Kuana Torres Kahele’s solo venture is a tribute to his hanai mother

Aug. 12, 2011 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition

Kuana Torres Kahele, left, Kehau Tamure and Ioane Burns are Na Palapalai. —Courtesy photo

Kuana Torres Kahele, a founding member of Na Palapalai, knew that doing a solo album would raise questions, but he’s happy to answer them.

“There were a lot of those (rumors) that Na Palapalai was coming to an end, (but) Na Palapalai is still going,” Torres said last week, calling in during a lunchtime break.

“Na Palapalai is still very much busy, and we’re very thankful for that. … It’s been a whirlwind, trying to balance both Na Palapalai and this new project of mine.”

Kahele will represent both sides of his career on Sunday. He’ll perform with his Na Palapalai partners — Kehau Tamure and Ioane Burns — at a Summer Sunset Concert at Lanikuhonua in Kapolei, then go downtown to celebrate the recent release of his solo album.

The Kapolei event is an annual tribute to Hawaiian culture supported by the Lanikuhonua Cultural Institute.

The three-hour party to celebrate the release of Kahele’s “Kauanaloa” takes place at theVenue.

QUESTIONS about the future of the group may have been piqued by recent history. Keao Costa, a member of the trio on its string of Hoku Award-winning albums, left after the release of Na Palapalai’s third album, “Ka Pua Hae Hawaii.” Kahele and Tamure recorded the group’s fourth, “Nanea,” as a duo. Then Burns joined, and Na Palapalai was a trio again. Finally, Kahele’s solo album came out.

But Kahele says his solo release isn’t a reaction to events in the Na Palapalai timeline.

“It’s an old promise kept to my mom who passed away — my hanai mom, who’s actually my grandmother. She’s the Hawaiian woman pictured in the CD,” Kahele said. “She raised me. I grew up calling her Mom, and I didn’t start calling my real mom Mom until I was in high school.

“She knew where I was headed. She knew what direction I was going in, and she wanted me to do a solo album before I jumped in the group with Na Palapalai. That was her only wish, and, you know, I was young, I was in my teens back then, naive, eager to jump into the fire with the band, and I never listened to her.

“I ended up going with Na Palapalai first.”

NA PALAPALAI hit so big that there was no time left over for Kahele to fulfill his hanai mother’s desire.

SUMMER SUNSET CONCERT AT LANIKUHONUA

With Na Palapalai, Amy Hanaiali’i, Weldon Kekauoha, kumu hula O’Brian Eselu with Halau Ke Kai o Kahiki, and kumu hula Twyla Mendez with Halau Na Pua a Lei

Where: Lanikuhonua Cultural Institute, 92-1101 Aliinui Drive, Kapolei

When: 4 p.m Sunday

Cost: $30 (all ages)

Info: 550-8457 or www.honoluluboxoffice.com

Also: Food, drink and shave ice vendors will be on site.

KUANA TORRES KAHELE CD PARTY

Where: TheVenue, 1146 Bethel St.

When: 6-9 p.m Sunday

Cost: Free (minimum age 21)

Info: 597-1888 or mountainapplecompany.com

“There’s been moments in between every Na Palapalai album release that I tried to fulfill that promise, but it just didn’t work,” he said. “Finally, a little over 15 years later after the fact, I got a chance to actually do it.”

Kahele’s new, impeccably Hawaiian solo album is an impressive showcase for his talents as a singer, songwriter, musician and arranger. It would have represented Hawaiian music well in the Best Hawaiian Music Album category at the 2012 Grammy Awards; with the category eliminated it ranks as a front-runner in several major categories at the 2012 Hoku Awards.

In the meantime he’s working with Tamure and Burns on a new album.

“We just had a meeting a few days ago about just getting all the preliminary stuff out of the way,” he said. “There’s a lot of researching going on right now. These days everybody is really, really picky about the language and all that stuff, so we’re going above and beyond the boundaries of that in trying to accommodate everybody — hula and language, all that kind of stuff.”

The group plans for the next album include a liner notes booklet comparable in size and content to the magnum opus he packed into the solo CD “Kuanaloa.”

Kahele and Tamure are writing new songs for the Na Palapalai project, which Kahele says will contain “a lot more old traditional stuff that people either haven’t heard of yet or will remember if they remember that era.”

Kahele enjoys “working with tradition music” and rearranging it, he says, but prefers to avoid “doing the regular traditional stuff.”

“For Na Palapalai we try to stay away from (traditional songs) unless there have been omitted verses that a lot of people haven’t been singing over the years. Then we’ll go grab those songs and bring ’em back and add all the verses and do them in their entirety. That’s why we like to look for old stuff, to bring it back.”

—John Berger / jberger@staradvertiser.com

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