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Kumu hula O'Brian Eselu dies

By Gary T. Kubota

LAST UPDATED: 02:35 p.m. HST, Apr 03, 2012

Award-winning kumu hula and singer O'Brian Eselu has died. He was 56.

Eselu died unexpectedly at his home in Halawa. He went to sleep and was found dead in his bed this morning, a friend said.

Eselu was entertainment director of Paradise Cove Luau at the Ko Olina Resort and a winner at the annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival.

"He was an important part of Merrie Monarch. ... He was awesome," festival director Luana Kawelu said. "He will sorely be missed. He had vision."

His halau from Waianae, Ke Kai O Kahiki, was among the leading halau in the past several years, taking first place overall at the Merrie Monarch in 2009 and 2010. Ke Kai O Kahiki swept the male categories in 2010, taking first place overall and first for male halau, for male hula kahiko (ancient hula) and male hula 'auana (modern hula).

The halau placed first in male hula kahiko five times, in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2004 and 2000.

Kawelu said Eselu was part of the planning group preparing for the 50th anniversary of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival in 2013.

He was known for his booming voice and his gentle nature.

Eselu studied hula under kumu hula Muriel Lupenui and rose to prominence with associates such as Lupenui's son Darrell, John Kaimikaua and Thaddeus Wilson.

In 1994 he sang "Moku O Keawe"  to accompany the hula done by Tracie Farias who won the title in the modern category at the Merrie Monarch Festival.

In 1998, he won the "Most Promising Artist" accolade at the Hoku Awards for his CD "Ke Kumu." He also released the CDs "Aloha e aloha e aloha e" and "Maka."

He and his dancers Ke Kai O Kahiki were among the performers featured in "Hawai`i — Songs of Aloha," a PBS production that aired nationally, spotlighting Hawaiian musicians and dancers.

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McGarret wrote:
Very sad, a real loss.
on April 3,2012 | 02:58PM
vanzhula wrote:
A sad day in all of Hawaii nei. OB (as we affectionately would call him) NEVER forgot his roots `Aiea-Halawa where he wrote songs about his childhood upbringing. He NEVER forgot his friends, his school (`Aiea) and the people who supported him throughout his lifetime. `Aiea has lost another treasured Kumu but they will live on forever in our hearts. From his early childhood of growing up in the OLD Halawa Housing, to his begininings as an `Aiea Swinging Singer (most notably at the time for his comedy), to his learning under Aunty Lupenui, to the formation of Na Wai `Eha `O Puna with the late Thaddeus Wilson to becoming a singer and finally opening his own halau Ke Kai o Kahiki! So MANY WONDERFUL memories of OB! To his 'ohana; Ray, Fern and Bruce and everyone else...our hearts go out to you all! We are here for you always..HALAWA will always stand together..like we were taught by our parents. To his halau Ke Kai o Kahiki..continue what was left to you all, don't stop cause he wouldn't want it that way. REST IN PEACE AND LOVE MY DEAR FRIEND! Fly with Angels and tell my mom, dad and little brother I said HI! Missing you ....
on April 3,2012 | 03:21PM
kolohekeiki wrote:
a huge loss for the Hawaiian community...my deepest condolences to the `ohana and everyone that had the honor of being involved and knowing him...he will definitely be missed!
on April 3,2012 | 05:25PM
allie wrote:
No. A huge loss for all of us. No need to divide people.
on April 3,2012 | 05:58PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Especially since he was Samoan.
on April 3,2012 | 06:23PM
Grimbold wrote:
Tragedy : He died way too young from diabetes and kidney disease, often caused by ... ask your doctor...
on April 3,2012 | 06:00PM
Surfer_Dude wrote:
It will cost me $50 to ask my doctor, so I'm asking you.
on April 3,2012 | 07:00PM
Anonymous wrote:
What the hell comment is this?
on April 4,2012 | 09:10AM
false wrote:
Lupenui, Kaimikaua and Eselu turned the page on hula and brought it to a new horizon. Their talent and excitement for all mea Hawai`i will be missed. Too soon.
on April 3,2012 | 06:03PM
itsok wrote:
He probably had sleep apnea and had a cardiac arrest or arrhythmia? I'm sorry to his family and his halau members. He will be missed. All the old timer kumu need to go to Merrie Monarch and show us how it's done before you go!
on April 3,2012 | 08:14PM
ricekidd wrote:
RIP Uncle OB...
on April 3,2012 | 10:01PM
DHappyAngel wrote:
God rest his soul. So talented--gone too soon.
on April 3,2012 | 10:16PM
coloradowarrior wrote:
R.I.P Kumu OB. Mahalo nui loa for all the contibutions to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture. Imua Na Alii.
on April 4,2012 | 07:02AM
Anonymous wrote:
So sad, another individual gone before his time. What a terrible loss to us all! Mahalo for everything!
on April 4,2012 | 09:11AM
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