When the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards are announced next year, Uluwehi Guerrero will undoubtedly be among the winners. Back in 2001, his last CD, "In My Heart," deservedly won Male Vocalist of the Year. Eight years later he's delivered another outstanding treasure of Hawaiian music, "Uluwehi Sings Na Mele Hula Aloha - Beloved Hula Songs."
The acclaimed Maui kumu hula has lovingly crafted a majestic collection of classic songs with hula students in mind.
"It was made for dancing and listening pleasure," Uluwehi explains. "I wanted to create a kind of musical photo album of my hula. These are some of my favorite older classics. It's a musical contribution to all the students I've shared hula with."
Uluwehi Guerrero and his friend Hula.
Eddie Kamae (center) and the Sons of Hawaii, Ocean Kaowili (from left), Paul Kim, Mike Kaawa and Analu Aina, headline “50 Years of Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance,” a free celebration from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at Hana’s Kapueokahi Bay.
Embellished with lush string arrangements, Uluwehi applies his heavenly falsetto to gems by such notable Hawaiian composers as Helen Desha Beamer ("Na Kuahiwi 'Elima"), Bill Ali'iloa Lincoln ("Ku'u Milimili"), Alice Namakelua ("Haleakala Hula"), Charles E. King ("Lei 'Ilima"), Mary Kawena Pukui ("Pua 'Ahihi") and Irmgard Farden ("Laupahoehoe Hula").
Devoting years to the project, this gifted entertainer draws on the talents of a number of Maui musicians including steel guitarist Sam Ako and keyboardist Gilbert Emata, and he managed to create an angelic backing vocal choir all by himself.
"I did all the vocals on this recording," he notes. "Partly it was because I was so busy. I knew what I wanted and triple tracked all of my backing vocals to create this nice, full sound. It's reminiscent of the music I grew up with."
A number of tracks feature a string section evoking a classical ambiance. "I did that because I wanted to capture that era during the '20' and '30s when visitors were brought in by steamship," he continues. "There was a lot of elegance during that time and the songs and the lushness of the strings reflect the feel of that period."
The one original song on the CD, "Nani Kamakura," composed by Uluwehi with Barry Pono Fried, celebrates the annual blooming of Japan's cherry blossoms. A frequent traveler to Japan where he performs and conducts hula classes, he felt inspired to pen a song after visiting the ancient city of Kamakura.
"I was pretty well received on our last trip," he says. "After going to Japan, people would ask me, 'Did you get to see the sakura blossoms?' I always missed it, but on one trip I saw thousands of cherry blossoms in Kamakura."
Hoping that his new CD will help remind us of the value of aloha and what makes Hawaii special, Uluwehi reports we won't have to wait too long to hear more music from him.
"As much as I've been perpetuating traditional music and dance of our culture, I'm inspired to write about the time now," he says. "I've been writing a lot of songs of my travels and things that have inspired me spiritually, and the beauty that still surrounds us. We're actively looking at going into the studio to start a new project of all original compositions."
Uluwehi Guerrero will perform and sign his new CD at 3 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Nobles Booksellers at the Lahaina Gateway Center. Hula dancers from his Halau Hula Kauluokala will compliment the music. The event coincides with Lahaina Gateway's one-year anniversary celebration.
Hana will celebrate "50 Years of Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance" from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at Kapueokahi Bay. The free event will feature entertainment, craft and food booths, Hawaiian craft demonstrations, story telling, lei and flower contests, and a horseshoe tournament.
Featured entertainers will include Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawaii, Pekelo Cosma and CJ Helekahi as well as hula dancers. The Sons of Hawaii will also entertain tonight at the Hana Ranch Restaurant.
Celebrating their 50th anniversary, the Sons' debut album stimulated a resurgence of interest in traditional Hawaiian music, which in turn became a key element in the Hawaiian cultural renaissance.
A living legend, 82-year-old ukulele virtuoso Eddie Kamae is about to release a new Sons of Hawaii CD, "Yesterday & Today Volume 2." Like the Hoku-nominated Volume 1, the CD will mix classic recordings with new songs, most of then featuring lyrics by Sam Li'a of Waipio Valley, who was featured in one of Eddie's early documentaries.
Back in the days of new wave rock, the British band The Fixx hit the big time with hits like "Saved by Zero" and "One Thing Leads To Another." They make their Maui debut on Aug. 27 at the Maui Theatre in Lahaina.
Formed by London college friends, vocalist/keyboardist Cy Curin and drummer Adam Woods in the early 1980s, The Fixx created catchy, synth-driven pop that proved a success in America with the album "Reach for the Beach."
The first single, "One Thing Leads to Another," became a No. 4 hit, propelling the album into the Top 10 and platinum sales. Two more Top 40 singles followed, "Saved by Zero" and "Sign of Fire." A follow-up album, "Phantoms," sold gold.
After a steady stream of radio singles throughout the '80s, grunge took over the airwaves and The Fixx fell by the wayside like many of their new wave contemporaries.
"All things grunge were great, all these kids from Seattle were moaning and groaning in plaid shirts," Curnin recalled in a recent Edmonton Sun interview. "I felt grunge was like a dark nightmare of repetition and copying everything that was awful from the '70s."
In 2002, The Fixx performed a cover version of Nancy Sinatra's 1960s classic "These Boots are Made for Walking" for the album "When Pigs Fly," which featured unique remakes of songs from the 1960s through the '90s. The song was also included as a bonus track on the group's Anniversary Anthology CD.
Nearly 30 years after forming, the band is still intact with four of its five original members, bassist Dan K. Brown having been in and out of the lineup since 1983.
* Tickets are $33.50 and $43.50 in advance available online at www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling (800) 745-3000. This is an all-ages show. Doors open at 7 p.m.