Ka Lehua ‘Ula Weldon Kekauoha ‘Ohelo Records, 2007, $15.98

Weldon Kekauoha is a man in love. Ka Lehua ‘Ula, the newest release by the six-time Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner, is a feel-good, deep-in-the na’au-kine satisfying homage of love for five generations of family, dear friends and Hawai’i. Kekauoha paints a portrait of a contented Hawaiian man with songs that celebrate Kanaka Maoli tradition. Woven throughout is an undercurrent of deep personal gratification for a life that has reached a level of inner peace through rewarding partnerships.†

‘Ka Lehua ‘Ula’ was written for Kekauoha’s wife, Rina, and compares her to a perfect red lehua blossom found in the ‘far reaches, dwelling in the lushness of Panaewa.’ This opening song is chicken-skin lovely and one can only imagine it being presented and received with love.†

Kainani Kahauna’ele, singer, songwriter, UH-Hilo Hawaiian language instructor and three-time Na Hoku Hanohano award winner, composed both lyrics and melody for the exquisite ‘Lei Ho’oheno.’ Celebrating the arrival of her goddaughter, the song tells of the splendor of the girl’s birthplace in Hilo. Both the legendary down-pouring rain, Kauakanilehua, and the shimmering Kaualiliko rain with sunlight streaming through, are invoked to introduce a swirl of emotions.

Kekauoha revisits the classic love song ‘Kamakani Ka’ili Aloha’ written by Matthew H. Kane in 1916. His rendition tenderly embraces the well-known tale of a Kipahulu man who longed for his beloved wife who left him for O’ahu. With the help of a priest, a calabash with swirling energy forces and a few love prayers, she finally returned to his arms on Maui.

With sincere, confident vocals, Kekauoha emits a tenderness that gets the hula juices flowing; also a gifted musician and arranger, he adds his deft touch to compositions created by some of Hawai’i’s best haku mele songwriters. Another talented singer, songwriter, UH-Hilo Hawaiian Studies graduate (and good friend), Kaiolohia Funes Smith, shared two pieces, ‘Ka Nani A’o Kilauea’ and ‘Ka ‘Aina Kaulana ‘O Hana Nei,’ which celebrate the natural beauty of Hawai’i island and Smith’s home at Niumalu, an area in Hana on Maui.

Ipolani Vaughn contributes a vivid, poetic journey that scales cliffs and summits, and traverses hala groves flourishing along white sand beaches below; the achingly beautiful ‘He Mele No Kaua’i Kuapapa’ moves from one end of ancient Kaua’i to the other. This tune moves seamlessly and begs for hula choreography. Vaughn composed this song to honor her kumu, Aunty Kamamalu Klein. Again, Kekauoha marries the perfect musical accompaniment.†

The final cut, written by Kekauoha and Kai Adama, is an ode to their creator. A loving tribute of praise and gratitude, ‘Thank You Lord’ offers the most intimate glimpse yet into a dedicated family man who’s not afraid to find strength in humility.