Sala’s Life Is Filled With Song

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - April 01, 2009
Aaron J. Sala

As always, the Kamehameha Schools 89th annual Song Contest March 20 at Neal Blaisdell Center Arena did not disappoint. From speeches to arrangements to songs - and of course the Ho’ike - it was a very well-done event.

The evening, which celebrated the music of John Kamea’aloha Almeida, was beautifully arranged and executed. The song that hit home for me was Iesu Me Ke Kanaka Waiwai, performed by the Senior Men and arranged by Les Ceballos. It is a family favorite sung by my dad and his siblings at our Big Island gatherings. For those who missed it, here’s the list of this year’s winners. The Louise Aoe McGregor Award, which recognizes the student director who has made the most significant contribution to the class in organizational ability, leadership, assistance to others, and persistence, was awarded to C. Ka’ai’ohelo McAfee-Torco (Class of 2010).


The Richard Lyman Jr., ‘Olelo Makuahine (Mother Tongue) Award, which recognizes excellence in the use of the Hawaiian language within a song, was awarded to the Junior Women. The Kamehameha Schools Boys’ Award, George Alanson Andrus Cup winner was the Senior Men. The Kamehameha Girls’ New England Mothers’Cup winner went to the Junior Women. The Helen Desha Beamer Award, which recognizes the best musical performance, was awarded to the Senior Men. And the 2009 Charles E. King Cup, which is awarded to the class winning the combined/coed class competition went to the Sophomore Class...

Wearing many hats for the evening was Aaron J. Sala, who returned as a commentator for the televised event, and also arranged A oia! for the Sophomore Men and Maile Swing for the Senior Coed.

Sala’s album, ‘Napo’ona Mahina’

“In addition to just being a musician and being able to arrange, and participate in the color commentary, and teach, and work with students, and perform in the Ho’ike, the most amazing part of it all is that I actually am part of that legacy,” says Sala, a 1994 Kamehameha Schools graduate, who has been arranging for the Song Contest since 2003. “It’s one of those things that Kamehameha alums have the privilege of sharing. And to be as involved in the process of producing the event as I am now really is an honor.”

Besides his work with Kamehameha Schools, Sala has also been keeping busy with his own music with the release of his album Napo’ona Mahina: The Illusion of Reality. Sala explains that the inspiration for the album came about through writing his thesis for his MA in ethnomusicology at UH Manoa.

“I’ve thought quite often about how mental the notion of reality is - that we create for ourselves the world in which we live,” says the Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner. “For me, this is readily illustrated by moonlight. Moonlight is a real thing in that we see it and none would dispute that. However, the moon’s glow is just a reflection of the light emanating from the sun. In that sense, moonlight is an illusion.”

At the helm of this project was the talented Dave Tucciarone. Also lending their talents were Shawn Pimental, Steve Jones, Noel Okimoto, Jeff Peterson, Rocky Holmes, Bryan Tolentino, Beebe Freitas, Anita Hall, Jack Ofoia and Jeff Auhoy.

After 5 with Arlene Iwalani

Sala hopes his album will provide music people will come to again and again, and hear something different each time they listen to it. “Then the album isn’t just about the listening to it, it’s also about the looking at it, the reading of it - it’s an all-encompassing project that I would love for music lovers to grasp,” adds Sala.

For a listen of Sala’s album or to find out more about this musical prodigy, visit ...

For those heading into Waikiki this month, mark your calendars for the Sunday Showcase music series, which features local musicians PANA with Ned Kaapana (April 5), Gordon Freitas and Local Folk (April 12), After 5with Arlene Iwalani (April 19), and Simplisity (April 26). It’s all happening every Sunday from 5 to 6 p.m. on the outdoor Plaza Stage at Waikiki Beach Walk - and it’s free ...

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