The Voice of Hawai'i's New Generation
“My work draws directly from ancestral memory and hula practice, with roots in chant that transforms to melody. It is not simply Western song with Hawaiian lyrics.”--Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole
“...Kanaka'ole…was backed only by a guitarist in songs drawing on island traditions, particularly chameleonic vocals. [She] vaulted through various registers and timbres, from bass to witchy contralto rasp to sweet soprano ([her] “skinny girl” voice, [she] said), a traditionalist tour de force.” –Jon Pareles, The New York Times
“Kaumakaiwa Kanaka`ole carries the banner of family matriarch Edith Kanaka`ole with pride and dignity. Clearly, "Welo" will be a beacon for others to admire, adopt and follow; it's loaded with exquisite chants, mele and stories, all told in the native Hawaiian tongue, but eloquent and inventive in execution. This is an inspired primer on preserving and perpetuating things and themes Hawaiian, with surprises and treats galore . . ." --Wayne Harada, Honolulu Advertiser
A remarkable and riveting performer, Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole has been on the stage since she could walk. She now has five Nā Hōkū Hanohano (Hawaiian Grammy) awards to her name, garnering a reputation as “the voice of Hawai‘i’s new generation,” creating songs whose aesthetic inspiration derives from Hawaiian chant traditions. In 2015, she was awarded a highly-regarded 2015 Native Hawaiian Artist Fellowship by the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation.
Her roots are in the hula of the esteemed Kanaka’ole Family of Hawai’i Island, whose hula and Hawaiian cultural practices have been passed down through seven generations and beyond. Great-grandmother Edith Kanaka‘ole was one of the leaders of the Hawaiian “renaissance” of the 60s and 70s that brought hula, Hawaiian art and culture, and Hawaiian language back into the active life of the islands; grandmother Pualani Kanaka’ole Kanahele is a renowned kumu hula (hula master) and cultural leader and educator; and mother Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani is also a leader in hula and cultural practice and a singer. Kaumakaiwa was raised in a family of strong Hawaiian traditions, and she grew up on the slopes of the volcano Mauna Kea, regarded as a family ancestor, its primordial power a daily influence. She was brought up speaking Hawaiian as well as English, listening to Hawaiian music and all types of Western music, educated in Hawaiian tradition and in Western culture.
Kaumakaiwa brings to the stage an immense talent as a singer, chanter, and dancer as well as a deep understanding of her Hawaiian culture and her place as a modern, transgender Hawaiian (mahu wahine) in this contemporary world. Her performances and music seamlessly meld Hawaiian culture and modern sensibilities, with songs that draw from ancient ‘oli (chant) traditions, contemporary melodies, and original mele (lyrics), in deeply powerful music. Hawaiian culture has plenty of humor and she often provides wry commentary and stories to give context to her songs.
She tours solo, with guitarist Shawn Pimental; with mother Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani; they each have released 3 award-winning CDs; and with Paula Fuga.
In 2010, the Hawai'i International Film Festival premiered a new film about Hawaiian chant: Mana i ka Leo (Power of the Voice). www.manaikaleo.com. Kaumakaiwa is one of three featured chanters, and her chant is heard on the film's trailer.
Kaumakaiwa was the first Hawaiian performer invited to appear at New York's globalFEST 2011, one of only 13 artists representing cultures from around the world. Held in conjunction with the annual APAP conference in January 2011, globalFest offered a prestigious showcase for world music artists. And she was the first Hawaiian to perform at the renowned Dreaming Festival in Australia, a gathering of indigenous peoples from around the world.
With a range from baritone chant to Hawaiian falsetto singing, Kaumakaiwa's voice continues to impress.
Pronunciation a challenge? Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole: [Kao-mah-kah-EE-vah Kah-nah-kah-OH-ley]
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