Winning Combo

For the last couple of years, the Maui Arts & Cultural Center has celebrated the annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards by presenting concerts featuring some of the winners. For the third annual Na Hoku Hou concert on Saturday, the MACC will present a great medley of award-winning entertainers including Melveen Leed, Amy Hanaiali’i, Na Hoa, Mana’o Company, and Kamakakehau Fernandez.

The traditional Hawaiian music trio Na Hoa, featuring Ikaika Blackburn, Halehaku Seabury and Keoni Souza, was the big winner at the May 25 awards ceremony. Their acclaimed, self-titled debut album earned them Album of the Year, Duo or Group of the Year, Hawaiian Album of the Year and Most Promising Artist(s) of the Year.

Commenting on Na Hoa’s recording, the Makaha Sons’ Moon Kauakahi praised their, “sweet falsetto singing depicting a nostalgic era in Hawaiian music history, with vibrant voices that captivate one’s emotions, ears, and heart. Any listener will be held spell-bound by the unmatched harmonies that none but a very few can effectively produce.”

Talking to The Maui News after their win, Blackburn noted: “We put this project together just to play Hawaiian music and share the music with our family and fans. We wanted to perpetuate what we do, which was traditional Hawaiian music.”

The trio was founded in 2002, while Blackburn was attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Blessed with a beautiful voice, the Maui musician recently released a wonderful solo recording, “Maliu,” which will likely win him more Hokus next year.

Any album release by Amy Hanaiali’i typically earns this Maui musician awards. As Hawaii’s top-selling female vocalist, she has been nominated for five Grammy Awards, and so far has been bestowed with 21 Na Hoku awards.

Her debut recording with Willie K, “Hawaiian Tradition,” released in 1997, won Album of the Year, Hawaiian Album of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year.

Two years later, the winning streak continued with “Hanaiali’i,” which won Duo or Group of the Year, Hawaiian Album of the Year and Song of the Year.

As a solo artist, she has continued to release acclaimed recordings up to her most recent “My Father’s Granddaughter,” a collection of lovely lullabies, which won Hokus for Contemporary Album of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year.

In the CD liner notes she reported: ” ‘My Father’s Granddaughter’ came at a turning point in my life. During the process of recording this album, my father passed into his next journey. As I tour the world sharing Hawaiian music, I am thankful that my daughter Madeline was able to spend time with my parents, who became instrumental in helping me raise her in today’s world.”

Former Miss Molokai, Melveen Leed, is no stranger to awards as a five-time Female Vocalist of the Year winner. She has been a star in Hawaii ever since breaking onto the scene as the “Hawaiian Country Girl.” In 1977, she sang at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and appeared on Jack Lord’s “Hawaii Five-0.”

Popular as a Hawaiian and country music artist, she is also an accomplished jazz singer and released her first jazz album, “I Wish You Love” last year, which won her the 2013 Hoku for Jazz Album of the Year.

“When I was only 13, I listened to jazz from my mom’s collection of 78 records, listening to Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others who inspired me at that early age,” Leed reported. “And now, my wish has come true to record my very first jazz CD.”

Backed on the album by a talented trio of pianist Barry Miles, bassist Dean Taba and drummer Noel Okimoto, Leed interprets standards like “Misty” and “Blue Skies.”

The popular award-winning, island contemporary group Mana’o Company scored the 2013 Anthology Album of the Year for its compilation, “A 20 Year Collection of the Mana’o Company.”

Formed in the late 1980s as part of the Jawaiian movement, their second album “Spread a Little Aloha,” won them Album of the Year, Contemporary Album of the Year and Song of the Year.

The anthology features new recordings of local favorites like “Spread a Little Aloha,” a remix of Third World’s reggae classic “96 Tears,” and a cool take on Earth, Wind and Fire’s “That’s The Way Of The World.” Guests on board include Keali’i Reichel (on “Aloha”) and Fiji (on “Honey” and “I Love You”).

Another Maui musician earning well-received honors this year was Kamakakehau Fernandez for his impressive debut recording, “Wahi Mahalo.” As it comprised eight tracks, he won the 2013 Extended Play award.

Born in Little Rock, Ark., but raised on Maui as baby, he graduated from the Kula Kaiapuni Immersion Program and speaks Hawaiian fluently. A love for playing the ukulele and singing Hawaiian falsetto led to him to win Richard Ho’opi’i’s falsetto contest in 2003. A year later, he was included on the 2004 “Aloha Festivals Falsetto Contest Winners – Vol. 5” CD.

“Wahi Mahalo” features five original compositions and three traditional covers. We can expect more exceptional Hawaiian music from him in the future.

* The third annual Na Hoku Hou concert will be presented at 6 p.m. Saturday at the MACC’s pavilion/courtyard. The lineup features Melveen Leed, Amy Hanaiali’i, Na Hoa, Mana’o Company, and Kamakakehau Fernandez. Tickets are $25 standard, $45 for reserved table seating, and $75 for VIP. For tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or visit

Ebb & Flow Arts will present a free concert with the innovative Duo Diorama at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Keawala’i Congregational Church in Makena.

“We are thrilled to have Duo Diorama for a return engagement,” says Ebb & Flow founder/director Robert Pollock. “Their performance two years ago remains an artistic highlight of Ebb & Flow Art’s 15 years of concert presentation.”

Duo Diorama comprises two renowned soloists, Chinese violinist MingHuan Xu and Canadian pianist Winston Choi. These versatile artists are known for performing an eclectic mix of musical styles, ranging from the great standard works to the avant-garde. They have performed extensively throughout North America, South America and Europe.

Their name derives from 19th-century Paris, where the diorama was a popular theater entertainment that prefigured cinema. Tales of mythic events were painted on linen and brought to life using dramatic effects of lighting (executed using sunlight redirected by a series of mirrors) so that scenes would appear to come alive. Duo Diorama seeks to bring sheets of music notation to life using similar sonic manipulations of color, feeling, and movement, thus transporting their listeners to realms of musical drama, profound emotions and inspiring aesthetic ideas.

“These young players exhibit formidable virtuosity,” praised an Arts Fuse review. “They are especially committed to playing contemporary music, some of which they have commissioned themselves.”

For their Makena concert, they will perform Igor Stravinsky’s contemporary classic “Duo Concertante,” which premiered in Berlin in 1932.

“Duo Concertante” is Stravinsky’s only work originally conceived for violin and piano. “My object,” Stravinsky wrote, “was to create a lyrical composition, a work of musical versification, and I was more than ever experiencing the advantage of a rigorous discipline which gives a taste for the craft and the satisfaction of being able to apply it – and more particularly in a work of lyrical character.”

The program also includes John Corigliano’s “Sonata.” Corigliano received an Oscar for his score for the movie “The Red Violin.” And they will play Mischa Zupko’s “Shades of Grey,” Huang Ruo’s “The Invisible Compass,” and the world premiere of Robert Pollock’s “Duo No. 6.”

* Duo Diorama will perform a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Makena’s Keawala’i Congregational Church. A pre-concert discussion will be held at 6:30 p.m.

More free music, when Fatburger in Pukalani celebrates its one year anniversary with music from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Performers include Kevin Brown, Sheldon Brown, Benny Uyetake and the Zenshin Daiko Drummers. Both Kevin Brown and Uyetake were featured on this year’s Na Hoku wining Compilation Album, “Lana’i Slack Key Festival: Live Ki Ho’alu at Ko’ele.”