Island Mele: Hoku Award-winning Kupaoa returns with award-worthy album
As in years past, Kupaoa honors the traditions of Hawaiian music with “Ka Lei Moana.”
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“KA LEI MOANA”
Kupaoa (Hulu Kupuna Productions)
Kupaoa — the husband-and-wife duo Kellen and Kalikolihau Paik — spent much of last year supporting Mark Yamanaka and his long-anticipated album, “Lei Lehua.” It proved to be time well spent. The project received eight Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in May — six awards in five categories for Yamanaka, one for Kellen as co-producer with Yamanaka of the album, and one for Lihau for her work as co-writer with Yamanaka of the Hoku Award-winning song of the year, “Lei Lehua.”
This year, the Paiks are promoting their own newly-released album, and it is also a winner.
As in years past, Kupaoa honors the traditions of Hawaiian music.
Both sing lead and they harmonize beautifully.
The instrumentation is basic — he plays acoustic guitar and ukulele, she now plays an acoustic bass guitar.
Steel guitarist Jeff Au Hoy is the most prominent of a short list of musicians who sits in with them from time to time.
Several selections are classics that the couple personalizes. Others, newly written, seem certain to become classics in the years to come.
Puakea Nogelmeier continues his relationship with the duo by contributing the lyrics to the title song, explaining in the liner notes that the lyrics were originally composed as a chant for performance at the Memorial Day Lantern Lighting Festival. The words refer to water’s unifying role as it passes from the uplands to the shore, then becomes part of the ocean that in turn links all parts of the world together.
Among the other newly written songs is “Lei Mokihana,” written by Lihau for and about Kellen early in their relationship, and “Pua Hau ‘Ula,” a song they both share credit for, which will inspire many of us a deeper appreciation of red hau blossoms.
Also new and noteworthy is “Evening Song,” a hapa haole lullaby that continues their productive symbiotic relationship with the song’s writer, Mark Yamanaka.
Instantly ear-catching among the classics is the duo’s dramatic rearrangement of “Kaua I Ka Huahua‘i,” a song that was popularized outside Hawaii as “The Hawaiian War Chant” despite the fact that it was not a chant and the lyrics have nothing to do with war.
The duo also honors the musical legacy of Lili‘uokalani with “Ke Anu E Ko Mai Nei,” and recalls the surge of pride generated by the first voyages of the Hokule‘a with their revival of late-1970s anthem “Wa‘a Hokule‘a.”
The recordings are documented with song lyrics, English translations and relevant background information in a beautifully illustrated 14-page liner notes booklet, visually restating the theme established by the title song, “garland of the sea.”