Keali'i Reichel,
Kukahi: Keali'i Reichel Live in Concert
(Punahele, 2007)

Keali'i Reichel is an icon of both modern and traditional Hawaiian music and chant. In 2006, his concert at the Blaisdell Concert Hall was recorded to be presented on DVD.

For just over 90 minutes, Reichel leads a talented troupe of musicians and hula dancers in a celebration of the ancient Hawaiian culture. For those familiar with that culture, the quality of this production will be appreciated. For those from different cultures, other than attending a concert like this yourself, I cannot imagine a better glimpse in the islands' rich past.

The first 18 minutes of the DVD focus more on traditional chants. One mainstay I would think anyone who has attended a luau on the islands would recognize is "Ho'opuka E Ka La Ma Ka Hikina" ("The sun makes its entrance in the east"). The chant is accompanied by percussion and one of the faster hula dances of the evening.

One of my favorite songs performed is "Pupu A'o Ewa." The sound is very traditional (to my untrained ears). The harmonizing of Reichel with background singers is very flowery. The song is supported by a single hula dancer who looks like a body builder, yet he dances with a grace that belies any expectations you might have at first sight.

The most touching song on the DVD is "E O Mai" ("O My Dear One"). The tempo is what you would expect for a ballad. Once again, a single hula dancer performs with the song. The young lady is both sensual and stylish. This song can truly bring a tear to your eye. Another song with just as much emotional impact is "Maunaleo," but this time, there are many hula dancers on stage.

Much of this DVD is dedicated to Reichel's mentor, "Uncle" George Holokai. Uncle George was a fount of knowledge regarding the hula prior to his passing in 2006. A 20-minute bonus segment on the DVD is offered in his honor. Thanks to the efforts of individuals like Uncle George and Keali'i Reichel, a portion of the Hawaiian culture has been preserved. As mentioned in the promotional material, "We western 'haolies' (non-Islanders) did a pretty fine job of eradicating native cultures as we conquered various land and peoples, including the native Hawaiians, throughout history."

"Kukahi" means "to stand alone or be independent." I think this DVD definitely does that. There are options for both Hawaiian and English subtitles. Between songs, Reichel does a good job of giving background to the different music, chants and dances. (I was surprised at just how much sexual innuendo there was in the culture). There are some obvious insider jokes that you will have to be a native or at least live on the islands to understand. I think this demonstrates that his first order of business is to capture these traditions for the descendants of those with Hawaiian blood. I find that admirable.

I casually asked a good friend of mine, Malia, who was born and lives on Oahu (Keali'i is from Maui) if she had heard of him and what she thought of his music. She replied "If I were to travel anywhere I would bring his music with me because his songs are the most beautiful ones to share if/when I can dance the hula (i.e. 'Kawaipunahele'). His life is pretty amazing. I believe he had some kind of turning point that led to becoming more in touch with our Hawaiian heritage. He is a master of the Hawaiian language and ambassador for our culture."

In short, you have a haolie (that would me) and a native endorsing this DVD. Every time I watch it, I think I learn a little more and see something new. If you have any interest in the Hawaiian culture, put this DVD on your list.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Wil Owen

12 April 2008

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