mele

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
Kalani Peʻa

 

For a young Kalani Peʻa, music wasn’t just a hobby he enjoyed – it was also therapy, as he worked through a childhood speech impediment. On a new NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG, the Grammy and Nā Hōkū-winning singer and his band perform selections from his albums, E Walea and No ʻAneʻi in the PBS Hawaiʻi studio. Discover Peʻa’s humble beginnings in Panaʻewa, Hawaiʻi Island, his creative drive and how music changed his life.

 

More from Kalani Peʻa:

 

Music Saved Me

 

There’s Beauty Everywhere

 

 

 

Kalani Peʻa

Cover story by Liberty Peralta, PBS Hawaiʻi

 

Kalani Peʻa

 

For Grammy- and Nā Hōkū Hanohano-winning singer Kalani Peʻa, music wasn’t just a hobby. It was therapy.

 

“I stuttered a lot as a child,” he says. “In preschool, my mom wanted me to take speech therapy. That didn’t work.”

 

A pivotal moment came when Pe‘a was only three years old, when his parents found him serenading a mannequin at a Hilo shopping mall.

 

“[My parents] were like: ‘If we put him through choir [and] vocal training, will that really help him, give him the confidence to be comfortable with himself, to be able to overcome such a challenge?’” Peʻa says.

 

The answer was a resounding “yes.” Indeed, Peʻa’s parents signed him up for vocal lessons and choir. Throughout childhood and into his college years, Peʻa would keep singing in talent shows and public performances.

 

NĀ MELE - Traditions on Hawaiian Song: Kalani Peʻa“Music saved me,” he says. “[Singing] helps me to enunciate and pronounce certain words, whether it’s in Hawaiian music or English.”

 

One word that many may find difficult to pronounce – his legal first name. “What the heck is a ‘Trazaara’?” Peʻa laughs. (It’s pronounced “trah-zah-ah-rah.”) “Trazaara is an English men’s cologne. My mom gave that to me. Sounds like an entertainer’s name, right?”

 

Growing up, Pe‘a lived with his family in a pink trailer home in Panaʻewa Homestead near Hilo. “We had lanterns; we didn’t have electricity,” he recalls. “And it was such a loving family. We weren’t rich, we weren’t poor, but I knew that we had to work hard … That home is a reminder of hard work for me.”

 

While continuing to work through his speech impediment in the third grade, he asked his parents about transferring from a mainstream English language school to a Hawaiian immersion program. “I wanted to speak [the Hawaiian language] just like my siblings,” Peʻa says.

 

He would remain in Hawaiian immersion schools, graduating from Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu in Keaʻau, Hawai‘i Island. Wanting to cement his speech abilities, he moved to Colorado for college and earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications.

 

Singer Kalani Pe‘a (in red cap) performing in the PBS Hawai‘i studio. He’s accompanied by Aron Nelson on piano, Nalei Pokipala on backing vocals, Henry Aiau Koa on guitar and Mark K. Vaught on bass guitar. In the foreground, from left, are Hula Hālau ‘O Kamuela dancers Julyen Kaluna, Auli‘i Faurot and Jasmine Kaleihiwa Dunlap.
Singer Kalani Peʻa (in red cap) performing in the PBS Hawaiʻi studio. He’s accompanied by Aron Nelson on piano, Nalei Pokipala on backing vocals, Henry Aiau Koa on guitar and Mark K. Vaught on bass guitar. In the foreground, from left, are Hula Hālau ʻO Kamuela dancers Julyen Kaluna, Auliʻi Faurot and Jasmine Kaleihiwa Dunlap.

 

“I was told that I would never be successful,” Peʻa says. “My siblings and I were told that if we spoke Hawaiian fluently, we’ll never go to college. And I went to college. We had to overcome challenges and misconceptions. That’s what I do.”

 

Music saved me

– Kalani Peʻa

 

And he does much of this through music. In a new episode of Nā Mele: Traditions in Hawaiian Song, Peʻa performs selections from his albums, E Walea and No ʻAneʻi, both of which won Grammy Awards for Best Regional Roots Album. Supporting Peʻa are: Henry Aiau Koa on guitar; Nalei Pokipala on backing vocals; Mark K. Vaught on bass guitar; and Aron Nelson on piano. Members of Hula Hālau ʻO Kamuela provide hula accompaniment. And from the lighting on set to his wardrobe, it’s clear that Peʻa has a trademark color, one often associated with royalty and creativity: purple.

 

For a creative like Peʻa, every moment is a chance to craft a melody. “I’m just inspired all the time, whether I’m sipping on coffee, or eating breakfast with my ʻohana …I’m all about pushing the envelope and coming up with ideas.”

 

He says the desire to strive and create are traits that have served Hawaiians well. “We’re all about collaborating with each other and finding innovative things to do,” he says. “Kalākaua was an innovative king. Kamehameha I was an innovative king, collaborating with the people of England. So when it comes to tradition, part of our traditional practices and values play a role in our lives now, but we seek balance between modern technology and our old cultural practices.”

 

Peʻa is familiar with this balancing act – honoring cultural traditions without sacrificing his personal identity. “I would call myself a modern Hawaiian, a Hawaiian of this century,” he says. “I speak Hawaiian fluently, I honor my kūpuna, I understand my values and protocol and teaching. [And] I am the guy with the purple sequined jacket. That’s who I am.”

 

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
Hūʻewa

NA MELE: Hū‘ewa

 

When you hear their name, you can’t help but smile. The young trio Hūʻewa is comprised of Kupu Dalire-Naʻauao, Kekoa Kane and Kahi Lum-Young.

 

“‘Hū’ is to hum or to make sound, to make music. And ʻewa’ is to go off course or to find your own path,” explained Hūʻewa member Kane. “…that’s what we do with our music…we make music on our own path, on a different style.”

 

Preview

 

The trio performs songs including “Kaulana Niʻihau,” where they’re accompanied by the dancers of Hālau Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniakea; and a medley consisting of favorite songs of each member: “Kaulana Molokaʻi,” “Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua” and “Meleana Ē.” Dalire-Naʻauao explains, “The Hawaiian music that we chose, the type of songs that we chose…we just like to pull things from back in the day.”

 

 

 

Royal Talent
The Lim Family of Kohala, Hawai‘i Island

Siblings Sonny Lim, Nani Lim Yap, Lorna Lim and Leialoha Lim Amina

 

Cover Story: Royal Talent, The Lim Family of Kohala, Hawai‘i Island

By Liberty Peralta, PBS Hawai‘i

 

Royalty and talent. Chances are, it’s rare you’ve met someone – much less an entire family – who could truly lay claim to both.

 

For the Lim Family of Kohala, Hawai‘i Island, royalty and talent course through their veins.

 

The Lims’ lineage can be traced back to Alapa‘i Nui, the chief who once ruled Hawai‘i Island. As the birthplace of King Kamehameha the Great, and the residence of high chiefs (ali‘i nui), the Kohala district is featured in many ancestral stories.

 

“Kohala’s history had a lot of royalty,” says Lorna Lim. “A lot of the families still exist today. They keep family stories alive through chants and mele.”

 

The musically talented Lims are one of those families, with each family member well-versed in music, chants and hula. The six Lim siblings are: Leialoha Lim Amina, Nani Lim Yap, Charmaine “Minnie” Lim Davis, Elmer Jr. “Sonny” Lim, Lorna Lim and James “Kimo” K.H. Lim. Kimo died in a helicopter accident in 1997.

 

Their mother, the late singer Mary Ann Lim, was hired as a cook, then as an entertainer, at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in the 1960s. Naturally, the performances became a family affair.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX. Get to know two Lim family members through in-depth conversations: entertainer and kumu hula Nani Lim Yap and her son, fashion designer and hula practitioner Manaola Yap.To this day, the Lim children continue to carry the family’s musical torch. Nani, Sonny and Lorna still perform regularly at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, as well as the nearby Mauna Lani Hotel. They also frequent Japan to perform, and have traveled as far as Europe to entertain audiences.

 

“We’re real grassroots,” says Nani, whose husband Ed Yap is also an integral part of this musical family. “We’ve not really advertised what we do, who we are. I think it’s just [people] seeing what we do.”

 

This month, PBS Hawai‘i viewers can see for themselves what the Lim family can do. A new episode of Nā Mele: Traditions in Hawaiian Song, recorded in our Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Multimedia Studio, features the Lims in a new setting, but a familiar scene: surrounded by music and family. Among the songs they perform are: “Ka‘anoi Pua-Pua Olena,” “Lei Ana O Kohala,” “He Hene Ahahana,” “Ka Wahine O Ka Lua” and “Pau Hana Rag.” Among the featured hula dancers are: Leialoha Lim Amina; Lorna’s daughter Wehi; and Nani’s daughter Asia.

 

NĀ MELE: Traditions in Hawaiian Song | Monday, January 28,7:30 pm

 

There’s more. In a new episode of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, Nani Lim Yap reminisces about growing up with her siblings on Parker Ranch, going on long rides in the family’s Rambler station wagon, and overcoming stage fright. “I performed before as a dancer, but not as a singer,” she explains. “I could not look at the crowd.” Today, in addition to her regular Kohala hotel gigs with Sonny and Lorna, Nani is also an accomplished kumu hula.

 

And in a Long Story Short encore, we revisit our conversation with Nani’s son, Manaola Yap. A fashion designer who made a splash at the 2017 New York Fashion Week, he’s also a musician, hula practitioner and chanter.

 

“I do not name myself to be a designer that went to school and did all of that because that’s not me,” Manaola says. “I specifically come from the background and the understanding of the traditions of hula and the dance in its most traditional element.”

 

It all comes back to the Lims’ commitment to tradition and storytelling. “Hula, it is bringing those words to a living form,” says Lorna. “And then you realize that mele are portals back in time. You bring this song [from the past] back to life, and come right back here to our time.”

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Guest Manaola Yap will be broadcast Tuesday, January 15, 7:30 pm. Guest Lani Lim Yapʻs show will be broadcast Tuesday, January 22, 7:30 pm