Amy Hanaiali’i

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - August 29, 2008

The 411

Amy Hanaiali'i

As lovely as she is talented,Amy Hanaiali’i has spent most of her lifetime dazzling the world with her outstanding falsetto range and polished performances.

She continues to push the boundaries of Hawaiian music, while embracing her culture and spirituality.Her newest effort, ‘Aumakua (family guardian), pays tribute not only to her family’s ‘aumakua (rain), but recognizes its cultural importance within the Hawaiian culture.

“I think I’ve grown into spirituality,“says Hanaiali’i.“I was always a very spiritual child, especially growing up in Hawaii and having Polynesian ancestry - our tutu passed that down to us. As I got older, I started to believe and appreciate it more. After tutu passed, then it got stronger. Now I live on Molokai and it’s the strongest that it’s ever been.”

The album includes a song, Ka Ua ‘Ula, that talks about the red rain of Lahaina. Another song, Kahalaopuna, talks about how the princess of Manoa was raised by her ‘aumakua. Track 13, Ka Makani Ka’ili Aloha, represents the man in Kipahulu who asked his ‘aumakua to bring his wife home.

“I was in Japan and I was doing about eight interviews a day talking about this album, and what was really beautiful is that it really makes people stop and wonder if they have an ‘aumakua,” says Hanaialii. “Everyone has an ‘aumakua. And it really makes them wonder about how spiritual life is.”

The album also pays tribute to the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole with the song In This Life. As Hanaiali’i explains, “Where IZ has become an ‘aumakua because he has passed.I wanted to do something in honor of him because he is the biggest recording artist to ever come out of Hawaii.”

Coming up for Hanaiali’i in September are back-to-back performances scheduled throughout Japan.After that, she’ll hopefully be able to take a nice little break at her 70-acre shrimp farm in Molokai with daughter Madeline and husband John Austin.

But before she heads out to Japan,Hanaialii has some Hawaii business to tend to, with an all-out CD release party Aug. 30 at the Waterfront, Aloha Tower Marketplace. The concert is from 4 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $12 pre-sale and $17 at the door. Proceeds benefit Aha Punana Leo. For tickets, call 550-8457.

But here’s the best part: Taking the stage with Hanaiali’i are Maunalua, Sean Naaua’o, O-Shen, Jeff Peterson, Jerry Santos, Marlene Sai, Jeff Rasmussen, 10 Feet, Kawika Trask, Ben Vegas, Pilioha, Makana, Genoa Keawe Ohana, Nina Keali’iwahamana, Kaukahi, Kamakaiwa Kanakaole, Robi Kahakalau,Ho’okena,Raiatea Helm,Napua Grieg,Eric Gilliom, Maila Gibson, John Cruz, Ernie Cruz, Keao Costa, Cecilio & Kapono, Jimmy Borges, Darren Benitez, Mahi Beamer and Afatia.

Amy Hanaiali'i
Amy Hanaiali’i

Why did you decide to move to Molokai?

Because my ancestry is from here. My great-great-grandfather and grandmother were born in Waikolu. John (Austin), my other half, and I bought a 70-acre shrimp farm, so I am totally into that now.We have12 pigs, with all celebrity names. We have 15 one-acre circular ponds that we’re cultivating shrimp in.We moved here like seven months ago, so we just put our first batch in. My ultimate goal is to finally move here.People ask me if I miss the city and I’m like,no.I just came from Yokohama where there were like 1 billion people at one stoplight.

Does where you’re living now remind you of where you grew up in old Kihei?

It really reminds me a lot of when I was a little girl.I grew up with pigs and cows and all that.My dad loved to do that. Because Madeline is around the limelight so much - I mean, she’s in a parade in Japan with Konishiki,then she’s with the president of Tahiti - I want her to stay really grounded.So our ultimate goal is to raise her here.

Does Madeline travel with you?

Yes, she always travels with me.

Is she a singer herself?

She likes singing, but she mostly likes to dance. She has a little red ukulele, which has to be completely detuned. Then she does her internal hula, which is more like a modern hula.

How has being a mommy been treating you?

It’s been wonderful. John and I both feel that it’s like normal for us. We’re so used to having her with us all the time.It’s wonderful.I love being a mother.

What important values do you try to instill in her?

I was very fortunate to have a family that was very down to earth and told me straight.Because I was raised knowing that Akua could take your talent in a second, I’m very respectful of that, and I try to instill that in her now.

I’m sure you’re excited with every album that you release, but is this album particularly special to you?

All my albums are very special because it comes at different points in my life.My writing is from that point in my life. This one is my most mature album because I recorded it with the Matt Catingub Orchestra of Hawaii. So it has a real classic feel to it. All my musician friends agree that when you have an orchestra behind your music that it’s the most incredible and beautiful thing.

Aside from music, what are your goals and plans?

Well, my clock is ticking,and I definitely want to have about two more kids. We’re trying to get our farm up and running - that’s just a whole different field. I’m so used to being on the road and on a tour bus. Now I have something to really come home to and be part of the land. And growing things is a whole different feel.

Of all the places music has taken you, where is the most amazing place you’ve visited?

I would have to say China. I went with our governor to China, and one of my most memorable moments was not only singing Hawaiian music on the Great Wall, but I was the first Hawaiian act to perform in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. We had the Tibetan throat singers open for us and it was just unbelievable. I have never heard anyone sound like this in my entire life. Being that a lot of the Chinese people have never heard Hawaiian music or seen hula, they just cried.It was so pure for them and they really got it.It was really an incredible exchange.


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