Hana hou, Holunape


POSTED: Friday, May 01, 2009

Holunape has come a long way since the trio—Kama Hopkins, Kekoa Kaluhiwa and Kanai'a Nakamura—evolved out of a promising but short-lived quartet.





        » Where: Hawaii Theater

» When: 5 p.m. Sunday


» Cost: $20 to $25


» Info: 528-0506 or hawaiitheatre.com




Holunape won the prestigious Ka Himeni 'Ana acoustic singing competition in 2004, and two Na Hoku Hanohano Awards (Group of the Year and Hawaiian Language Performance) for their debut album, “;He 'Olu,”; in 2006.

On Tuesdays they play at the Aku Bone Lounge on Kona Street. During hula season they share their talents with hula halau and play at Merrie Monarch. This Sunday they return to the Hawaii Theatre for “;Nahaolike,”; an evening of Hawaiian music with Natalie Ai Kamauu, her father, Howard Ai, and KUmZ (Karl Veto Baker and Michael Casupang).

“;It's basically bringing friends together to share our music and hula,”; Nakamura explained Saturday morning as he and Hopkins made time for soft drinks and a short interview after the first of several gigs last weekend.

“;Each performer has a supporting halau. We're going to have Halau 'o Kaulelaua'e from Kapolei. Each band is going to have a set, and then towards the end we're all going to collaborate and somehow perform together.”;

The choice of venue makes it a Holunape homecoming, since the Hawaii Theatre has played an important part in the trio's development. Hopkins says that they were always willing to provide the pre-show entertainment for other people's shows.

“;After (we won) Ka Himeni 'Ana, we started playing for the Hawaiian music series (and) we'd always open while everybody's walking in.

“;Hawaii Theatre has really been good to us, and when people had stuff that was going on there, or Burton (White) would call and needed some help, we would always try to make it.”;

It's fitting, then, that the cover of their second album—“;Ahea? Ano!”;—shows their name on the historic marquee. A second key to the group's success was being able earning to perform acoustically and sing without microphones.

“;We got started just playing, strolling, and we got accustomed to that,”; Nakamura explained. “;We need more (unamplified music) in Hawaiian music, too.”;

“;(Playing acoustically) is totally different than playing on a microphone,”; added Hopkins. “;We still do acoustic gigs, (but) when we get on a microphone, preferably, we like to have the sound man set it at one place and then we'll play off of the mike rather than have the sound man play our voices.”;

Hopkins also said “;conversation has started”; about the group's third album.

“;We're bouncing around a lot of ideas,”; he said. “;We're going back and forth between doing a theme album or branching out and still playing maybe in an older style but mixing in some newer stuff as we begin to do joint projects with other folks.

“;We hope that the next project will be even better than the first two and that people will really, really love it.”;

Beyond that, Hopkins says the group feels a responsibility to perpetuate the Hawaiian music they play and inspire the next generation or two to do the same.

“;We need for Hawaiian music to come alive again and inspire the younger generations 'cause somebody got to take over for us. We want to see the younger kids come out and do what we do and enjoy it.”;

“;I think what separates us from other groups is that we bring that backyard style of music to wherever we're playing, whether it be Hawaii Theatre, whether it be Aku Bone Lounge,”; said Nakamura.

At Merrie Monarch this year, Holunape played for Halau Hula Hokulani. Nakamura also played for Kapua Delire's halau, and Hopkins played for Hula Halau Kamuela.

Hopkins describes the Merrie Monarch experience as “;a good, fun time”; for all of them—with one possible exception.

“;Everybody was calling us 'uncle' at Merrie Monarch! Whoa, not 'uncle' yet!”;