Island Mele: Kahele steps up with ‘Hawai’i Keawe’

Apr. 14, 2014 | 0 Comments


Kuana Torres Kahele already has an important place in contemporary Hawaiian music as a member of Na Palapalai and his work as a solo composer and recording artist. With the release of “Hawai‘i Keawe (Music For the Hawaiian Islands Vol. 1)” he embarks on a musical project that is almost unprecedented in Hawaiian music.

hawaii keawe kahele

‘Hawai‘i Keawe (Music For the Hawaiian Islands Vol. 1)’

Kuana Torres Kahele (Kuana Torres Kahele)

The album, “Hawai‘i Keawe” for short, is a collection of 10 newly written original songs about Kahele’s home island — Hawaii, the Big Island, Moku O Keawe, call it what you will. The lyrics describe the island’s beauty, celebrate historically important places and share the traditional names for specific types of rain and winds. It is also the first in series that Kahele has committed to.

Upon completion (figure sometime in 2016), Kahele will have released similar albums honoring the beautiful places and unique traditions of each of the major islands and written almost 100 new songs specifically for hula. The second album in the series, honoring Niihau, will be released in September.

The last time Hawaii saw anything similar in terms of a multi-album project by a single artist was Palani Vaughan’s four-album “Ia ‘Oe E Ka La” series honoring Kalakaua in the 1970s and early ‘80s.

Writing this much new music is challenge for almost any artist. Judged by the contents of “Hawai‘i Keawe,” Kahele is up to the challenge. The music is beautiful and the writing embraces several styles. The title song opens the album and describes his love of the island in general terms. The aptly titled “Aloha No Kona” tells of his feelings for the Kona district; it is the first of several that he sings in his beautiful falsetto voice.

The lyrics of other songs are equally descriptive. Some of them also suggest romantic encounters amid the beautiful scenery, fragrant flowers, winds and rains of his beloved island.

Kahele is a multi-talented musician who plays guitar, ukulele, ipu and acoustic bass. Steel guitarist Casey Olsen and pianist Les Ceballos join him on what it otherwise a one-man project.

Hula dancers can’t dance, and singers should not sing, without knowing the correct lyrics and the meaning of the song they’re doing. Kahele’s liner note provide that essential information, and include instructions on how to make a lei liko lehua, the official lei of the Big Island, as well.

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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at

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