Kamaehu Kawa‘a crowned 19th Richard Ho‘opi‘i Leo Ki‘eki‘e Falsetto Champion
Kamaehu Kawa‘a earned the championship title at the 19th annual Richard Hoʻopiʻi Leo Kiʻekiʻe Falsetto Contest, held Saturday, Sept. 18 at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. The competition featured five contestants showcasing their high-register voices in the unique style of falsetto.
Kawa‘a’s prize package includes: A wood award, Maui Ku’ia Estate chocolate, makana donated by 2016 champion Gregory Juan, Aflac and New York Life business solutions consultant and broker, a Makaku Maui shirt and bag, designed by Kumu Hula Kamaka Kukona, a Lei hulu by Leonani Meyer, an opportunity to record a single with Kimie Miner’s Haku Collective team and $600 cash.
Kawa‘a also took home the Hawaiian Language Award – presented by The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, that includes a two night stay at the resort along with breakfast; and the Sheldon Keahiawakea Brown Music Award for his musicality.
The winning song was an original composition written for Kawa‘a’s wife Madi, that likens her to the Pulelehua, butterfly. Kawa‘a said he loves his daughter Ceralena, to sing and dance hula as a student of award winning Hālau Kekuaokalāʻauʻalaʻiliahi under the direction of na kumu hula ʻIliahi and Haunani Paredes.
Second place went to Micah Manzano of Maui, who received a wood award, Maui Ku‘ia Estate chocolate and $400 cash; and Third place went to Kaliko Pascua of Hanapēpē, Kaua‘i, who received a wood award, Maui Ku’ia Estate chocolate and $300.
Others competing in this years event were: Troy Alika Hussey from Lahaina, Maui; and David James Kealoha Auna from Lā‘ie, O‘ahu.
“Due to COVID our work crew was cut down to limit the number of people in the room while filming. I missed them, my Aunty Nani Watanabe ‘ohana and Tina Thompson ‘ohana. We all worked so hard. The staff at the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua really went above and beyond — Hawaiian Cultural Advisor Clifford Naeole and General Manager Andrew Rogers, the judges, the houseband, our sound tech David Nakamura and film crew. We couldn’t have done it with out everyone doing their part, big and even small,” said event coordinator, Daryl Fujiwara.
This year’s judges included: Head Judge, Cody Pueo Pata; Olelo Judges Kuulei Alcomindras-Palakiko and Joshua Noeau Kalima; and Music Judges Iwalani Hoomanawanui Apo and Carlson Kamaka Kukona III. The hostess of ceremonies was Alaka‘i Paleka.
Due to enhanced COVID regulations the committee did not offer seating to the public and asked spectators to tune in to Facebook LIVE at https://www.facebook.com/FestivalsofAloha/videos/909604719932169/ .
The purpose of this event is to provide a championship opportunity for amateur falsetto singers, as well as to provide a dynamic platform for the preservation and perpetuation of Hawaiʻi’s unique falsetto traditions.
Additionally, it is designed to honor and uphold the cultural and entertainment ideals and integrity as modeled by the late Uncle Richard Hoʻopiʻi––Hawaiian falsetto legend, member of the renowned musical duo, The Hoʻopiʻi Brothers, a Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winner, a Nā Hōkū Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award co-recipient, a National Endowment of the Arts Folk Heritage Fellowship co-recipient, a Grammy Award co-recipient, and the founder of the Richard Hoʻopiʻi Leo Kiʻekiʻe Contest.
Past contest winners are posted below:
2021 – Kamaehu Kawa‘i, Waiehu, Maui
2020 – COVID-19 / Cancelled
2019 – Ikaika Mendez, Ulupakakua, Maui
2018 – Kaulike Pescaia, Kihei, Maui
2017 – Kason Gomes, Wailuku, Maui
2016 – Greg Juan, Wailuku, Maui
2015 – Kamalei Kawa‘a, Waiehu, Maui
2014 – Grant Kono, Honolulu, Oahu
2013 – Micah Hoapili Ku‘aimoku De Aguiar, Kona, Hawai‘i
2012 – Joshua No‘eau Kalima, Hilo, Hawai‘i
2011 – Ezra Kaui Krueger, Maui, Hawai‘i
2010 – Po‘okela Wood, Maui, Hawai‘i
2009 – Pomaika‘i Krueger, Maui, Hawai‘i
2008 – Kamakani Kiaha, Moloka‘i, Hawai‘i
2007 – Kapono Na‘ili‘ili, Oahu, Hawai‘i
2006 – Kalani Benanua, Lana‘i, Hawai‘i
2005 – Hiroshi Okada, Japan
2004 – Kai Ho‘opi‘i – Maui, Hawai‘i
2003 – Kamaka Fernandez, Maui, Hawai‘i
2002 – Ramzey Ho‘opi‘i, Maui, Hawai‘i