Mele Mei: Hawaiian Music Month

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - May 04, 2011
Haunani apoliona

Hawaii is stepping it up, and this year instead of just May Day, we’re having May Month.

That’s right, Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts has partnered with Hawaii Tourism Authority, Kinetsu International Hawaii Co. and various nonprofit organizations to present Mele Mei, a monthlong celebration of Hawaiian music.

“The HTA pointed out to us that April and May are the months when tourism is low and they wanted something to attract visitors,” says Ku’uipo Kumukahi, HARA president. “So when we went in we already knew what HTA was looking for. Our thought at HARA was to reach out to everyone and create bridges, and what we have is many organizations that share the same mission, which is to promote Hawaiian music.”

Mele Mei encompasses more than 30 festivals and events including workshops, walking tours, concerts and award ceremonies, including the 34th annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, which will conclude the celebration.

Events scheduled throughout the month include a Mother’s Day Mele May 8 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ala Moana Hotel. It’s a brunch with live entertainment by Waipuna, Kupaoa, Mark Yamanaka, Holunape, sean na’auao and na Palapalai. For more information, call 944-4333.

On May 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pacific Beach Hotel, masters of the Hawaiian steel guitar will be honored at the Legends of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Concert & Brunch. Honorees include Joseph Kekuku, sol Ho’opi’i, Dick Mcintyre, Jerry Byrd, Barney isaacs and the Rogers ohana (Feet and Benny). For more information, call 388-0559.

Highlighting Hawaii’s literacy and music community is the sixth annual Hawai’i Book and Music Festival, happening May 14-15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Honolulu Hale. This event features live entertainment, hula performances, book signings, readings, children’s activities, food booths and more. Visit for more information.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 15 it’s Mali’o: Women of Hawaiian Music Concert & Brunch at Pacific Beach Hotel. The event honors aunty irmgard Farden aluli and features entertainment by Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winners Haunani Apoliona,  Mailani Makainai, Darlene ahuna, Karen Keawehawai‘i, Ku‘uipo Kumukahi and Mihana souza. For tickets or more information, call 388-0559.

“Mali’o is a concert featuring the women of Hawaiian music, so all the women performing have all made their career in Hawaiian music performing with their instruments,” says Kumukahi.

Ladies of Mali‘o (from left) Mihana souza, Leilani Rivera Bond, Karen Keawehawai‘i, Ku‘uipo Kumukahi, owana salazar and Darlene ahuna. Photos from Melissa Moniz

The Ho’okuku Leo Ki’eki’e Falsetto Competition is May 21 at 11 a.m. at Embassy Suites. For this competition, male falsetto singers will take the stage vying for the grand prize of recording a single.

The final week of Mele Mei is the Na Hoku Hanohano Music Festival and Awards May 26-29 at the Hawaii Convention Center. The festival includes workshops such as Music ... The Business, Manufacturers, Hawaiian Language/Haku Mele and Instrumentation. To register or for more information, visit

The Na Hoku Hanohano Awards are May 29 at the Hawaii Convention Center. The theme of this year’s awards show is Our Music, One Heart, Our Hawaii.

“The theme captures the thought that the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts celebrates the excellence of commercially recorded music of and by Hawaii’s music recording artists and fully conscious of the economic growth and sustainability of Hawaii’s music industry,” says Kumukahi. “We embrace other states and countries; however, we are about Hawaii.

In short, our mission is to preserve, perpetuate and promote Hawaii’s music/recording industry.”

Nominees for the big prize, Album of the Year, are Amy Hanaialii and Slack Key Masters of Hawaii by amy Hanaialii, The Best of Na Palapalai by na Palapalai, English Rose by Kupaoa, Keola Beamer & Raiatea by Keola Beamer and Raiatea Helm, Lei Pua Kenikeni by Mark Yamanaka and Ohai Ula by Kainani Kahaunaele.

The online voting booth is now open at for Favorite Entertainer of the Year, which is the only category determined by public vote. Nominees are napua Makua, Willie K, Ledward Kaapana, Herb ohta Jr., Kupaoa, Amy Hanaialii and Slack Key Masters, troy Fernandez, Kainani Kahaunaele, Mark Yamanaka and Keola Beamer and Raiatea Helm.

“With the Na Hoku Hanohano Festival and Awards and Mele Mei, it’s to showcase Hawaiian music before the core of the music gets lost,” Kumukahi explains. “Hawaiian music isn’t out there enough, because it is very evident that musicians can’t find a venue as easily to play Hawaiian music, and people are not wanting to pay the price for Hawaiian music. So there’s a real need for many people who use Hawaiian music as their means of income.”

Also as part of the celebration, throughout the month of May KCCN FM100 and Hawaiian 105 KINE will give away Hawaiian music CDs, prizes, dinners, and tickets to selected Hawaiian music events and concerts every week. The grand prize includes two tickets to the Na Hoku Hanohano Music Festival with limousine ride to the event and an overnight stay at a hotel.

“Because this is the first year, it’s already proven to be tough to put together because the economy is down,” says Kumukahi. “But if we have to start somewhere. As I told HTA, this isn’t going to happen in a few years, but it has to continue and be lifted up so the awareness becomes greater. And really our aim is that we want people to walk away from the experience ... even if no one makes any money and just breaks even, because we need to gain exposure for Hawaiian music.”

For a full listing of Mele Mei events, visit


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