An opening chant by Ka’upena Wong and a reunion concert by Kalapana neatly represented the musical diversity of contemporary Hawaii as the Hawai’i Academy of Recording Arts (HARA) presented the 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Awards Saturday afternoon at the Hawai’i Convention Center.
Wong, a renown chanter and 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, has performed in public so rarely in recent years that each rare performance is significant. This one was no exception.
Concerns that HARA’s recognition of Kalapana — one of Hawaii’s two biggest homegrown recording artists and concert acts of the ’70 — would exclude three people who were members of the group during that period were laid to rest during the pre-show cocktail hour. The three — Alvin Fejarang, Michael Paulo and Randy Aloya — had been invited and they were there.
Fejarang, Paulo and Aloya got the recognition they deserved for their work along with the four founding members — Malani Bilyeu, DJ Pratt, Kirk Thompson and the late Mackey Feary (Fejarang and Paulo played with the four founding members on "Kalapana II." Aloya was recruited as the group’s bassist when Feary quit in 1977; he played on Kalapana’s last two albums as a Hawaii-based group in the ’70s, "Kalapana III" and "Many Classic Moments.")
Also honored, and deservedly so, were Kenji Sano and Gaylord Holomaila — members of Kalapana since the mid ’80s, or, in other words, for a quarter-century.
The crowd cheered — and cell phone cameras were in effect from one end of the room to the other — when Bilyeu, Pratt, Thompson, Fejarang, Paulo, Aloya, Sano and Holomalia took the stage accompanied by three associate members of the current Kalapana group and launched into an extended arrangement of "Black Sand" that featured solos by Thompson on keyboards, Pratt on guitar and Paulo on sax.
Garin Paliahu, a current associate member, took over on drums when the song was over, Fejarang and Aloya stepped off stage, and Kalapana carried on with another of their earliest hits, "When The Morning Comes," with Bilyeu leading the group on vocals.
Two other current associate members, Zanuck Lindsey and Todd Yukumoto, also joined the current members — Bilyeu, Pratt, Sano and Holomalia — and the "alumnae" members on stage. The music of Kalapana was worlds’s away from the traditional Hawaiian and hapa-haole music represented by the other honorees but Kalapana got a spontaneous standing ovation from the entire room.
It was quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime performance. Who knows when the three "alumnae" members from the ’70s will be able to join Bilyeu, Pratt, Sano and Holomalia again?
Alas, there was no time for a "hana hou." Two guys had to catch a plane to a paying gig on another island.
Feary was represented by his son, Sebastian, who joined Bilyeu, Pratt and Sano in acknowledging the honor and thanking Hawaii for its continuing support of the group and its music.
Bonus points to HARA for having individual Hoku Award trophies for each individual honoree!
Traditional Hawaiian and hapa haole music was well represented by the cocktail hour/luncheon music of Kimo Alama Keaulana & Lei Hulu. Keaulana lead the group with verve and panache — he inspired a couple of improvised hulas by audience members and earned several rounds of well-deserved applause from the audience. And yes, he still hits those falsetto notes!
A mini-set by Dennis Kamakahi and Cyril Pahinui — playing "Ipo Lei Manu" and "Koke’e" in honor of LTA recipient Jacqueline "Skylark" Lindsey — was another musical highlight. Now question about it, now that HARA is giving Lifetime Achievement Awards to people born in the ’50s, Kamakahi and Pahinui should be fast-tracked for the honor.
HARA President Ku’uipo Kumukahi and Immediate Past President Hailama Farden performed in honor of the late Napua Stevens Poire, and Alan Akaka, Alden Levi, Kenneth Makuakane and Terry Tavares performed in honor of this year’s "two-fer" honorees, the late Ernest Tavares and his brother, the late Freddie Tavares.
‘Ukulele virtuoso Bill Tapia, 103, was unable to come to Hawaii for the event and was represented by Mihana Aluli Souza.
Several Lifetime Achievement Award recipients from years past were there to congratulate the new honorees: Larry Lindsey Kimura (1981), one of two living recipients of the award when it was named the Sydney Grayson Award, Mahi Beamer (1991), Tom Moffatt (2002), Lydia Ludin (2003), Wong and Marlene Sai (2004), Jerry Santos and Haunani Apoliona (2008, as members of Olomana), Dennis Kamakahi (2009, as a member of the Sons of Hawaii) and the Reverend Ida Chun (2010).
As a suggestion for next year, HARA needs to upgrade the "video" presentations that provide the background information on the honorees and explain why they deserve the award. The scripted comments generally ran too long. The "video"/slide presentations didn’t match up to the material that the announcers were reading. This is not "rocket science," and the video presentations in past years were produced to a higher standards.
On the other hand, the awardees’ comments were concise and to the point, and the musical performances were special, noteworthy and unique.