Big Island native Wehilei to sing at Nā Hōkū Awards her nominated best single ‘Kohala, HI’

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Rising star Brianna Wehilei Lim Ryder, known by her stage name Wehilei, was getting ready for a Thursday night concert on Maui before heading to Oʻahu for the prestigious 2023 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards on Saturday at the Hawai’i Theatre in Honolulu.

If you donʻt know who she is, you probably will soon.

The Big Island native who comes from a musical family will sing “Kohala, HI,” her song that is up for Single of the Year. She also is up for six other Nā Hōkū awards.

“I’m feeling humbled and excited as well,” she said. “It’s pretty surreal, and amazing, when the song dropped and people who are not from Kohala or been to Kohala really enjoyed the song. That’s really touching.”


Of course, she will be excited if she wins, but Wehilei said she overall is grateful for the experience. It will be her first time at the premier Nā Hōkū awards, considered the “Grammy Awards” of Hawaiʻi.

And she is going up against a legend. Also nominated for Single of the Year” is “Sweet Life” by Grammy nominated and 21 time Nā Hōkū award winner Henry Kopono.

Wehilei performing. (Photo Courtesy: Wehilei)

Wehilei’s song also is up against “Saltwater Kiss” by Kimié Miner. She also has been nominated for a Grammy and in 2018 won Female Vocalist of the Year and Song of the Year for “Bamboo” at the Nā Hōkū awards.

The other two nominees for Single of the Year:

  • Nā Iwi feat. Noʻeau Kalima by Kamaka Camarillo (Kamaka Camarillo)
  • These Islands by Kalaʻe (Kalaʻe). His album “Feel at Home” was named Contemporary Acoustic Album of the Year at the 2020 Nā Hōkū awards. He also was nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year in 2020.

On her website, Wehilei calls herself a “Kohala Girl lost in her Island Reggae world.” It says: “She has created a captivating blend of heartfelt, inspirational reggae music infused with pop structures and a tough of Hawaiian flare.”

Wehilei said she wrote “Kohala, HI” on her ‘ukulele when she was 13 years old (she’s 20 now). The song finally came to fruition in 2022. The inspiration came from what makes the area so special — the valley, the puakenikeni trees and her childhood home.

“When you listen to songs and hear music it brings you back to that time in your life and songs bring up memories and emotions, and I think that’s powerful,” she said.

She is part of three generations of music, including her grandparents. Her mother Lorna Lim is renowned for her hits “Pua Olena” and “Kuʻuipo” and her father Wailau Ryer is a Hawaiian slack-key artist and music producer. Her family also was part of the award-winning Hawaiian music group “The Lim Family of Kohala.”


“So to keep on the tradition and to upkeep the music in our family and to showcase that at the Nā Hōkū awards is pretty amazing,” she said.

Her fans can look forward to the new music she’s been working on for a new album now being recorded on Maui.

Ryder, who was with her Thursday, said he couldn’t be more proud of his daughter: “Being nominated in the final ballet is already a win I told her. It doesn’t matter if you win an award. If you win an award it’s just a compliment to what you love to do. If you create really good music people will know.

“Kohala, HI” is on her debut album, “Music Heals the Soul.” At the 2023 Nā Hōkū Awards, Weihilei also is up for Album of the Year (Producer’s & Artist’s awards), Female Vocalist of the Year, Reggae Album of the Year, Most Promising Artist(s) of the Year and Music Video of the Year for “Crusin.'”

The Na Hoku Hanohano Awards started in 1978 and is administered by the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts. For a full list of nominees, visit this website.

Megan Moseley
Megan Moseley is a full-time journalist for Pacific Media Group. Her experience ranges from long and short-form reporting to print, digital, radio and television news coverage. In Hawaiʻi, she's worked for local media outlets and has covered a wide range of topics including local and state politics, environmental affairs, Native Hawaiian issues, travel, tourism and education. She covers the West for Restaurant Hospitality.

She's a 2010 graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Magazine Journalism and specializations in Geology and History. She's currently working on her master's degree from New York University and Ohio University and is focused on conflict resolution and peace practices in indigenous cultures in the Pacific.
Megan can be reached at [email protected].
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