Lei Day is over, but the buzz remains.
And if Robert Cazimero, the eminent kumu hula, singer, composer, and pianist, is at the helm, exhilaration is part of his game plan.
The May Day concert, on May 1 at the Bishop Museum lawn, was staged in a mammoth tent/structure capped with a stage depicting triangular swaths of white fabric evocative of boat sails. The concept included dining tables and chairs for the VIP crowd, with exterior grass seating on the lawn and on the slopes of grass, like the old days.
Robert Cazimero, at his piano draped with plumeria lei.
Surely, folks in attendance today are talking about the grand, newish workspace that is temporary but looks permanent. On a plain, this gizmo could be godsend, with open-air charm.
So, the evening was a superb blend of hula kahiko and auana, with Cazimero as the skipper and Keauhou (Zachary Lum, his brother Nicholas Lum and fellow Kamehameha and University of Hawaii grad Kahanuola Solatorio ) as the house band, occasionally steel guitarist Jeff Au Hoy sitting in.
Na Kamalei gents render a hypnotic homage to The Mountain.
Nuggets from the awesome cultural evening:
- Cazimero’s hula company, Halau Na Kamalei o Lililehua, continues to impress; they’re the rare kane halau which not only dances, but sings. Thus, the gents – often in full force of about 20 – provide vivid interpretations of the comedic (“I Want to Go Back to My Little Grass Shack,” with a wink to the hapa haole genre) to the hypnotic (“The Beauty of Mauna Kea,” with the lads dressed in black skirts from waist to feet, with a sliver of ti leaf as a simple necklace, in a showstopper homage to address the controversy about The Mountain).
- With soloists Nina Keali‘iwahamana (pictured right), the beloved soprano with roots in the prolific Vickie I‘i Rodrigues family, and Jerry Santos (pictured below left), the endearing singer-guitarist-composer, in the house, a “first” was logged, with Cazimero, Keali‘iwahamana and Santos sharing their first-ever tune singing together on “E Kuu Sweet Lei Poina Ole.” Naturally, the two kupuna vocalists also had a moment to render their own hit songs so Keali‘iwahamana updated her “Silhouette Hula” and Santos his signature classic, “E Kuu Home O Kahaluu.”
Thus, it’s always a plus to have the positive and prolific vibes of the veterans of Hawaiian entertainers.
- Agnes Renee Leihiwahiwaikapolionāmakua Thronas Brown (pictured, below right), 2023’s Miss Aloha Hula, was a guest soloist fresh from her Merrie Monarch Festival triumph, bringing not only her sleek, expressive style, but an aura of royalty to the evening, adding Lei Day Queen to her laurels, at least for this evening. And her reign, post Merrie Monarch, is off to a grand start with this credit.
Never will you every see strands and strands of yellow plumeria lei, which were draped on Cazimero’s white piano; yellow plumeria lei showed up to accessorize several hula numbers. Cazimero wore his favorite lei, pikake, a generous assembly of strands galore, with the scent fueling his aloha.
Zachary Lum of Keauhou also has evolved as a savvy host and a genial commentator throughout the evening, expressing his and the brotherhood of the Lei Day cast’s desire to bring Lei Day beyond the shores of Hawaii. Like, there will be a belated Lei Day trek, with an abbreviated cast, to Japan this month.
Keauhou’s Zachary Lum, Kahanuola Solatorio and Nicholas Lum.
Cazimero’s dance soloists from the Royal Dance Company, and members of Hālau Ka Lehua Tuahine directed by kumu hula Ka‘ilihiwa Vaughn Darval, also performed.
Sponsorship is key to staging this kind of spectacle. Thus, mahalo to Hawaiian Airlines, for its title support and Kilohana for preserving and presenting Lei Day with focus on cultural traditions. The nonprolific group, Kāhuli Leo Leʻa and its director Zachary Lum, have demonstrated meaningful vision to shape and perpetuate Lei Day for future generations to come. Cazimero (as The Brothers Cazimero, with the late Roland Cazimero) previously staged concerts inside the museum and did one outdoor Lei Day, without the tenting. It’s wonderful that he’s returned to presenting a true museum piece.
Debbie Nakanelua-Richards and Billy V co-hosted, not just for the local crowd; the show was beamed locally and streamed for a global audience. Let the magic continue beyond the reefs of Hawaii …
And that’s Show Biz. …