Island Mele: Kupu Dalire-Na‘auao builds his family legacy
“Chasing Legacy” is an appropriate title for the first solo album by Kupu Dalire-Na‘auao.
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Kupu Dalire-Na‘auao (Kupz Music)
“Chasing Legacy” is an appropriate title for the first solo album by Kupu Dalire-Na‘auao. The artist also known as “Kupz” has quite a legacy to chase. His father is multi-Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winner Sean Na‘auao, a founding member of the Mana‘o Company and composer of the late-1990s island anthem, “Fish & Poi.” His mother is kumu hula and Miss Aloha Hula 1992 Kau‘i Dalire. Dalire-Na‘auao’s larger legacy goes back through his mother to his grandmother, the late kumu hula and Miss Aloha Hula 1971 Aloha Dalire.
If that doesn’t sound like enough legacy, Dalire-Na‘auao’s solo debut comes after he won two Na Hoku Hanohano Awards as a member of the group Hu‘ewa. The trio won Group of the Year and Most Promising Artists in 2015.
Dalire-Na‘auao lives up to expectations as a singer, musician and songwriter with his work here. The 13 tracks show his appreciation of — and command of — Hawaiian, hapa haole, pop oldies and Jawaiian musical traditions.
Dalire-Na‘auao honors Hawaii’s classic hapa haole traditions with a romantic rendition of “Song of Old Hawaii,” a song popularized by Bing Crosby in the late 1930s. He goes back farther in time with a vigorous uptempo arrangement of a Hawaiian standard, “Meleana E.” The liner notes don’t include song lyrics or translations, but those familiar with it know that “Meleana E” is about a woman and massages. (The Hawaiian lyrics “lomi lomi i‘a” translate as “massage the fish,” and are widely interpreted as a sexual reference.) However one chooses to take the song, Dalire-Na‘auao’s arrangement is a memorable display of his Hawaiian falsetto skills.
Dalire- Na‘auao and his mother share the credit as composers of five other songs. Two have English lyrics and are accessible to mainstream audiences; one is a wistful commentary on a disconnected relationship, the other seems written directly to a partner in a troubled relationship. The meaning of the others effectively demonstrate his vocal range, though only those fluent in Hawaiian will understand the lyrics.
The beauty of the falsetto on a song titled “E Walea” transcends any language barrier.
The theme of legacy is brought forward most strongly on another Hawaiian standard, “Nani Hanalei.” Dalire-Na‘auao presents it here as a duet with his late grandmother Dalire.