number more than five members.
  2. Songs must be in ‘Olelo Hawai’i.
  3. Instruments must be “Hawaiian” to include only ‘ukulele, guitar, string bass, traditional implements, piano and autoharp.
  4. All performances are unamplified (save for light amplification on a steel guitar, if played)

This was my first time attending a Ka Himeni ‘Ana ever. The catalyst for my attendance? A good friend was competing this year so I came out to support him. Being a lifelong fan of Hawaiian music I’m actually surprised I never took the time to come on out before. Perhaps it has to do with my being semi-broke 😦 For myself though, going to my first Hawaiian concert in years was very much a homecoming for me as a calling to my roots reaches out to me.

Here’s a quick rundown of the performers and performances:

Band #1: Kaiholu (trio) doing “Panini Pua Kea” and “Kahokulani.” This is my friend’s band. I dug them as they had a nice sound and harmony to the vocals and good string work (riffs and all). The harmony style is consistent with sound of groups of recent past like Ale’a. Am I biased? Yes, but they were actually that good. They took 4th place for the night.

Band #2: Na Leo o Na Keiki Kanikapila o Hula Hui O Kapunahala (quintet) doing “He ‘Ono” and “Halalu.” These are keiki from the Hawaiian studies program at the Nu’uanu YMCA. Being my stomping ground I’ve had the privilege of seeing these kids grow year after year after year and I was really proud of what I saw that night. This was the “keiki” halau (10 and under) and they did a great job. For their age the vocals and string work were great but what really set them apart was some simple hula choreography weaved into their performance which made them stand out and was just hella cute. For their work they took 3rd place for the night.

Band #3: Uncle Matt Love and Friends (trio) doing “Koke’e” and “Pohai Kealoha.” I absolutely LOVED this group. Uncle Matt Love reminds me a lot of my uncle’s playing music growing up 🙂 This group had a nice leo ki’eki’e (falsetto) sound to them which just totally ROCKED both songs for my world 🙂 I’m surprised they didn’t place…

Band #4: Na Leo o Na ‘Opio Kanikapila o Hula Hui o Kapunahala (quintet) doing an O’ahu Medley: Aloha O’ahu, Kaimana Hila, Hanauma and Kane’ohe. This would be the teen division of the Halau that performed earlier. No cute Hula choreography here but none needed. These girls ROCKED the vocals and the string work was on par with any strum job you’ll ever get to see. I’m surprised they didn’t place.

Band #5: Wela (trio) doing “I Kona” and “Pua Hone.” Two can’t miss Hawaiian songs. These guys had an interesting vocal arrangement playing with the leo ki’eki’e and for my taste it was hit or miss with some parts. String work was on par with anything else.

Band #6: Opihikao Serenaders (trio) doing “Malihini O Waimea” and “Manu Mele.” This was a trio of Aunty’s doing some sweet cha-lang-alang work with their ‘ukuleles and a guitar and it sounded just like a group of Aunty’s playing at a party. One song in particular was really cute as they had a few lines singing, “doo doo be doo, doo doo doo doo doo” which had the crowd laughing it up. Pleasantly surprisingly they took 5th place for the night.

Band #7: Keauhou (quartet) doing “Lei Pua Kenikeni” and “La ‘Elima.” Tons of Keauhou peeps in the crowd to support this group out of Kamehameha. Like Kaiholu, they had a sound very consistent with winners of years past and lo and behold the formula works as Keauhou snagged the win and the recording contract. Bonus points to them for the steel guitar work!!! Here’s to a successful career boys.

Band #8: Camacho (duo) doing “Maunaloa” and “Morning Dew.” I believe this is a husband and wife duo. According to Marlene Sai (MC for the evening) they’ve become a Ka Himeni ‘Ana fixture as they’ve performed every year in recent times. You gotta love a couple who just has that love of music in their hearts and the willingness to express it. They sound just like any other folk off the street or in the back yard jamming the old school Hawaiian tunes. At the end of the day it’s that love of music that needs to drive you 🙂

Band #9: Na Leo Opio (quintet) doing “Tewe Tewe” and “E Maliu Mai.” This group outta Kapolei High came to came win and they brought the goods. Awesome vocal and string work on par with that of winners past took them to the #6 spot. I hope to see more of them in the future.

Band #10: Stephen Inglis and Kalae Miles (duo) doing a “Medley: Pua Lililehua/Maika’i Ka Makani o Kohala” and “Kalena Kai.” These guys ROCKED it. I loved the arrangements on the songs. Inglis rips a mean guitar and Miles vocals are to die for. I’d actually called them to win but they came in 2nd.

Overall Thoughts

Long live Hawaiian music!!! For me, hearing such great Mele Hawai’i is like a trip home to Mom and Dad, it’s good for the soul and just what the doctor orders every now and then. For me, I’d love to see stuff like this more often. If you’re a Hawaiian music lover I definitely encourage you to check out Ka Himeni ‘Ana each year as you’re bound to see tomorrow’s headliners today.

Link: Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame
Link: Hawaiian Harmony

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