As the intermission ended, and the crowd returned to their seats, Puakea Nogelmeier introduced Keali`i. Reichel. The women of the Halau Hula O Ka Makani Wili Makaha O Kaua`ula came on stage and suddenly projected above the stage was the video image of Keali`i, who began to chant. This was a very effective and impressive part of the show. As Keali`i chanted overhead, the halau danced on stage, first the women then the men. The multi-media presentation was mesmerizing and Keali`i's award winning hula halau was wonderful.
After this introductory "kahiko" segment, Keali`i's band came on stage and Keali`i appeared live on stage for the first time to a very rousing reception. Following a lovely version of In My Life, Keali`i climbed up on his raised platform and sang what will be the title song to his new album, Eo Mai. Above him a lovely waterfall was projected. On stage Joy Pascua and a male member of the halau performed a beautiful sit-and-kneel hula. Joy Pascua was featured performing to many of the songs this night. She is absolutely lovely and an exquisite hula artist.
Following this beautiful slow song, the men of the Halau Hula O Ka Makani Wili Makaha O Kaua`ula came on stage and performed to a rousing version of Kananaka. Like their female counterparts, these men are extremely talented artists of the hula. This was followed a song in tribute to those who have died of AIDS, called Patchwork Quilt. As Keali`i sang, images of the AIDS quilt on display in Washington D.C. were projected overhead. This was another very moving part of the performance. The next song, Pua Mae'ole was introduced as a song written following a long term relationship. This was followed by the ever popular Toad Song which was written by Puakea Nogelmeier, our Master of Ceremonies. As many of you know, Puakea, is not only a true scholar and one of the foremost teachers of the Hawaiian language, he is also an accomplished songwriter, having written a number of songs for Keali`i including Hanohano Ka Lei Pikake, Ku'u Wehi O Ke Aumoe, and my personal favorite and choice for favorite Hawaiian song, Lei Hali`a, the title song of Keali`i second album.
The next part of the show was called "Unplugged" because Keali`i came down to the very front of the stage and sat down right near the front of stage, right near the audience. The first song in this segment was the song that started it all, Kawaipunahele, the title song of Keali`i's first album. Keali`i performed this to a solo guitar accompaniment and a beautiful hula performed by Joy Pascua. This reminded me a similar, relaxed performance of this song on the Island Music/Island Hearts television show episode featuring Keali`i where Joy also danced.
Keali`i next introduced his special guest, Eric Gilliom. Eric is one of Hawaii's leading all-around entertainers. He comes from a family of musical entertainers, including his younger sister Amy and his grandmother, Jennie Napua Wood, who was one of the original Royal Hawaiian Girls. He has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, London. He has performed on Broadway in the musical Carrie. He has performed with many jazz greats and his solo debut CD, Into the Mystic, was released by Mele Productions in 1996. Together with Keali`i, Eric performed A'o in a beautiful duet.
What followed next was for many the highlight of the evening. In a test of the world famous acoustics of Carnegie Hall, Keali`i, Uluwehi, Naomi Stephens, Lance Winston and Eric Gilliom performed an a capella version of Wanting Memories. The artists were not sure going in how successful this song would be, but it was superb. I was delighted to hear how very beautiful a voice Naomi has. She is Keali`i's cousin and has performed with him from the beginning but you usually don't get to hear her as well as you did in this song.
This was followed by a Sovereignty Song in which both Uluwehi and Kehuki joined Keali`i on stage. The song was lovely and the words important. In introducing the song, Keali`i said stressed that "for us, sovereignty starts here, inside. Be as Hawaiian as you can be. Learn about your culture and teach your children." It was also here that Keali`i mentioned the recent passing of Israel Kamakawiwo`ole. This ended the "Unplugged" portion of the concert.
Keali`i's band and backup singers came back on stage for the last set in the show. Along with the Halau Hula O Ka Makani Wili Makaha O Kaua`ula, Keali`i performed Hanohano Ka Lei Pikake. It was after this song that Keali`i announced that this show would be the last performance by Ric DuRand, the male member of the halau who Keali`i kiddingly points to when he announces that they are an equal opportunity halau. All of the members of the halau came up to Ric, placed a lei around his neck and showed their love for their friend and fellow member. It was another very emotional moment in this show which was so full of such moments.
This emotional moment was followed by another when Keali`i performed Malie's Song/Hawaiian Lullabye in tribute to his "adopted" mother, Doris E. Malie Krauss, who died in September of 1996. Mrs. Krauss was the mother of Fred Krauss who together with Keali`i and Jim Linkner founded Punahele Productions and Punahele Records.
The official end to the evening followed when all of the performers came on stage and the audience all stood, hand-in-hand and sang Hawaii Aloha in honor of the land and people we all love. Keali`i returned on stage to do an encore, Kauanoeanuhea. At this point it was 11:00 p.m. and Carnegie Hall has a strict 11:00 p.m. curfew so the show ended. It all went much too quickly.
Again, I would really like to thank the guys at Punahele Productions. Fred and Keali`i made sure that we'd have great seats and we surely did appreciate that. Jim Linkner was very kind to send me the song list for the concert which enabled me to be sure I'd have all the names right. And, of course, mahalo to Keali`i Reichel for coming to New York City so that those of us here on the east coast could see him live. With folks like these it is no surprise how successful Punahele Productions has been and will be in the future.
My wife and I had to return home on Sunday morning. Many of the folks who attended the concert stayed to attend Hula and Chant Workshops at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center featuring classes taught by Keali`i Reichel, Kekuhi Kanahele and Uluwehi Guerrero. Before leaving New York, we decided to stop by Radio Hula, the Hawaiian Store in New York City that was one of the sponsors of the weekend's activities. Radio Hula is located at 169 Mercer Street, New York, NY 10012. If you're in New York and want to experience a bit of Hawaii, visit Radio Hula.
This is also the address for the Hawai'i Cultural Foundation in New York City. The Hawai`i Cultural Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting and perpetuating the rich cultural heritage of Hawai`'i and the Pacific Islands. HCF's mission is to increase the awareness of these cultures in the greater community through programs involving dance, music, fine arts, and current affairs. For more information about the HFC and their upcoming events and membership, you can write to the Hawai'i Cultural Foundation, c/o Radio Hula, 169 Mercer Street, New York, NY 10012. be sure to tell them that you read about them here.