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Listen to the Hawaiian sounds of Waipuna this weekend


Listen to the Hawaiian sounds of Waipuna this weekend in the San Francisco. I’m glad to see that folks have a chance to experience the soulful sounds of the islands, outside of Hawaii. Many love listening to the wonderful vibes our musicians create; especially relaxing sounds that help me unwind.

Listen to the Hawaiian sounds of Waipuna this weekendWith a vigorous sound and refreshing harmonies, a new breath has been given to Hawaiian music in the form of Waipuna, an award-winning band that starts its Bay Area tour at Julian’s BBQ in Hayward at 7 tonight. The  group also plays at 7 p.m. Friday at Pa‘ina Loungein San Francisco, with local falsetto/slack-key virtuoso Steven Espaniola; 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Thunder Valley Casino Resort, with headlining divas  Melveen Leed and  Nohelani Cypriano and Bolo; and as the main act 5 p.m. Sunday at Live at the Cue in Concord. (Follow links for ticket details.)

Kamehameha graduates Kale Hannahs, bass player and vocalist, and Matt Sproat , falsetto artist and guitarist, first realized their potential for collaboration when they paired up for a gig in Japan in 2007. “It was a good match because we both sing with passion, we both play big in a sense, and had a very big sound for just two people,” remarked Hannahs in a recent phone interview.

They  officially became a group in 2008, releasing their first album, “Mana‘o Pili,” a year later.  Sproat, who  grew up on Kawaipuna street, on the countryside of Hau‘ula, O‘ahu,  had always wanted to name a group Waipuna, which seemed to embody the pure, energizing sound  he and Hannahs created.

“Waipuna, meaning spring water, is when the water first comes out of the ground from a natural spring. Given the heritage of our music, and who we learned from and how we do our research when we do music, we understand that in Hawaiian music, you must truly know the origin and meaning of the music,” Hannahs said.

Listen to the Hawaiian sounds of Waipuna this weekend

The supporting dynamics of the vocals, the pure falsetto, slack key and expressive connection of their songs is in fact refreshing, as the acclaim for their recent second album,  “E Ho‘i Mai,” shows. At the 2012 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards (the islands’ top music honors), the band won single of the year for the the poignant “‘Āinahau,” island music album and group of the year.  ”To be honest, we were a little surprised to receive the awards, it was unexpected, because although we work hard, we are whimsical and goofy,” said Hannahs.

He claims to be the most serious, though,  of the three in the current lineup. After recording “E Ho‘i Mai,” the group enriched its sound  with the addition of dynamic ukulele master and award-winning musician David Kamakahi, another Kamehamemeha Schools graduate and son of the well-known slack key guitarist and music composer Rev. Dennis Kamakahi. “David is an awesome new aspect to the group,” said Hannahs enthusiastically.

An array of musical influences has molded each of them, as have their Native Hawaiian roots.  Sproat has been involved in music with renowned kumu hula such as  Blaine Kia and Frank Kawaikapu Hewett, while Hannahs was a back up singer in Ale‘a, a band that became very successful with a remake of Tracy Chapman’s “Baby Can I Hold You.”   While Sproat originally showed a love for rock and reggae, he came from a prominent Hawaiian music family. For Hannahs it was different; he studied classical music playing upright bass. Somehow, their styles fit together and they realized how much they love playing Hawaiian music, Hannahs noted.

“We have played with  singers like Sean Na‘auao and Na Pālapalai and have learned different styles and became sponges,” Hannahs said. “With that we were able to file those styles away and apply them toward our current music. … We like to break the mold and not do typical things but unexpected.”

One example is the song “Kamehameha Trilogy” (see video below) on “E Ho‘i Mai,” which on the recording features Oakland kumu hula  Mark Keali‘i Ho‘omalu as a guest artist. It was an idea that they knew would be controversial —  the nature of the song speaks about Kamehameha’s warriors as they prepare for battle and how fearless they are, and Ho‘omalu came to mind with that warrior spirit. “‘Kamehameha Trilogy’ evolved from a jam session. It is so unique and not just an oli stuck in the middle of a song, or a melodic ‘auana, but it has the playfulness and the back and forth. It is an organic collaboration and one of our favorite experiences in music,” Hannahs remarked fondly.

Listen to the Hawaiian sounds of Waipuna this weekend and pack a lunch, find a shaddy tree and enjoy all those sweet vibes…

~~Aloha Nui Loa


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