Marja Lehua Apisaloma

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
Ahumanu

 

We’re proud to present a brand-new episode of NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG featuring the all-wāhine Hawaiian music trio Ahumanu, from Maui. Members Kekai Robinson, Marja Lehua Apisaloma and Liz Morales say their work in the community outside the entertainment realm brings to their music a dimension of authenticity, service and responsibility. The trio, whose name translates to “a gathering of birds,” performs songs including “E ʻAno ʻAno Ē” and “Kahi Aloha.” Guitarist Josh Kahula and steel guitarist Casey Olsen are also featured, with Leinaʻala Kuloloio Vedder providing hula accompaniment.

 

 

 

Ahumanu
Maui-based Trio

Cover story by Liberty Peralta, PBS Hawaiʻi

 

Ahumanu on Nā Mele: Traditions in Hawaiian Song

Members of Ahumanu: Kekai Robinson, Marja Lehua Apisaloma and Liz Morales

 

Like the latest smartphone or computer software, Ahumanu founding member Liz Morales calls the band’s third and current lineup of band members “Ahumanu 3.0.”

 

It’s not unusual for bands to see lineup changes. But Morales, a former radio personality, is confident that this version is something special.

 

“We have our own sound, and that comes from working with what we have,” Morales says. “Since we had so many different players, each version of Ahumanu sounded very different, so I think it’s only until Ahumanu 3.0 that I realized, hey, this is kind of different, I like it.”

 

Marja Lehua Apisaloma and Kekai Robinson round out the Maui trio, whose name translates as “a gathering of birds.” Each member brings her own contributions to the Ahumanu table.

 

Ahumanu on Nā Mele: Traditions in Hawaiian Song

 

Apisaloma says her day job as a registered nurse helps add some level of authenticity to the group’s music – a reminder of how much they have to be thankful for, down to the most essential details.

 

“We can breathe and we can use the bathroom on our own, we can walk on our own, we can speak,” she says. “You see all of that as a nurse and see people at their most vulnerable times. It’s such a drastic difference from the entertainment industry because you put on a face and it’s all a show.”

 

Robinson, who heads Hawaiian immersion school Ke Kula ʻO Piʻilani by day, says Ahumanu is an extension of the community work that’s played an important role in her life.

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN MUSIC - Ahumanu airs Monday, February 24 at 7:30 pm. Sponsored by: Hawaiian Airlines and First Hawaiian Bank“I practice Hawaiian oli (chants), and those are the messages and the voices of our ancestors coming through,” she says. “The messages that they give us are relevant now, so there’s a great sense of responsibility there to do the same in our music.”

 

That responsibility shows in songs like “Kahi Aloha,” one of several songs that Ahumanu performs on an upcoming episode of PBS Hawaiʻi’s Nā Mele: Traditions in Hawaiian Song. Originally written as a wedding gift, “Kahi Aloha” has taken on a larger meaning in Robinson’s eyes.

 

“Aloha has become a big part of this contemporary move towards protecting our environment, protecting what we have,” she says. “When you stand in aloha, you can come at me and bring whatever it is that you are to me, but I am going to stand here and remain respectful towards you. It’s a discipline, and so, I understand it now. It’s not our normal state. We want to work towards aloha being a normal state.”

 

Through their weekly pau hana performances in Kahului, Ahumanu has a regular platform to share their messages in song, with authenticity, respect and love. Ahumanu 3.0 is on a roll, and Morales ponders what’s next.

 

“I’d like to be a resource for the next generation of musicians that would like to do this,” she says. “Growing up in this field, it was such a mess. I didn’t know how to get where I wanted to be and those lines were so unclear … [now] I’m living the life, having a great time and very happy that I’m able to help perpetuate what we’ve known forever: Hawaiian music.”