Maui Arts & Entertainment

Maui’s Kamalei Kawaʻa teams up with Oʻahu’s Gabriel Goes to honor their roots in duet on NBC’s ‘The Voice’

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File: THE VOICE — “The Blind Auditions, Part 3” Episode 2503 — Pictured: Kamalei Kawa’a — (Photo by: Casey Durkin/NBC)

Maui’s own Kamalei Kawaʻa wowed judges again last night on NBC’s “The Voice” during an iconic duet with Oʻahu “sweetheart” Gabriel Goes, taking Kawaʻa to the next round of the national singing competition.

The first night of Battle Rounds premiered on national television last night. For Team Chance, the two Hawaiʻi boys in the competition were put head-to-head in an elimination situation.

Chance the Rapper (Chancelor Johnathan Bennett) selected Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Over the Rainbow” for the duet, which was met with high praise from Maui musician Kawaʻa.

“He’s the soundtrack of Hawaiʻi,” said Kawaʻa about Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. “Doing this song is taking me home.”

Despite being in competition against each other, Goes said in rehearsals that the performance would be more of a “jam” than a battle, a sentiment reciprocated by Kawaʻa, the 26-year-old resident of Paukūkalo, Maui. “Even though we’re battling each-other, it’s more love than anything else,” said Kawaʻa.


“When we found out about what song we were getting, I automatically thought it was kind of in my wheelhouse,” Kawaʻa told Maui Now on a phone call. “Israel is one of my biggest inspirations.”

Kawaʻa told Maui Now that adjustments were made to the arrangement, instrumentation and the way it was sung to meet the styles of the two singers halfway. “Ultimately, the goal was to make it the best presentation for both of us,” said Kawaʻa.

From two different backgrounds, Kawaʻa, a Native Hawaiian, and Goes, a Brazilian born and raised on Oʻahu, Kawaʻa said “this relationship shows how we really are in Hawaiʻi.”

“Let’s do this – I love you brah,” said Goes in an embrace with Kawaʻa on stage, seconds before their performance.

Out of the gate, the two exchanged harmonies over a light acoustic instrumental. Goes was the first to go solo, bringing a youthful energy to the song, while Kawaʻa brought a graceful presence to the stage. As the two traded lines, they smiled at each other. A captivating note by Kawaʻa rounded out the bridge, and the song ended in warm harmonies.


A lot went through Kawaʻa’s head during Monday night’s performance. “The message that both Gabriel and I were trying to portray through ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and especially Israel’s version of the song […] I guess what was going through my head was making sure that we make him proud, you know, Israel proud, and the rest of Hawaiʻi proud.”

“This is an opportunity to send hope and to send love to especially Maui, for all the things that’s happening right now. It was both Gabriel and I’s moment to shed a little more Aloha, you know, put a little more love in the world,” Kawaʻa said.

The Season 25 coaches praised how the two blended their different styles into a memorable performance. 

“You guys are totally opposite,” coach Reba McEntire said. “Kamalei is serene, know where I am. And then [Gabriel is just], ‘Ah, I’m here! And I’m gonna have a good time!'”

While coaches agreed that both Goes and Kawaʻa rose to the occasion, Kawaʻa ultimately earned the vote of Chance the Rapper to advance to the Knockouts.


Kawaʻa told Maui Now that the pace of the show has been “pretty quick,” but that his conditioning for the experience is a testament his roots.

“I’m fortunate enough to have grown up in hula, and in a hālau (school) where your kumu (teacher) tells you to do something, and you have to know it yesterday,” said Kawaʻa. “I can see it getting a little stressful, but I just turn on my ‘hula mode’ and just get it done.”

The Battle Rounds were preceded by Blind Auditions earlier this month, in which Kawaʻa had the choice between Team Reba and Team Chance.

After a welcoming performance on March 4, the product of Ke Kula Kaiapuni ma Maui and the Hawaiian Studies program at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College chose to go with Team Chance, as he said Chance could “pull the soul” out of him and apply that to his music.

Reflecting on rehearsals, Kawaʻa said, “I got a feel of who Chance is as an artist. I got to really feel his vibrations. In Hawaiʻi, everything’s on vibes, and I love his vibe.”

Coming up next in Kawaʻa’s musical journey on “The Voice” is the Knockouts. Artists will be paired against another teammate but this time will select their own songs to perform individually. The coaches will choose the winner, and the artist not selected will be available to be stolen by another coach.

New episodes of “The Voice” occur Monday and Tuesday nights on NBC and the next day on Peacock.

Kawaʻa encourages listeners to stream his new music on, where 100% of the proceeds made from subscriptions go directly to The Kāko’o Maui Fund, helping families in Lahaina.

Editor’s note: This post was updated to include quotes from an interview conducted after publication.

JD Pells
JD is a news reporter for Maui Now. He has contributed stories to TCU 360, Fort Worth Report and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. JD interned at Maui Now in 2021. He graduated from the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at Texas Christian University, with a bachelor's in journalism and business in 2022, before coming back home to Maui with the purpose of serving his community. He can be reached at [email protected].
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