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Na Mele O Maui to celebrate Ho‘opi‘i Brothers’ vocal legacy

By Staff | Dec 6, 2012

Richard Ho‘opi‘i will perform at the 40th annual Na Mele O Maui song contest on Friday.

WAILUKU – The 40th annual Na Mele O Maui Song & Art Competition will be held on Friday, Dec. 7.

Sponsored by Kaanapali Beach Resort, Maui’s only countywide Hawaiian song and art competition is set for 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

Founded on the West Side, the event is dedicated to cultural preservation and perpetuation of Hawaiian mele, language and arts.

This year’s theme, “Ka Ho’oilina Leo a Ho’opi’i Brothers,” will showcase the vocal legacy of the late Solomon Ho’opi’i and brother Richard of Kahakuloa’s Ho’opi’i Brothers.

Artwork will be inspired by the events, stories and places depicted in their songs.

In honor of this celebration, Richard will perform at the song contest, and the families of the talented brothers will attend.

Family, friends and the general public are invited to attend this free event. Donations will be accepted at the door.

Classes from kindergarten to grade 12 will participate in the song competition. Each class is required to perform two songs in Hawaiian: the contest song chosen by the committee to fit the theme (there is a different song for each grade division) and a song selected by participating classes to reflect the theme.

Classroom choirs are judged on musical competence, language proficiency and interpretation, stage presence and all-around enthusiasm.

Prizes are awarded based on overall scores within grade level divisions. A combination of scores for the two songs determines the winner in each grade division and the overall winner of the entire competition.

This year’s song competition judges are Reiko Fukino (music judge) and Pueo Pata, overall judge.

The 2012 Art Competition finalists will be recognized during a special awards presentation. The winning artwork will be on display.

Art competition judges include Steve Brinkman, photographer; Bonnie Friedman, arts/culture; and Todd Campbell, woodcarver.

The Ho’opi’i brothers were raised in Kahakuloa. Solomon was born March 28, 1935, and Richard was born March 15, 1941.

Their father, Frank Ho’opi’i, was a schoolteacher who stressed discipline and church values to his large family.

Their mother, Abigail Lum Lung Ho’opi’i Kenolio, insisted that the family attend church on Sundays and at other times during the week when work needed to be done or services were held.

Through the years, Richard and Solomon developed a distinctive sound. Their music was marked by its open, robust style of falsetto singing that included all the ornaments, register breaks and changes in timbre carried over from ancient chant.

These were all features of the himeni (harmonic) style of leo ki’eki’e (falsetto). They typically accompanied themselves on the ukulele.

In the 1970s, they formed a duo, the Ho’opi’i Brothers, and with assistance from the Hawaiian Music Foundation, they began performing professionally in concerts and at hula festivals.

Their first album, “No Ka Oi,” was released in 1975. Four other albums issued on the Poki label followed.

In the 1980s, Francis Ku’ailani joined them on bass, though they continued to perform as a duo and with another group called Da Bunch that included Aunty Genoa Keawe, Aunty Violet Liliko’i, Ledward Kaapana, Huanani Apoliona and the late Barney Isaacs.

Some of their signature songs will be performed at the 2012 Na Mele O Maui Song Competition. They include “Na Pua Ka Ilima,” “Wahine Ilikea,” “Ua Nani Molokai,” “Ahulili, Koke’e” and “Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai.”

In 1997, the Ho’opi’i Brothers were recipients of the prestigious National Endowment of the Arts Folk Heritage Fellowship – America’s highest honor for traditional artists.

In 1997, they received the Na Hoku Hanohano Hawaiian Music Group Album of the Year Award.

Together, they recorded seven albums and performed widely.

Solomon died on March 1, 2006. He is survived by his wife, Gladys, their nine children and more than 40 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Richard lives in Kahakuloa with his wife, Ululani.

For more information on Na Mele O Maui, call Kaanapali Beach Resort Association at 661-3271 or visit www.kaanapaliresort.com.