15 years together


POSTED: Friday, October 30, 2009

Fifteen years together? That's longer than the average American marriage!

Kuana Torres Kahele and Kehau Tamure — known to the Hawaiian music world as Na Palapalai — celebrate that milestone on Thursday.

“;I never dreamed we'd go this far. I thought that after two years I'd call it quits,”; Kahele said as we talked between sets last Thursday at Chai's Island Bistro.

“;We met as friends. It had nothing to do with music,”; Tamure added. “;Before the music, I thought it was quits. The music is actually what kept us together — longer than any relationships we've been in.”;

And so, they celebrate 15 years and the release of their fourth album as Na Palapalai next week at the Hawaii Theatre.

The duo will be joined by Keali'i Reichel, Kupaoa, Mevina Liufauto and Mark Yamanaka. Kimo Alama, Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole and Snowbird Bento are also expected to perform. Kahele said there will be some surprise guests, as well.

Kahele and Tamure trace the group's roots back to their hometown of Hilo. They got their start playing backyard parties, but before long made the jump to Waikiki and were performing with Akoni Malacas and Wailau Ryder as Akoni and Da Palapalai Patch.




'Na Palapalai 15th Anniversary Concert'

        » Where: Hawaii Theatre, 1130 Bethel St.

        » When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

        » Cost: $25 and $35; discounts available for HTC members, seniors, students, military (with valid ID) and groups of 10 or more

        » Info: 528-0506 or hawaiitheatre.com

The quartet's first and only album was a finalist for Group of the Year and Hawaiian Language Performance at the 2000 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, but like so many groups, theirs didn't last. Kahele and Tamure reactivated Na Palapalai, this time as a trio with Keao Costa.

The new lineup was a huge success. Their debut album, “;Makani 'Olu'olu,”; won five Hoku Awards in 2003 — Album of the Year, Group of the Year, Hawaiian Album, Hawaiian Language Performance and the Haku Mele award to composer Julian Ako — while their second, “;Ke'ala Beauty,”; won Group of the Year and Hawaiian Album in 2005. The third, “;Ka Pua Hae Hawai'i,”; was released late in 2006 and won no Hokus but was of equal quality.

Almost exactly three years later, Na Palapalai is back.

“;The biggest challenge was getting material (for the album),”; Kahele said. “;As far as being a duo, we're totally not worried about that because that's how we started.

“;In some ways, I miss (having a third voice), but in other ways I miss what we used to do. ... Now that we're doing it again, it's like being back in our teens.”;

“;It is,”; Tamure agreed, “;but with more knowledge of what we've been through and what we collected along the way.”;

A priority, she continued, was finding “;real old traditional stuff that hasn't been touched that we can put our Na Palapalai stamp on and bring it out to the hula world and to the music world — something old, but new.”;

The biggest difference this time was that they got to make all the decisions.

“;In the past, we weren't scrutinized, but we just didn't have the power of decision, the power of choice to make ... what makes the cut, what goes on (the album), down to how it was arranged,”; Kahele said. “;In the past, we always had someone leaning over our head.”;

“;Like, holding us back from what we imagined,”; Tamure interjected. “;It was kind of demeaning our talent, and they put us in a certain kind of category that we didn't want to really be in.”;

She and Kahele are “;raw and we do how we feel and not how we're told now,”; she said. “;I don't know how to explain that.”;

While Tamure searched for a word for the category they belong in, Kahele said he was amazed at how far they've come and how “;young”; they are.

“;I like to think so, but we're still young,”; he said. “;We came up here with Akoni — three simple Hilo folk in the big city, it was something amazing for us ... and here we are, the only ones doing what we're doing so far, and now that we're self-sustaining — it's awesome!”;

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