Makena, the splendid hybrid group comprising members of The Makaha Sons and Ho‘okena, staged two performances at Blue Note Hawaii yesterday (Dec. 11) at the Outrigger Waikiki resort.
The clever fusion of two prolific and popular Hawaiian acts – the “Ma,” for the Makaha guys Louis “Moon” Kauakahi and Eric Lee, and “kena” for Ho‘okena’s Horace Dudoit III, Chris Kamaka, and Glenn Smith – has resulted in an entity with impeccable harmonies and flashy guitar and fiddle bass dynamics. Wow!
With Ho‘okena’s hula dancer, kumu Nani Dudoit, providing elegant, exquisite dances, the Hawaiiana forces are formidable. She’s also singing now, adding new dimension to the act.
I took in the second show and it was a rouser, with generous island melodics and a dash of Christmas favorites, perfect for the season.
The magic began with cheerfully curated yuletide numbers, “Home for the Holidays” and a medley of “Christmas in Hawaii Nei” and “Mele Kalikimaka Ia Kakou,” which smoothly expressed the spirit of the season.
Then came a nostalgic and nuanced medley, from the archives of The Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau (the original act, with the regional name) recreated from a live show, themed “Makaha Bash,” at the Waikiki Shell. A sizzler!
With wisdom and wonderment from the two camps, Makena is a lingering marvel and invention. One of The Makaha Sons’ signatures – famously sung by the late Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole at a previous Na Hoku Hanohano Awards show, but struggling because he forgot the lyrics – and the moment of aloha came when the estranged Kauakahi and his singing bros took the stage to join and “rescue” Bruddah Iz on “Kaleohano,” a treasure in the Sons’ music box forever.
The newish twinkle in Ho‘okena’s repertoire is Nani (Horace’s spouse) joining Makena on “Nou e Pauahi,” and she shared her powerful soprano voice with joyful confidence, earning applause from the audience and smiles from the musician singers. Of course, her periodic hula interpretations added grace and glamor to the evening.
Additional Christmas treats included “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” an ensemble effort, and Lee’s lead voice commanding “What Child Is This.”
Ho‘okena’s annual holiday ditty — Kui Lee’s “The Song of Christmas” — happily is shared with Horace’s back-in-the-day story/attempt to listen to the tune and write down the lyrics. He was confounded with the phrase, “Aurora Borealis,” the majestic night lights in the skies, garbling up his original notations with non-sensible lyrics. Nani also had to make-up moves, now altered, when nature’s wonder is sung. ‘Tis the best chuckle of the season.
The show had its oddity, the inclusion of a budding Waimea (Big Island) couple, Kala‘e and Kalenau. Both sing; he strums guitar, she’s on the synthesizer. Their moments on an original, “We Are a Voice” and “O Holy Night,” the latter in English and in Hawaiian, lacked the chemistry or musicality to match the high bar of talent on stage. It’s wonderful to introduce new talent, but the duo, with pitch issues, seemed like auditioners on “American Idol.”
She redeemed herself a skosh on “The Prayer,” the Ho‘okena holiday hit with English and Hawaiian lyrics, since Maila Gibson has exited the entertainment realm in favor of real estate. …
And that’s Show Biz. …