A 22-member traditional Hawaiian music group born out of the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language (KCHL) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is paving a path to perpetuate Hawaiʻi’s mother tongue. Fresh off of recording its very first album inside a brand new studio on the Mānoa campus, The Tuahine Troupe has their sights set on expanding the use of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) throughout the islands and around the world, starting with its members.
UH Mānoa Associate Professor Keawe Lopes, who is the director of Ka Waihona A Ke Aloha and KCHL of Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge (HSHK), formed the troupe that is made up of students, alumni and faculty. While recording the album, Lopes required student members to concurrently complete the department’s haku mele (song composition) course at UH Mānoa, which is formed around broadening language acquisition through learning traditional mele (songs) composed by mānaleo (native speakers).
“Learning the songs…learning the meanings…learning how to build upon those kinds of poetic expressions [of] our kūpuna allows them to further develop their language skills,” Lopes explained.
From lyric composing to recording, UH Mānoa Hawaiian language student Taisamasama Kaiminaauao-Eteuati is still mesmerized that he was given an opportunity to deepen his connection to ʻōlelo.
“We could write the song, understand the language and then go to kumu and get corrected and then come here [recording studio] and relate all of those manaʻo (thoughts) all of these old inoas (names) now into a recording,” he explained.
Nā Hōkū nominations
The Tuahine Troupe earned eight Nā Hōkū Hanohano nominations for Album of the Year, Group of the Year, Most Promising Artist, Hawaiian Music Album, Favorite Entertainer, Graphics, Haku Mele and Hawaiian Language Performance.
“Now that we have the eight nominations, ‘I [thought] that’s amazing!’…the project came out so well and we’re so proud of it, [so to have that recognition is truly an honor]” said troupe member Kaʻiulani Kanehailua, an educational specialist at HSHK.
The Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts hosts the annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards and invited the group to perform in the ceremony’s opening number. The awards show will air live on K5 on Wednesday, July 20 at 7 p.m.
Four of the 14 songs featured on the troupe’s album, Keāiwaokulamanu, are original compositions written by band members. The album also showcases four mele (songs) penned by Lopes and a track co-composed by Lopes and UH Mānoa alumnus Zachary Lum, an award winning musician who earned his MA in ethnomusicology. The troupe recorded five cover songs originally composed by kūpuna (elders) Julia Walanika, J. K. Kamali, Bina Mossman, John K. Almeida and Kimo Alama Keaulana.
A majority of the tracks were recorded inside a new fully equipped recording studio in Spalding Hall at UH Mānoa. The studio features a control room and professional software and equipment. During the recording process, Kaiminaauao-Eteuati shadowed award-winning sound engineer Michael Grande who helped produce the album.
Welina Mānoa (Greetings to you, Mānoa)
The troupe opted to pay homage to the ʻāina (land) of Mānoa where the sprawling university campus sits. The essence can even be found in the troupe’s name, tuahine, which is a traditional name used to identify a particular gentle rain that falls in the valley. Every track on the album is either written about the area or by a composer who lived in Mānoa Valley.
The voices of longtime Mānoa residents Aunty Mona Teves and her daughter Noelani Whittington are spotlighted on the track Rain Tuahine o Mānoa, which was composed by their tūtū. Keaulana also grew up in the lush valley and can be heard singing with the troupe on track Nani Mānoa, his own composition. Other special appearances on the album include keiki from Pūnana Leo o Mānoa led by Kawaihuelani alumnus and kahu (site coordinator) Kahōkū Lindsey-Asing, and UH Mānoa alumni Hauʻoli Akaka and Kalehua Krug who are both renowned ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi educators and musicians.
The album is available at UH Mānoa Bookstore, Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music.