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UH Group’s Drive to Perpetuate ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi Earns 8 Nā Hōkū Nominations

July 20, 2022, 9:30 AM HST
* Updated July 20, 7:08 AM
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The Tuahine Troupe (Photos courtesy of University of Hawaiʻi)

The efforts of a group at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa to expand the use of ōlelo Hawaiʻi throughout the islands and around the world have garnered honors.

Fresh off of recording its first album, the Tuahine Troupe, a 22-member traditional Hawaiian music group born out of the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at UH-Mānoa, earned eight Nā Hōkū Hanohano nominations for Album of the Year, Group of the Year, Most Promising Artist, Hawaiian Music Album, Favorite Entertainer, Graphics, Haku Mele and Hawaiian Language Performance.

Troupe members recorded the album in a new studio at Spalding Hall on the UH-Mānoa campus.

“Now that we have the eight nominations, ʻI (thought) that’s amazing!’ … the project came out so well and we’re so proud of it, (so to have that recognition is truly an honor)” troupe member Kaʻiulani Kanehailua, an educational specialist at the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, said in a press release.

The Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts hosts the annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards and also invited the group to perform during the ceremony’s opening number. The awards show will air live at 7 p.m. today (Wednesday, July 20) on KGMB.

Four of the 14 songs featured on the troupe’s album, “Keāiwaokulamanu,” are original compositions written by band members. The album also showcases four mele penned by Lopes and a track co-composed by UH-Mānoa associate professor Keawe Lopes, director of Ka Waihona A Ke Aloha and the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, and UH-Mānoa alumnus Zachary Lum, an award winning musician who earned his master of arts degree in ethnomusicology.

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The troupe recorded five cover songs originally composed by kūpuna Julia Walanika, J.K. Kamali, Bina Mossman, John K. Almeida and Kimo Alama Keaulana.

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The troupe opted to pay homage to the ʻāina of Mānoa. Every track on the album is either written about the area or by a composer who lived in Mānoa Valley.

The voices of longtime Mānoa residents Aunty Mona Teves and her daughter, Noelani Whittington, are spotlighted on the track “Rain Tuahine o Mānoa,” which was composed by their tūtū. Keaulana also grew up in the lush valley and can be heard singing with the troupe on track “Nani Mānoa,” his own composition. Other special appearances on the album include keiki from Pūnana Leo o Mānoa led by Kawaihuelani alumnus and kahu Kahōkū Lindsey-Asing, and UH-Mānoa alumni Hauʻoli Akaka and Kalehua Krug, who are both renowned ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi educators and musicians.

Lopes formed the troupe that consists of students, alumni and faculty. While recording the album, Lopes required student members to concurrently complete the department’s haku mele course at UH-Mānoa, which is formed around broadening language acquisition through learning traditional mele composed by mānaleo.

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“Learning the songs … learning the meanings … learning how to build upon those kinds of poetic expressions (of) our kūpuna allows them to further develop their language skills,” Lopes said in the press release.

From lyric composing to recording, UH-Mānoa Hawaiian language student Taisamasama Kaiminaauao-Eteuati is still mesmerized that he was given an opportunity to deepen his connection to ʻōlelo.

“We could write the song, understand the language and then go to kumu and get corrected and then come (to the recording studio) and relate all of those manaʻo all of these old inoas now into a recording,” he said in the press release.

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