>> Kumu hula to dance to Na Palapalai
Last year, the great falsetto Hawaiian group Na Palapalai celebrated its ongoing reunion with a program that featured 42 Miss Aloha Hula titleholders dancing to their lovely sound.
The group returns to the Hawaii Theatre this weekend with a program equally as enthralling, with 35 kumu hula taking the stage to dance solo over two nights. These are among the most respected names in hula, among them judges for the Merrie Monarch Festival as well as kumu for award-winning halau. Saturday’s program includes Napua Greig, Maelia Loebenstein Carter, Kapua Dalire Moe, Kailihiwa Vaughan, Iliahi and Haunani Paredes, Sonny Ching, J. Leimomi Ho and Kunewa Mook. Sunday’s bill features Kimo Keaulana, Vicky Holt Takamine, Mapuana de Silva, Puanani Alama, Robert Cazimero and Edward W. Collier, among others.
Na Palapalai first started nearly 25 years ago as a backup band but then emerged as its own group in 2001. Its energetic interpretations of traditional tunes and close harmonies struck a chord immediately with music lovers, leading to several Na Hokuhanohana Awards. After a period in which other musicians rotated in and out the group, original band members Kuana Torres Kahele, Keao Costa and Kehau Tamure reunited in 2017 to great acclaim.
The trio recently released an album “Back to the Patch.”
NA PALAPALAI + NA KUMU NUI
>> Where: Hawaii Theatre
>> When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
>> Cost: $55-$75
>> Info: 528-0506, hawaiitheatre.com
>> Singer highlights Cambodian/ Laotian/Thai culture
This weekend, Cambodian, Laotian and Thai communities will present a favorite international performer to share the sweet, upbeat pop music of Southeast Asia.
Anthony Deth, a native Cambodian who worked for the Department of Education for many years, has arranged performances for Jane Saijai, a singer from a region that was formerly part of Cambodia but is now part of Thailand.
“She is a very well-known artist for traditional folk songs and traditional music and dance,” Deth said, describing her music as “contemporary music, but deep in the culture and the tradition. … It’s traditional, but very popular in modern times.”
Known as the “Queen of Kontrim,” Saijai has been on tour on the mainland, and this weekend she will be giving three performances around the island — at a spiritual center on the North Shore on Friday, a temple in Ewa Beach on Saturday, and at Nextdoor in Chinatown on Sunday. The performances will raise funds for local temples and for a program Saijai runs in Cambodia to build schools for the poor. Deth has also arranged for a popular Khmer band from California, Duntrey Srocksrae, to perform with her.
Hawaii has a small Cambodian community, only about 250 people, and there are about 4,000 to 6,000 Laotians and another few thousand Thais living here, Deth said. “Because we share very similar culture and religious practice, we usually join together for special events,” Deth said. Those cultures, while nominally Buddhist, are nondenominational in nature, he said, dwelling on meditation and spirituality moreso than worship of a particular deity, he said.
>> Where: NextDoor, 43 N. Hotel St.
>> When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday
>> Cost: $10-$15
>> Info: 255-4614
>> Note: Saijai also performs at 6 p.m. Friday at Wat Lao Buddha Sacksith temple, 53-088 Puhuli St., Hauula; and at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Wat Lao Sithammaram temple, 91-2126F Old Fort Weaver Road, Ewa Beach
>> Fiji celebrates new CD release at The Republik
Born six months to the day before his homeland regained its independence from Britain, Fiji blew up big in Hawaii in the early 1990s. His first two albums, “Evolution” and “Born & Raised,” and early hits like “Laie Boy,” “Smoking Session” and “Tribal War,” introduced Hawaii audiences to his unique blend of American, Jamaican and Fijian music.
Fiji made history, and personified the change that was taking place in the local music industry, when he won the Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Male Vocalist of the Year and Favorite Entertainer of the Year in 1998.
Fluent in Fijian, his first language, Fiji spoke in standard English as well as pidgin patois. He famously noted that Hawaii was the only Pacific island nation where indigenous people weren’t singing and recording some type of reggae-style music in the indigenous language.
Fiji has been based on the mainland in recent years but continues to be an important figure in local music. He’s introducing Hawaii to the music of his newly released album, “Love & Roots,” in concert this weekend. Maoli and multi-Hoku Award-winners Kapena are opening for him and welcoming him home.
— John Berger, Star-Advertiser
“Love & Roots” album release party
>> Where: The Republik
>> When: 8 p.m. Saturday
>> Cost: $25, $80 VIP
>> Info: hifinest.com
>> Okinawan community brings out best in culture
Celebrate the culture and history of Okinawa at the 37th Okinawan Festival this weekend at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.
Upwards of 50,000 people are expected to attend the two-day event. Featured will be cultural entertainment such as karate — the martial art that developed in the Ryuku Kingdom, the original root of Okinawan culture — as well as musical performances on sanshin, koto and taiko. Performers will be coming from around the islands as well as from Okinawa.
With the hot weather this summer, some of you may have skipped bon dancing this season, so this will be your chance to make up for it. A bon dance will be held from 5:30 p.m. through closing on Saturday.
Visitors can enjoy delicacies like Okinawan soba noodles and shikwasa (lemon-lime juice), take in arts and crafts and enjoy activities on music, calligraphy and language, and get their picture taken wearing a kimono. Author Lee Tonouchi and illustrator Laura Kina will also be on hand to sign their book “Okinawan Princess – Da Legend of Hachiji Tattoos.” The $2 entry fee includes admission to activities on the ground floor and a third-floor “Mura,” or village.
Proceeds from the festival benefit cultural classes and programs held at the Hawaii Okinawa Center, a Hawaii-Okinawa student exchange program, a senior health and wellness fair and other community programs.
A note on parking and transportation: Convention center parking is $10, or a shuttle from McKinley High School is $3. TheBus has a nearby stop, and Lyft ride share offers $5 discounts for new users with code OKIFEST2019, or repeat users with code OKIFEST19.
37TH OKINAWAN FESTIVAL
>> Where: Hawai‘i Convention Center
>> When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
>> Cost: $2
>> Info: okinawanfestival.com