Keali‘i Reichel

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - February 23, 2007

Maui’s Keali’i Reichel recently became the first traditional Hawaiian music artist to have an album certified Gold. His album Kawaipunahele, has sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide - it’s a huge accomplishment considering that back in 1994 Reichel struggled to get someone to produce it.

“I was 32 years old when that album (Kawaipunahele) came out, and we never have money and we don’t know how to make album,” says Reichel. “So we went to a couple of different labels to see if they would be interested, and they laughed us out of their office, for real. They were like, you going lose your shirt and you not going make money.”

Reichel took the rejection as a sign that he would have to do the album himself, but by chance he met up with Jim Linkner,who immediately decided to produce it.

“Once he said yes, we only had X amount of money; we had to finish the whole album in six weeks. So we had to hurry up.”

All that rejection and six weeks of recording has paid off,making Reichel the third Hawaii artist to reach gold, the first being Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole and the second Don Ho.

“I don’t think any of this music things had any goals,” says Reichel. “There was no initial expectation and there still isn’t. As far as selling as many albums as we can,we have absolutely no control over that - either people like it, or they don’t.”

Reichel values the recognition not as a measurement of personal achievement, but instead as a measurement of achievement for the Hawaiian culture.

“I think it’s important for people to continue to write in Hawaiian, and so if this particular achievement can set an example for what can be done, then it’s better than the gold album because it’s something that brings lots of pride to our culture.”

Q’n A


What’s your least favorite food?

Cooked liver. I like raw liver, we call that ake. But if it’s cooked, I no like.

How many CDs do you own?

Like 300 to 400. I’ve been buying CDs from when they first came out. When CDs first came out, you know how much they was? It was like $35 one. And that’s why it first came out, I was like nobody going buy these things, but look now.

What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?

You know, this may sound a little obscure, but a kou bowl.

What’s your favorite place to shop?

Na Mea Hawaii at Ward.

What’s your favorite word in the Hawaiian language?


Keali‘i Reichel
Keali‘i Reichel

What song did you listen to the most in your life?

Probably because I used to obsess on the Brothers Caz and that was when I was in my mid-20s, so I think I’ve listened to Nani Hanalei a couple thousand times.

What’s your idea of the perfect meal?

Sardine and onion with corned beef, fried vienna sausage and poi.

That’s my comfort food. I gotta have that at least once a month. I get my stash.

Living or dead, who would you most want to have dinner with? Kuluwaimaka, the chanter. He was the last chanter in (King David) Kalakaua’s court.

What’s your favorite flower?

That’s a hard one - lehua.

What’s your biggest fear?

My biggest fear is that I would not be able to express myself as a Hawaiian.

What do you do to relax?

Mow the lawn.

What’s your best musical moment?

There’s so many and they are all good. It would be that one Hoku Award, one year that Makaha Sons and IZ reunited. That was just before he died. For me that was probably the most memorable musical moment, when I wasn’t on the stage.

What do you think makes Hawaii like no other place in the world? The people.

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