Big Island Native Kalani Pe‘a Makes His Mark

April 21, 2017, 11:35 AM HST (Updated April 21, 2017, 4:01 PM)
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Born and raised in Hilo, 2017 Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and multi-Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award nominee Kalani Pe‘a is well on his way to becoming a legend.

Pe‘a grew up in a musical family. His mother introduced him to singing at the age of 4, after speech therapy failed to help him overcome a speech impediment.

From writing one of his first songs during his junior year of high school—Ku Poliahu—in which he compared his first music teacher (his mother) to the Snow Goddess on Mauna Kea, to running with open arms to receive a Grammy for E Walea, Pe‘a has been on quite a ride since his album made its debut.

“I pinch myself every day,” said Pe‘a, a Hawaiian contemporary soul artist.

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Pe‘a explained that at 4 and 5 years, old he stammered and stuttered but through learning musical threads, learning how to sing with a vocal coach and being motivated to sing in a choir, over time, his speech impediment ceased.

Kalani Pe‘a at the 2017 Grammy Awards. Photo Credit: GRAMMY OFFICAL

E Walea just received a coveted  Grammy Award in the “Best Regional Roots Music Album Category” during the 59th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

It was the first time in history that this particular award was won by a Native Hawaiian.

Pe‘a composed and co-composed seven haku mele (Hawaiian music compositions) and performs five of his favorite covers on this award-winning debut album: You are so Beautiful and Always and Forever include both Hawaiian and English verses.

“E Walea” means to come together as one exuberant through song, dance and hula. The album is named after Pe‘a’s eldest nephew, Kama i‘ikānekūikekaipu‘oluwaleaokalani Pe‘a-Whitney. However, Pe‘a said the album is for and about his entire ‘ohana and their legacy.

The seven original compositions talk about the different elements on each island of Hawai‘i.

“I give you a snapshot and capture the different elements from the wind to the rain to the natural resources of Hawai‘i and compare that to love, passion and compassion,” said Pe‘a.

Since the Grammy win, Pe‘a said he has received thousands of emails.

“One of them was from a legendary entertainer,” said Pe‘a. “He said thank you for allowing yourself to be out there and educating the world how music can change peoples’ lives. His own son had a stuttering problem but he sings to his son and his son stopped stuttering.”

“I believe music saves lives in so many aspects, whether we are writing poetry, whether we are describing someone we love through our own Hawaiian composition or through our own composition,” said Pe‘a. “We can share with the world. We can impact the world; share who we are and why we write music. Music is just life.”

This week, Pe‘a was nominated for nine Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards in the following categories:

  • Male Vocalist of the Year Best performance by a male artist
  • Most Promising Artist of the Year Most promising first recorded effort as a featured artist or group
  • Album of the Year Best album release of the year
  • Song of the Year Best achievement in creating a first-time recorded song
  • Favorite Entertainer of the Year Best performance for an artist or group
  • Contemporary Album of the Year Best performance in a contemporary style
  • Graphics Award Award for best total album packaging
  • Haku Mele Award (Composer’s Award) Best first released song or chant primarily in the Hawaiian language
  • Hawaiian Language Performance Award (Artist Award) Best Performances in the Hawaiian Language

The winners will be announced on Saturday, May 20, during the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards show at the Hawai’i Convention Center.

If E Walea wins in any category, Pe‘a will be the first to win a Nā Hōkū and a Grammy for the same album.

In Hilo tonight, Friday, April 21, 2017, Pe‘a will sing at his very own CD Release Party. As part of the Mele Manaka 2017 Music Series, the party will be held at the Grand Naniloa Hotel’s Willie K Crown Room; music will start at10 p.m. for attendees 21 and over. Tickets are $35.

Pe‘a will also perform at the Merrie Monarch Invitational Hawaiian Arts Fair in the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium on Saturday, April 22, from 1 to 2 p.m. There is no admission charge for this event.

Although his CD came out in August 2016 and hit No. 1 on iTunes on the World Music Charts and No. 11 on the Billboard Music World Charts, he is excited and exuberant to share his music and storytelling.

“I have done a CD release party for O‘ahu and little concerts for Maui, started traveling in the U.S. continent for shows, but haven’t done an official homecoming and CD release party for my hometown Hilo,” he said.

The CD release celebration will also feature Multi Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award-winning Artist Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole. She and Pe’a are proud Hawaiian immersion graduates of Ke Kula ‘O Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u in Kea‘au.

“I wanted to invite Paka (Kaumakaiwa) because not only were we childhood friends, but we have history,” said Pe‘a. ” We are Pana‘ewa. We are Hilo and we should always give back to Hilo as Hawaiian immersion graduates of Nāwahī and as musicians who are always inspired to compose Hawaiian music and share it with the world.”

Tickets for the Mele Manaka CD Release Party are $35 and they can be purchased at Sig Zane Designs, Manaola Pop Up Shop, Aloha Grown, Hana Hou and online.

The show starts at 10 p.m. for those 21 and over only. The event is sponsored by Mehana Brewing Company in Hilo.

In addition to the Hilo shows, Pe‘a is working on an upcoming world tour and his second album. He said for his next album, he would like to target a sense of place, “our identity and explain who I am as well as help other understand their sense of place.”

For more information about Pe‘a’s musical journey, contact Allan Cool, creative arts director/manager, at (808) 936-4730 or email at [email protected].

To listen to Pe‘as award-winning music, go online.

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2017 Grammy Winner to Perform Three Shows in Hilo
Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award Finalists Announced

Crystal Richard
Crystal Richard moved to East Hawai’i in 2005 to attend UH Hilo. While earning her bachelor’s degree in English and a certificate to teach English as a second language, Crystal served as the editor-in-chief of “Hohonu,” UH Hilo’s academic journal, and as assistant editor-in-chief at “KeKalahea,” UH Hilo’s student newspaper. From a young age, Crystal fell in love with the written word and has always dreamed of a career in journalism. She has worked as a Big Island Now freelance reporter since September 2016. She is a wellness and health advocate who enjoys swimming, gardening, reading and spending time with her animals and loved ones.
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