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Maui’s Kamalei Kawaʻa got judges Reba McIntyre and Chance the Rapper to turn their chairs during the blind auditions on season 25 of the hit singing competition The Voice on NBC.

The University of Hawaiʻi Maui College graduate’s rendition of “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley and the Wailers moved Chance, whose team Kawaʻa ultimately elected to join.

person speaking into microphone and holding a guitar
Kamalei Kawaʻa appears on The Voice. (Photo credit: Casey Durkin/NBC)

“Doing ‘Redemption Song’ in front of millions of people, it brought something out of me,” Chance said. “It’s a very radical song and it means a lot to all oppressed peoples around the world, and I think having you on here and representing Pacific Islanders, Indigenous People, Hawaiians, people around the world. I think it’s really important for the show to have.”

Kawaʻa is also a member of the quartet Nā Wai ʻEhā, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2021. He honed his craft at UH Maui College, taking voice and piano lessons, as he worked on his associate in arts degree in Hawaiian studies.

Related story: Grammy-nominated artists honed craft at UH Maui College, March 2021

“I hope [The Voice] coaches will be able to feel the words that I sing. There’s a cultural connection there, my people have been through a lot of the same struggles and the lyrics of the song remind us to set yourself free,” Kawaʻa said. “It’s my hope that through what I’m going to do on the stage, the rest of the world can see how beautiful our people can be.”

The Voice airs on NBC on Mondays and Tuesdays and streams the next day on Peacock.

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