ʻUmia Ka Hanu: Celebrating 10 Years of Hula
By Wendy Osher
Nā Hōkū Award-winning singer and Kumu Hula Kamaka Kukona celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Hālau O Ka Hanu Lehua in a vivid concert at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center on Saturday night, Oct. 4, 2014.
The title of the concert, ʻUmia Ka Hanu, is a war cry that means to “hold the breath,” or “be patient, persist,” according to Nā Puke Wehewehe ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi.
The theme followed the path of persistence that Kukona has laid, being born and raised on Maui, spending some years away on Oʻahu, and finally returning to Maui as his home base.
Dancers started with an oli or chant, Hanohano ʻO Maui, and continued with a section in the middle of the concert that focused upon tradition and hula genealogy with performances to Kaulīlua, A Koʻolau Au, and ʻAu ʻA ʻIa.
In addition to his talents on stage, Kukona’s artistry was also displayed as a seamster, outfitting dozens of dancers with more than 200 pieces of clothing to enhance the movement and grace of their dance.
Accompanying his Maui hālau were dancers from his hālau in Japan, which now stands at more than 60 members.
Kukona explained that one mele in particular, Liko Pau Hau, also known as the Bullet Train Song, is reminiscent of the time he spent on the high speed train through Japan to visit his students in the country. As he traveled through miles of rice terraces, he compared it to the beauty of the taro patches in Hawaiʻi and how breathtaking a network so vast could be.
Helping to celebrate the moment were a list of fellow Hawaiian music artists including: Holunape, Natalie Ai Kamauʻu, and Kuana Torres Kahele. Fellow kumu hula also joined in the celebration, with special performances by Maui’s own Hōkūlani Holt and family, Uluwehi Guerrero, Kahulu Maluo, and Nāpua Greig.
Kukona performed a variety of selections from his debut album Hanu ʻAʻala, released last year, including: the old country song – You Look So Good in Love; the love song – Waika; Eo Hāna – an original composition about the rural east Maui town; and a traditional kahiko selection – ʻO Mai ʻO ʻEmalani.
In 2014, Kukona was celebrated as one of two Male Vocalists of the Year at the Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards, sharing the honor with fellow vocalist, Mark Yamanaka. Kukona was also recognized as Most Promising Artist during the 2014 event.