Keali`i Reichel ©2003JCMarion


 

Keali'i Reichel has become the number one exponent of the music of modern Hawaii during the last decade. He has become the best selling performer the musical style has ever known and his fame and popularity has led him far from his birthplace on Maui. Growing up in and around Lahaina , Reichel spent much of his formative years with his grandparents as is often done in traditional Hawaiian family custom. Another factor that had a great influence on his upbringing and his later musical direction is the fact that he is of mixed parentage (his father is from Germany). After his education at Lahainaluna High School, Keali'i's direction led him to the preservation and teaching of traditional Hawaiian chants and hula music. Feeling that he had attained a basic knowledge of the art form he founded his own hula school (halau) and became a one man foundation for the spread of the once fading culture of the people of Hawaii. Continuing along this path he has taught Hawaiian language and traditions in college in Maui , one of the founding directors of Punana Leo O Maui, and as a curator at the Bailey House Museum. From this background Keali'i Reichel turned to producing his own music.

In 1994 he released an album titled "Kawaipunahele" which was a combination of traditional chants and hulas, with songs of a more contemporary style. The collection seemed to start out slow and steady with the public, but soon picked up steam and began to show that this CD had "legs" and then some. By the time the surge of initial popularity had begun to subside, "Kawaipunahele" had sold close to a half million copies and had made its mark as the largest selling Hawaiian album in recorded history up to that time. Old favorite "Akaka Falls" is included as are more contemporary tunes like "If We Hold On Together" and "Come Sail Away", and more traditional stylings such as "Pua Mikinolia" and "E Ho'i Ka Pili" and the title song. It was quite an impressive debut for this musician and interpreter of the music of his people and the esteem it presented was rewarded with five Na Hoku Hanohano (known as the Hawaiian Grammies) plus Entertainer of the Year for Keali'i by popular vote of the people.

The album "Lei Hali'a" which was released in 1995 starts off with Reichel's rendition of the title song, and also features "Every Road Leads Back To You", "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?", "Ku'u Pua Mae'ole", and "Maika'i Ka 'Oiwi O Ka'ala". For this cd Reichel was awarded four Hokus and once again Entertainer of the Year. "Lei Hali'a" has far surpassed the debut album in sales with nearly eight hundred thousand in sales. "E O Mai" from 1997 is a lovely collection of songs from many sources was another gem from Reichel, using the theme as water being both a source and a representation of life. "My Love Is A Natural Thing" with Vanessa Rodrigues, "Patchwork Quilt" (a song regarding the AIDS crisis), a duet with Kekuhi Kanahele on the strange song "Nematoda", "The Ballad Of The Broken Word", and the equally topical "Song Of Sovereignty" are part of this cd as is the theme song from the movie "Babe" - "If I Had Words". Hawaiian melodies such as the title song of the album, "Pua Hinano", "Ha Lei No Kamaile" and "Ka 'Opihi O Kanapou" a rare song extolling the island of Kaho'olawe add to the musical rewards of this gifted artist.

In 1998 Keali'i Reichel was included on a compilation cd that featured performances by Uluwehi Guerrero and Kekuhi Kanahele. The cd called "Pride of Punahele" was also distinguished by the format called "enhanced cd" which also included video clips and multi media graphics added to the music. Some of the past favorites by Reichel were part of this album such as "Kawaipunahele", "E O Mai", and "Maunaleo". "Melana" was released in the year 2000, and included the English language tunes "I Will Be Here" and "The Road That Never Ends" along with songs such as "Maunaleo", "E Ala E" , and the title track. Keali'i cleaned up at the Hokus for 2000 with six of the awards including another win for Entertainer of the Year. The beat, as they say goes on. In 2006 Reichel won Hoku awards for Anthology and liner notes for the CD "Collection One : Kamahiwa", and in 2007 for favorite entertainer and liner notes again, this time for the CD "Maluhia".

Keali'i Reichel has traveled to all parts of the United States mainland, from California college campuses to creating musical magic on the stage at New York City's Carnegie Hall. He has also appeared in Japan, Taiwan, Australia, and other locations in the South Pacific. Wherever he goes, accompanied by a talented group of singers, dancers, and musicians, he presents a modern view of Hawaii that always includes the traditional and historic values of his people. For that reason he is a most unique entertainer, and a truly gifted interpreter of the musical culture of the Hawaiian people. Reichel has stated that he is very much concerned about the lack of knowledge among Hawaiians regarding their own language and culture, and the ongoing fight against uneducated stereotypes regarding native Hawaiians. Besides his music he has "walked the walk, and talked the talk" in his efforts to restore pride and dignity among his people. No entertainer can possess a more worthy and rewarding aim in life.

 

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