Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole

Main Stage
Saturday May 5, 11:00 am
Performing chants with his mother, Kekuhi Kanahele and grandmother, Kaumaka’iwa Kanaka’ole

Title of latest album: KAUMAKAIWA

Genre: Hawaiian
Mountain Apple; 2008
List price: $12.98
iTunes: $9.99

The album: Coming into his own, taking Hawaiian music to the next dimension is Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole. The three-time Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award-winner has developed into a phenomenal world music artist with an inventive talent that shines brightly on his self-titled new album, Kaumakaiwa.

With this album, Kanaka‘ole finds himself setting the pace, raising the bar and pushing the standards—yet again—challenging not only himself but his contemporaries. As strong a Hawaiian as his bloodline, Kanaka‘ole delivers 12 oli (chants) and mele (song) with a refined dynamic that is exclusively his own.

Accompanied by a passionate, unmatched love of his culture and the power that lies within his lineage, Kanaka‘ole is blazing a new trail in the 21st century while paying homage to those who have come before him, a theme that resonates with this, his third album.


After a short drum intro, a chorus of a cappella voices begins chanting in three-part harmony over handclaps, sounding wild and exuberant, building over the course of the song to a peak of energy and celebration. It sounds like a small army of singers, but it’s really just Kanakaole, his mother and his grandmother, layered over and over.

“Noho Ana I Hilo,” at 0:48- The ambient sounds of rain and wind grow louder behind Kanakaole’s a cappella rendition of his great-grandmother Edith’s composition, transporting you to chilly Hilo. It’s a lonely sound and, combined with Kanakaole’s powerful voice, evocative enough to draw chicken skin.


“Mr. Kanaka‘ole…was backed only by a guitarist in songs drawing on island traditions, particularly chameleonic vocals. He vaulted through various registers and timbres, from bass to witchy contralto rasp to sweet soprano (his “skinny girl” voice, he said), a traditionalist tour de force.”

– Jon Pareles, The New York Times

“Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole carries the banner of family matriarch Edith Kanaka‘ole with pride and dignity. Clearly, “Welo” will be a beacon for others to admire, adopt and follow; it’s loaded with exquisite chants, mele and stories, all told in the native Hawaiian tongue, but eloquent and inventive in execution. This is an inspired primer on preserving and perpetuating things and themes Hawaiian, with surprises and treats galore…”

– Wayne Harada, Honolulu Advertiser

His range from baritone chant to Hawaiian falsetto singing is nothing less than impressive. During the course of a performance, he will perform with pahu (Hawaiian drum) for traditional chant and with his guitarist Kamakoa in his contemporary work; most are original compositions by Kaumakaiwa. He also punctuates his performance with often wickedly funny commentary and stories. He has toured throughout Hawai‘i, to Japan, and across the United States.

What Kaumakaiwa brings to the stage is an immense talent as a singer, chanter, and dancer as well as a deep understanding of his Hawaiian culture and his place as a modern Hawaiian in this contemporary world. And so his performances and music seamlessly meld Hawaiian culture and modern sensibilities. They draw from ancient ‘oli (chant) traditions, modern melodies, and original mele (songs), in a powerful mix of music that speaks to the heart and to the soul.

Pasifika Artists Network

Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole, a five-time Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award-winner, is the eldest son of Kekuhi Kanahele, the eldest grandchild of Pualani Kanaka‘ole, great grandson of Edith Kanahele Kanaka‘ole, and great-great grandson of Mary Keali‘ikekuewa.

Since birth, Kaumakaiwa has dedicated his life to his family’s practice and passion – the art of hula. As a 15-year ‘olapa (dancer) of Hālau O Kekuhi, he has been able to experience all aspects of hula, oli, haku mele and choreography. These qualities are nurtured well within the family and the hālau. The past seven generations and beyond have been maintained within a traditional family lifestyle dedicated to hula and the Hawaiian culture.

Other albums:


WELO; 2005

With various artists:

Live A Little… Hawaiian Style; 2010

Over Hawai‘i; 2012

Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole speaks about where he finds inspiration for his music on Hawaii RED Magazine

Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole “Mele Ha‘i Kupuna”- Slack Key Show

Kaumaka’iwa Kanaka’ole performs at Moonlight Mele


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