Hawaiian music legends to be honored
By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Loren Moreno
A photo shoot with Nina Keali'iwahamana and Mahi Beamer turned into an impromptu rehearsal for the upcoming "Lei of Stars" concert as soon as Beamer took a seat at the Steinway in a Mountain Apple Co. recording studio.
Beamer's fingers brushed gracefully along the well-used black and white keys, and Keali'iwahamana stood beside him, her right hand on his shoulder.
" 'Lei of Stars,' " she said, as if directing Beamer's aged hands. "The opening number — we might as well practice.
"Do you mind?" she said, turning to the photographer.
The pair are among the Hawaiian music legends to be honored at the Hawai'i Theatre, and will perform at the Thursday evening concert. The concert will celebrate their musical contributions, along with those of other 2006 Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame inductees — Charles K.L. Davis, Linda Dela Cruz, Emma Veary and the Brothers Cazimero.
While these performers have graced the Hawai'i Theatre stage during the same benefit concert in years past, this one is a little different. For the first time, they're the hall of fame inductees whose decades of work are being honored.
"All of a sudden, we're the ones being honored. I think it'll be different. I think it'll be beautiful," said Keali'iwahamana, whose mother, legendary composer and entertainer Vickie I'i Rodrigues, was among the first to be honored by the hall of fame in 1995.
If anything ties the recent inductees of the hall of fame together, it's the fact that they've all dedicated their work to perpetuating traditional Hawaiian music, said patriarch of Hawaiian music Kahauanu Lake, chairman of the advisory selection committee.
The hall of fame, created in 1994, is intended to be a repository for traditional Hawaiian music, where younger generations can find understanding about Hawai'i's musical past.
"It's very important. It's very important that we maintain and retain the Hawaiian-ness of the music," Lake said.
While there is a whole realm of music floating around under the guise of Hawaiian, Lake said, the hall intends to preserve the beautiful melodies and poetry found only in Hawaiian classics — from the traditional compositions of the Royal Four, including King David Kalakaua and Queen Lili'uokalani, to the "hapa-haole" music of '50s and '60s. Most of that has been lost among the more contemporary work, he said.
And others agree.
"My whole thing has been, what happened to music? Where did music go?" said hall of fame inductee Emma Veary, who now lives on Maui.
With interest in hula and the Hawaiian culture as high as it has ever been, Veary said, there's no need to fear that traditional Hawaiian music will ever disappear.
Still, some are concerned with keeping classics, such as those written by Helen Desha Beamer, as the composer originally intended them.
"This is our main purpose, is to honor the composer so that after us, after our generation has passed on, the songs and music of Hawai'i are preserved," said Mahi Beamer.
As Beamer continued to stroke the keys of the piano, he began to play a melody that Keali'iwahamana hadn't heard in a while — "Ku'u Lei Poina 'Ole."
Keali'iwahamana began to softly sing to the music emitting from Beamer's fingers as she clutched his shoulder and held one hand on her chest.
"It makes me cry," she said, walking away to get a tissue. "You don't hear this anymore. No one plays it."
CHARLES K.L. DAVIS
From opera to his immense Hawaiian repertoire, Charles K.L. Davis' tenor voice and versatility brought him fame locally and abroad. Trained at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, Calif., and the Juilliard School of Music, Davis became the first Hawaiian to win the prestigious Metropolitan Opera auditions in New York City in 1958. Davis was also known for his renditions of hapa-haole songs, which he performed for years at Kemoo Farms near Schofield Barracks. Davis was honored with the Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts' Lifetime Achievement award in 1988. He died in 1991 at the age of 66.
Notable Songs: "He Ono" and "The End of the News"
LINDA DELA CRUZ
Known as "Hawai'i's Canary," Linda Dela Cruz was one of the premier falsetto singers, hailed for her "ha'i" style. Her singing style was often compared to that of the revered Hawaiian singer Lena Machado. Honored by the Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003, Dela Cruz grew up in Papakolea and began making a name for herself as a songbird as a teenager. A member of the famed Halekulani Girls trio, Dela Cruz retired from the music business in 1975 and went on to become a Hawaiian activist. She was elected to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs board in 2000 and served until her death in March at the age of 77.
Notable Songs: "Alekoki" and "E Mama E"
A beautiful woman with a beautiful voice, Emma Veary was popular among locals and visitors alike for her renditions of hapa-haole songs and traditional compositions. Veary, 77, began performing as a youth, appearing in children's shows from the age of 5 and in local nightclubs by the time she was a student at Roosevelt High. Her Waikiki shows — from the Monarch Room of the Royal Hawaiian to the showroom at the Halekulani — were packed. She received the Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts' Lifetime Achievement award in 1994.
Notable Songs: "Kamehameha Waltz" and "E Maliu Mai"
Destined for Hawaiian musical stardom, Keali'iwahamana is the daughter of legendary composer and entertainer Vickie I'i Rodrigues but has become a living legend in her own right. A fixture during the golden era of Waikiki entertainment, Keali'iwahamana performed a long stint on the "Hawai'i Calls" radio broadcast from 1958 to 1974, and was also a performer at the Royal Hawaiian. A soprano and popular recording artist, she traveled extensively as musical ambassador for the Hawai'i Visitors Bureau. Keali'iwahamana received the Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts' Lifetime Achievement award in 1992.
Notable Songs: "Lovely Hula Hands" and "Ku'u Ipo I Ka He'e Pu'e One"
Known as one of the greatest Hawaiian male falsetto singers, Mahi Beamer comes from a long line of distinguished Hawaiian composers and musicians. A tenor, Beamer is known for his rendition of songs written by his grandmother, Helen Desha Beamer, who was one of the first inductees into the hall of fame in 1995. Beamer, 78, received the Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts' Lifetime Achievement award in 1991. Also an accomplished pianist, Beamer will be featured alongside Nina Keali'iwahamana and Emma Veary during the "Lei of Stars" concert.
Notable Songs: "Keawaiki" and "Kawohikukapulani"
THE BROTHERS CAZIMERO
Possibly the most prolific and influential force in contemporary Hawaiian music, Robert, bottom left, and Roland Cazimero have released more than 30 albums and contributed to a reinvigoration of interest in Hawai'i's rich musical heritage. The Grammy-nominated duo, whose sound is distinguished by Robert's stand-up bass and Roland's 12-string guitar, marked the 30th anniversary of their annual Lei Day concert at the Waikiki Shell this year. In addition to honoring the chants, dances and songs of old Hawai'i, the brothers have also contributed their own compositions to Hawai'i's musical history. The duo serve as ambassadors for Hawai'i's music through extensive travels abroad, including performances at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Notable Songs: "Pua Hone" and "Wahine 'Ilikea"
Reach Loren Moreno at email@example.com.